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Nordic power trader's loss costs Nasdaq and members 114 million euros

OSLO (Reuters) - A Norwegian power market trader racked up losses he could not cover, leaving commodities companies who are part of the Nasdaq clearing house, and the exchange itself, to plug a 114 million euro ($133 million) hole in a contingency fund.

FILE PHOTO: The Nasdaq logo is displayed at the Nasdaq Market site in New York September 2, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

The derivative trader’s default was triggered by strong fluctuations in regional power market spreads, as heavy rain last week pushed down prices in the hydroelectric-dependant Nordic region, while a spike in the cost of carbon drove up German prices, Nasdaq said.

“My position was too big in relation to the market’s liquidity,” trader Einar Aas said in a statement, adding that his portfolio had been sold off by Nasdaq late on Wednesday and that he risked personal bankruptcy.

While Nasdaq said it had covered 7 million euros of the total losses, it told members of its commodity clearing operation to pay the remaining 107 million euros within two business days or risk being declared in default themselves.

“I think it’s an extreme situation. These two markets have always been correlated when it comes to price movements,” Nasdaq European Commodities Chief Executive Catharina Hovemyr told Reuters.

The size of Aas’ portfolio had been “out of the ordinary”, she said, while declining to comment on the exact nature and value of his positions.

“It was a very specific situation with a lot of movements that led up to this,” Hovemyr added.

When Aas could no longer meet margin calls on his trades, Nasdaq Clearing closed the portfolio, leaving its contingency fund with a gaping hole that other traders are obliged to fill.

“If a market participant does not pay within a couple of days they will not be able to trade in Nasdaq,” said Henning Nymann, a power trader at Norway’s TronderEnergi.

“This will make a lot of market participants unsure about trading schemes. It has a potential to move the market, the futures,” said Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate adviser Martin Andreas Vik.

Nasdaq declined to say who had bought the contracts that were liquidated.

Norwegian state-owned power giant Statkraft and electricity firm Hafslund E-CO Group are among the members who will have to cover the losses in the contingency fund.

“We will of course fulfil our obligations and fill the fund according to our share in it. We are not completely aware of the amount but it is a moderate amount of money,” Hafslund E-CO spokesman Per-Arne Torbjoernsdal said.

Sweden’s financial supervisory authority (FI) earlier said the default had no impact on the clearing of equity and fixed income derivatives.

Additional reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis; Writing by Terje Solsvik; Editing by David Stamp and Elaine Hardcastle