Last year, J.P. Morgan & Co. reported entering into interest rate swaps with a "notional value" of more than $367 billion. But the bank reported credit exposure on the swaps --and on another $85 billion related to foreign currency swaps -- of just $8.3 billion.

Did the international banking giant really put at risk only $8.3 billion on a notional value of almost 50 times as much? And just what is the notional value of a swap, and is it a useful measure of exposure?

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