Systemic Risk in Central Clearing: Should Crowded Trades Be Avoided?

58 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2013 Last revised: 23 Jul 2019

See all articles by Albert J. Menkveld

Albert J. Menkveld

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam; Tinbergen Institute

Date Written: April 7, 2017


If all intermediaries enter the same market-making “bet” on the same side, fast-moving capital gets tied up in a crowded trade. This creates systemic risk for a central clearing party (CCP) since multiple traders might default when the bet turns extremely sour. The CCP then has to unwind the inherited portfolios in a market with little fast-moving capital and potentially pays a fire sale premium. Equilibrium analysis reveals that crowded trades are socially costly when some liquidity demand is left unserved. The other extreme, perfect diversity, maximizes the fire sale premium. Some crowding may thus be socially optimal.

Keywords: systemic risk, centralized clearing, margin, default fund

JEL Classification: G20

Suggested Citation

Menkveld, Albert J., Systemic Risk in Central Clearing: Should Crowded Trades Be Avoided? (April 7, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Albert J. Menkveld (Contact Author)

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
Amsterdam, 1081HV
+31 20 5986130 (Phone)
+31 20 5986020 (Fax)

Tinbergen Institute ( email )

Gustav Mahlerplein 117
Amsterdam, 1082 MS

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