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A clearing house is a financial institution that provides clearing and settlement services for financial and commodities derivatives and securities transactions. These transactions may be executed on a futures exchange or securities exchange, as well as off-exchange in the over-the-counter (OTC) market. A clearing house stands between two clearing firms (also known as member firms or clearing participants) and its purpose is to reduce the risk of one (or more) clearing firm failing to honor its trade settlement obligations. A clearing house reduces the settlement risks by netting offsetting transactions between multiple counterparties (See: Central Counterparty Clearing), by requiring collateral deposits (also called "margin deposits"), by providing independent valuation of trades and collateral, by monitoring the credit worthiness of the clearing firms, and in many cases, by providing a guarantee fund that can be used to cover losses that exceed a defaulting clearing firm's collateral on deposit.

Once a trade has been executed by two counterparties either on an exchange, or in the OTC markets, the trade can be handed over to a clearing house, which then steps between the two original traders' clearing firms and assumes the legal counterparty risk for the trade. This process of transferring the trade title to the clearing house is called novation. It can take fractions of seconds in highly liquid futures markets; or days, or even weeks in some OTC markets.

As the clearing house concentrates the risk of settlement failures into itself and is able to isolate the effects of a failure of a market participant, it also needs to be properly managed and well-capitalized in order to ensure its survival in the event of a significant adverse event, such as a large clearing firm defaulting or a market crash.

Many clearing house guarantee funds are capitalized with collateral from its clearing firms. In the event of a settlement failure, the clearing firm may be declared to be in default and clearing house default procedures may be utilized, which may include the orderly liquidation of the defaulting firm's positions and collateral. In the event of a significant clearing firm failure, the clearing house may draw on its guarantee fund in order to settle trades on behalf of the failed clearing firm.

The term is also used for banks like Suffolk Bank that acted as a restraint on the over-issuance of private bank notes.

Clearing of securities[edit]

When clearing securities clearing houses either focus on a type of product or on a specific country or region, or sometimes both. The 1990s saw a trend to merged exchanges which led a number of clearing houses associated with those exchanges also merging and consolidating. This led to a number of clearing houses that cover multiple countries and that will clear all three major types of securities, bonds, stocks and derivatives.

Clearing of stocks[edit]

In the United States, stock clearing can be done by The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation or Fedwire.

Shipping by airmail from UK: items normally reach US addresses within a few days but can take longer THE STOCK EXCHANGE: The clearing House. London, antique print c1880
Home (Shipping by airmail from UK: items normally reach US addresses within a few days but can take longer)
  • Caption below print: The clearing house
  • Condition: Good; suitable for framing. However, please note: Verso text quite apparent in margin; The image shown may have been taken from a different example of...
  • Size: 14.0 x 14.0cm, 5.5 x 5.5 inches (Small)
  • Type & Age: Year printed c1880. Antique wood engraved print
  • Verso: There are images and/or text printed on the reverse side of the picture which are likely to show through the page to some extent because the paper is quite...
Shipping by airmail from UK: items normally reach US addresses within a few days but can take longer LONDON: Clearing House, Lombard St, antique print, 1847
Home (Shipping by airmail from UK: items normally reach US addresses within a few days but can take longer)
  • Caption below print: The Clearing-House, in Lombard-Street
  • Condition: Good; suitable for framing. Please check the scan for any blemishes prior to making your purchase.
  • Size: 14.5 x 23.5cm, 5.75 x 9.25 inches (Medium)
  • Type & Age: Year printed 1847. Antique wood engraved print
  • Verso: There are images and/or text printed on the reverse side of the picture. In some cases this may be visible on the picture itself (please check the scan prior...

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