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Betting on the economy
Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank establish a market for trading in economic derivatives.
October 9, 2002: 10:07 AM EDT

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Think it was bad news that U.S. businesses lopped thousands of jobs from their payrolls in September? Not necessarily.

While last month's drop of 43,000 jobs from non-farm payrolls might have been bad news for the labor market, some people made money on it, thanks to a new market in economic derivatives established by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG.

In the new system, for now available only to hedge funds and institutional investors, participants are able to buy options that place bets on economic data. Orders are placed in a Dutch auction, affecting the price of other orders -- almost exactly like the kind of parimutuel betting that takes place at racetracks.

"We opened a new frontier in risk management: direct, 100-percent-correlated exposure to macroeconomic risk," Peter Gerhard, head of macro trading at Goldman Sachs, said in a release last week.

Goldman and Deutsche held auctions on Oct. 1 and Oct. 3 for the payroll data, which were released Oct. 4. More than 120 orders were placed, creating more than $19 million in options.

Interestingly, participants in the Oct. 1 auction expected non-farm payrolls to drop by about 38,000 jobs, while participants in the Oct. 3 auction thought 18,000 jobs would be cut. Both forecasts were much closer than the consensus expectation of economists, according to Briefing.com, that 6,000 jobs would be added.

The next auction is scheduled for Oct. 29, when bets will be taken about the change in non-farm payrolls in October. Another payrolls auction will be held on Oct. 31, when bets will also be taken on the outcome of the Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing survey for October. All those data are scheduled to be released on Nov. 1.

At first, the new market will take bets only on payrolls data, the ISM manufacturing survey, Germany's IFO business-confidence survey, U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), the Conference Board's consumer confidence index, and the U.S. consumer price index.

Goldman and Deutsche plan to expand later to other indicators, to add more auctions for each indicator, to issue options for cumulative indicators (such as a year's worth of GDP growth), and to issue longer-dated options.  Top of page




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