NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Counterparty Risk and the Establishment of the New York Stock Exchange Clearinghouse

Asaf Bernstein, Eric Hughson, Marc D. Weidenmier

NBER Working Paper No. 20459
Issued in September 2014
NBER Program(s):   AP   CF   DAE

Heightened counterparty risk during the recent financial crisis has raised questions about the role clearinghouses play in global financial stability. Empirical identification of the effect of centralized clearing on counterparty risk is challenging because of the co-incidence of macro-economic turbulence and the introduction of clearinghouses. We overcome these concerns by examining a novel historical experiment, the establishment of a clearinghouse on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in 1892. During this period the largest NYSE stocks were also listed on the Consolidated Stock Exchange (CSE), which already had a clearinghouse. Using identical securities on the CSE as a control, we find that the introduction of clearing reduced annualized volatility of NYSE returns by 90-173bps and increased asset values. Prior to clearing, shocks to overnight lending rates reduced the value of stocks on the NYSE, relative to identical stocks on the CSE, but this was no longer true after the establishment of clearing. We also show that at least ½ of the average reduction in counterparty risk on the NYSE is driven by a reduction in contagion risk - the risk of a cascade of broker defaults. Our results indicate that clearing can cause a significant improvement in market stability and value through a reduction in network contagion and counterparty risk.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20459

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