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Weekly Wrap: JPMorgan, what happened?

JPMorgan Chase & Co. chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon. Dimon announced yesterday that the company had lost $2 billion.

Felix Salmon of Reuters and Cardiff Garcia of the blog FT Alphaville analyze how JPMorgan made such a bad gamble.

Cardiff Garcia: Well, the problem is we actually don't know a lot about this trade. So we know it's related to this index of credit default swaps known as the CDX-9. And it took place in a part of the bank that's meant to hedge its excess deposits and invest them to hedge a part of its lending portfolio. But we don't know which part of its lending portfolio it was hedging against and we also don't know exactly how they did it. So the lack of disclosure is really one of the difficult things about this.

And in terms of how big the loss is going to be, the $2 billion is only what we know right now. We're not going to have the full details on this until the position is unwound, and that's going to take a little while. So this story is just developing now. There's still a lot more to find out.

Felix Salmon: The more you know, the less you know. And this is actually true about a lot of banking, but especially about investment banking and especially of derivatives, the more you look at them, the less they make sense. All that anyone knows is, Barney Frank blessedly pointed out today, that JPMorgan all on its own managed to lose five times as much money with one bad trade as Jamie Dimon was complaining about what the financial regulation was going to cost JPMorgan.

For more analysis about the $2 billion mess, listen to the audio above.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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