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June 26, 2007
What's That Unpleasant Sound?
The United States faces a severe credit crunch as mounting losses on risky forms of debt catch up with the banks and force them to curb lending and call in existing loans, according to a report by Lombard Street Research.
The group said the fast-moving crisis at two Bear Stearns hedge funds had exposed the underlying rot in the US sub-prime mortgage market, and the vast nexus of collateralised debt obligations known as CDOs.
"Excess liquidity in the global system will be slashed," it said. "Banks' capital is about to be decimated, which will require calling in a swathe of loans. This is going to aggravate the US hard landing."...
Lombard Street’s warning comes as fresh data from the US National Association of Realtors shows that the glut of unsold homes reached a record of 8.9 months supply in May. Sales of existing homes slid to an annual rate of 5.99m.
The median price fell for the 10th month in a row to $223,700, down almost 14pc from its peak in April 2006. This is the steepest drop since the 1930s.
The Mortgage Lender Implode-Meter that tracks the US housing markets claims that 86 major lenders have gone bankrupt or shut their doors since the crash began.
The latest are Aegis Lending, Oak Street Mortgage and The Mortgage Warehouse.
It is worth noting that those are specifically mortgage-lending corporations not commercial banks, so I am not clear on the basis of this claim:
Lombard Street said the Bear Stearns fiasco was the tip of the iceberg. The greatest risk lies in the “toxic tranches” of lower grade securities held by the banks.
Much-trumpeted claims that banks had shifted off the riskiest credit exposure on to the asset markets was “largely a fiction”, said [Charles Dumas, the group's global strategist].
In fact, the article contains more assertions than facts. But I think it is agreed that if there is going to be a really big spillover effect from ongoing housing woes, this is where we'll find it.
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