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Bonds Liquidity Threat Is Revealed in Derivatives Explosion

The boom in fixed-income derivatives trading is exposing a hidden risk in debt markets around the world: the inability of investors to buy and sell bonds.

While futures trading of 10-year Treasuries is close to an all-time high, bond-market volume for some maturities has fallen a third in the past year. In Japan’s $9.6 trillion debt market, the benchmark note didn’t trade until midday on two days last week. As a lack of liquidity in Italy caused transaction costs in the world’s third-largest sovereign bond market to jump last month, Lombard Odier Asset Management helped propel an eightfold surge in Italian futures by relying more on derivatives.