Long Term Capital Management (LTCM) was a first in the financial world; as such organisations dealing with hedge funds had never reached such immense proportions. At its birth and early life, LTCM was like a jewel in the crown for those who were seeking to gain large returns. However, through uncharted waters, LTCM was on a maiden journey.  Hedge funds are characteristically structured as foreign limited partnerships to provide pass-through tax treatment of investor earnings. Organized abroad, hedge funds avoid U.S. taxation of the earnings of foreign investors.        

LTCM built its portfolio on sophisticated arbitrage trading strategies. In addition, LTCM used a significant degree of leverage to increase its expected returns. Whist LTCM used a wide variety of trading strategies, one of the simpler strategies employed was one in which it sorted treasury bond futures while taking long positions on higher yielding and higher risk mortgage backed or corporate debt securities. The strategy- known as buying a credit spread, can generate profit as long as the difference in the yields of the two types of instruments remains stable or declines.

Since July 1998, with mounting financial problems in Russia and other emerging markets, sovereign bond prices had steadily risen as investors had engaged in a "flight to quality" from higher, riskier debt instruments (such as emerging market debt, junk bonds, and mortgage-backed and corporate securities) toward sovereign instruments such as U.S. Treasuries. The speed and extent of this movement was apparently not anticipated by LTCM, movement that would have horrific effects on LTCM’s positions.  In August and September of 1998, as the global financial crisis worsened, it became clear to LTCM that many of the assumptions inherent in the arbitrage positions it held were incorrect. Due to LTCM's leverage, those incorrect assumptions resulted in substantial losses for the firm and eroded its capital base. LTCM incurred some of its losses when bond spreads widened between U.S. Treasuries on the one side and swaps on the other. They incurred similar losses from arbitraging sovereign debt of G-7 countries and swaps. Additional losses resulted from LTCM's exposures to emerging market bonds. LTCM also carried huge and subsequently costly positions in the equity derivatives market.

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Further to these faulty positions that LTCM had held, there were additional flaws. The underlying assumptions behind Black, Scholes and Merton’s theories that were used in Delta hedging, were incorrect. The theories assumed markets were frictionless, continuous and that stocks and other assets followed a random walk. Although frictionless and continuous markets were not far from the reality investment banks worth billions of dollars were able to operate within, for the retail investor, a market without transaction costs or the ability to continuously trade was not realistic. The third assumption however is most important. The theory that stocks and other ...

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