Continued ripple effects

It’s been interesting to watch how the fallout in credit markets has rippled across other markets.

The initial indication of credit market stress showed up as subprime problems during late winter and early spring of this year. At the time, many market commentators were saying it was isolated and contained.

Then, as expected, credit tightening continued to ripple across other markets as it became more difficult to raise high yield debt. This, too, was described as a short term and isolated situation.

Now, it sounds like prime home equity loans are having trouble as are auto loans. The ripples keep showing up in more and more places. And, the market commentators continue to declare that it’s contained and short term.

Is this unusual? Not at all. This is exactly the type of thing that happens every time credit markets get too loose. As the credit market gets further and further away from its most recent problems, lower quality borrowers are loaned more and more money, or money is lent to borrowers at a rates not high enough to compensate for the risk involved.

At some point in time (forecasting if it will happen is easy, forecasting when is extraordinarily difficult), credit markets tighten again as lenders realize they have made bad loans.

This usually takes several years to unfold and almost always includes a large and “unexpected” crisis such as Long Term Capital Management in 1998, the Saving and Loan Crisis in the late 80’s and early 90’s, or the corporate credit squeeze in 2002.

I expect greater difficulties for banks (especially mortgage banks) that made bad loans, bond insurers that insured AAA tranches that were much more risky than they assumed, and mortgage insurers who looked only at recent data when pricing their insurance premiums.

At a later point in time, the market will become so disgusted that great buying opportunities will occur. I don’t think that time is here, yet, but I also assume that smart investors will start buying long before the bottom is reached. I just may be in that group, too.

Nothing in this blog should be considered investment, financial, tax, or legal advice. The opinions, estimates and projections contained herein are subject to change without notice. Information throughout this blog has been obtained from sources believed to be accurate and reliable, but such accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

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