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The Layman's Financial Crisis Glossary

The Layman's Financial Crisis Glossary

BBC News

Collateralised debt obligations

A collateralised debt obligation is a financial structure that groups individual loans, bonds or assets in a portfolio, which can then be traded.

In theory, CDOs attract a stronger credit rating than individual assets due to the risk being more diversified. But as the performance of some assets has fallen, the value of many CDOs have also been reduced.

Commercial paper

Unsecured, short-term loans issued by companies. The funds are typically used for working capital, rather than fixed assets such as a new building.


Commodities are products that, in their basic form, are all the same so it makes little difference from whom you buy them.

That means that they have a market price. You would be unlikely to pay more for iron ore from a particular mine, for example.

Credit crunch

The situation created when banks hugely reduced their lending to each other because they were uncertain about how much money they had.

This in turn resulted in more expensive loans and mortgages for ordinary people.

Credit default swap

A swap designed to transfer credit risk. The buyer of the swap makes periodic payments to the seller in return for protection in the event of a default.

A bank which owns a lot of mortgage debt could swap it, but would have to make a pay-out if those mortgages were not repaid.

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