Credit default swap index

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A credit default swap index is a credit derivative used to hedge credit risk or to take a position on a basket of credit entities. Unlike a credit default swap, which is an over the counter credit derivative, a credit default swap index is a completely standardized credit security and may therefore be more liquid and trade at a smaller bid-offer spread. This means that it can be cheaper to hedge a portfolio of credit default swaps or bonds with a CDS index than it would be to buy many single name CDS to achieve a similar effect. Credit-default swap indexes are benchmarks for protecting investors owning bonds against default, and traders use them to speculate on changes in credit quality.


There are currently two main families of corporate CDS indices: CDX and iTraxx. CDX indices contain North American and Emerging Market companies[1] and are administered by CDS Index Company (CDSIndexCo) and marketed by Markit Group Limited, and iTraxx indices contain companies from the rest of the world[2] and are managed by the International Index Company (IIC), also owned by Markit.

A new series of CDS indices is issued every six months by Markit.[3] Running up to the announcement of each series a group of investment banks is polled to determine the credit entities that will form the constituents of the new issue. This process is intended to ensure that the index does not become "cluttered" with instruments that no longer exist, or which trade extremely illiquidly. On the day of issue a fixed coupon is decided for the whole index based on the credit spread of the entities in the index.[4] This coupon is set usually to 100bps (1% p.a.) for predominantly Investment Grade indices and 500bps for predominantly speculative grade indices to follow the convention of Standard North American Corporates (SNAC).[5] Prior to SNAC (i.e. CDX.NA.IG Series 3 through 11) the coupons were set to approximate the average weighted spread of the names in that index. Once this has been decided the index constituents and the fixed coupon are published, and the indices can be actively traded.

Quotation and cashflows[edit]

Most indices will be quoted at a theoretical traded spread in basis points. This represents the fraction of the protected notional that would be paid yearly. The standardisation of indices means that instead of paying the theoretical spread, the fixed (or running) spread (as defined in the index documentation) is paid. It also means that coupon payments are not at fixed intervals starting from the trade date - payment dates are fixed on the 20th of March, June, September, and December. This means that the first coupon period may be a different length to the others. To offset the difference between traded spread and running spread, and the accrual from the first coupon period, an upfront fee is paid.

CDX.NA.HY and CDX.EM indices are generally quoted slightly differently. In the same manner as high yield single name CDSs, they are quoted as a price - i.e. the percentage of the notional that is paid as an upfront fee.[6]


Credit indices trade OTC usually. Prior to 2011 the most common form of trading was through voice (phone) or a chat such as on a Bloomberg terminal. In 2011 e-trading screens started to become popular accounting for more than 50% of the index volumes by the end of 2011. By migrating to screens the transparency of trading is greatly enhanced as market volumes per market-maker are available. Market-makers can see the total amount of index trading daily and where they rank against their peer group. From October 2013, certain trades under the USA's jurisdiction are mandated to be traded on a particular type of e-trading platform called a Swaps Execution Facility (SEF).[7]

Although single name CDS volumes have been in sharp decline with the fall in activity of the structured credit desks, credit indices have remained popular as liquidity in the on-the-run indices remains good and the indices have moved to trading screens to trade more like equity indices.

Credit events[edit]

Upon the declaration of a credit event by the ISDA Determinations Committee, the index will be reversioned, and trading in the new index version will commence. The initial issuance is version 1 (e.g. iTraxx Europe Series 19 Version 1), and the version is incremented for each name in the index that has defaulted.[4]:12

In the event of a "Failure to Pay", or a "Bankruptcy" credit event, the protection seller makes a payment to the protection buyer on the credit event settlement date. The size of the payment is equal to that which would be paid if protection had been bought on a single name CDS with a notional scaled down by the constituent's weighting in the index.

In the event of a "Restructuring" credit event, the index is still reversioned. Instead of simply being settled, however, a single name CDS is spun off which can then undergo the usual single name optional triggering process.[8]


Historically, CDS indices have always been traded as a bilateral contracts directly between parties. This brings with it the additional risk of counterparty default - where one party to a trade fails to meet its obligations under the trade. To mitigate this risk, clearing through Central CounterParties (CCPs) was introduced. In this model, both parties to the trade face the CCP, and all members of the CCP pay into a fund to cover costs in the event that one member defaults.

Indices are currently cleared through several CCPs, with ICE Clear Credit[9] (formerly ICE Trust) and ICE Clear Europe,[10] and Chicago Merchantile Exchange (CME)[11] launching in 2009, and LCH.Clearnet[12] in 2012.

From March 2013, certain indices under the USA's CFTC's jurisdiction became mandated to clear on trade date.[13]

iTraxx indices[edit]

There are different families of iTraxx credit default swap index broken down by geographical region consisting of Europe, Asia and a Sterling denominated index.

Family Type Index name Number of entities Description
Europe Benchmark Indices iTraxx Europe 125 Most actively traded names in the six months prior to the index roll
iTraxx Europe HiVol 30 Highest spread (riskiest) non-financial names from iTraxx Europe index
iTraxx Europe Crossover 75 Sub-investment grade names
iTraxx LEVX 40 European 1st Lien Loan CDS
Sector Indices iTraxx Non-Financials 100 Non-financial names
iTraxx Financials Senior 25 Senior subordination financial names
iTraxx Financials Sub 25 Junior subordination financial names
iTraxx TMT 20 Telecommunications, media and technology
iTraxx Industrials 20 Industrial names
iTraxx Energy 20 Energy industry names
iTraxx Consumers 30 Manufacturers of consumer products
iTraxx Autos 10 Automobile industry names
Asia iTraxx Asia 50 Asia ex-Japan Investment Grade
iTraxx Asia HY 20 Asia ex-Japan High Yield
iTraxx Japan 50 Japan
iTraxx Australia 25 Australia
Sovereign iTraxx SOVX West Europe 15 Sovereign West Europe CDS
iTraxx SOVX CEEMEA 15 Sovereign Central/East Europe, Middle East & Africa
iTraxx SOVX Asia Pacific 10 Sovereign Asia Pacific
iTraxx SOVX Latin America 8 Sovereign Latin America
iTraxx SOVX IG Sovereign Global Liquid Investment Grade
iTraxx SOVX G7 Sovereign G7
iTraxx SOVX BRIC Sovereign Brazil, Russia, India, China

CDX indices[edit]

Index Name Number of entities Description
CDX.NA.IG 125 Investment grade CDSs
CDX.NA.IG.HVOL 30 High Volatility investment grade CDSs
CDX.NA.HY 100 High Yield CDSs
CDX.NA.HY.BB 37 Index of high yield CDSs with a BB rating
CDX.NA.HY.B 46 Index of high yield CDSs with a B rating
CDX.NA.XO 35 CDSs that are at the crossover point between investment grade and junk
CDX.EM 14 Emerging market CDSs
CDX.EM Diversified 40 Emerging market CDSs
LCDX 100 NA First Lien Leverage Loans CDSs

On 14 November 2007, Markit acquired International Index Company and agreed to acquire CDS IndexCo.[14]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "CDX".
  2. ^ "iTraxx".
  3. ^ Whittall, Christopher (September 17, 2014). "New CDS indices roll-out delayed". Reuters. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  4. ^ a b [1] Markit Credit Indices A Primer November 2008
  5. ^ "Understanding the new standard North American credit default swap: evolving documentation and market practice".
  6. ^ Pollack, Lisa (January 27, 2012). "How to read CDS prices, featuring Portugal". Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  7. ^ "Derivatives trading: Not with a bang - The Economist". The Economist. October 5, 2013. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  8. ^ "Small Bang Protocol: Credit Operations Best Practices" (PDF). December 18, 2009. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  9. ^ "ICE Clear Credit".
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-11-09. Retrieved 2013-10-10.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "CME Group Launches Credit Default Swaps Initiative; Begins Clearing Trades - CME Investor Relations".
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-10-16. Retrieved 2013-10-10.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ "CFTC Issues Clearing Determination for Certain Credit Default Swaps and Interest Rate Swaps".
  14. ^ "Markit Acquires International Index Company and Agrees to Acquire CDS IndexCo". Markit. 14 November 2007. Retrieved 30 March 2015.