Credit Crisis Observations

Niels Jensen and Jan Wilhelmsen of Absolute Return Partners ( produced an informative analysis of the credit crisis and provide the following observations. Here is our summary:

Loans and Mortgages are getting much harder to come by on average, globally.

This has bold and negative implications for property prices everywhere.

Observation # 1

It all began with housing and it will end with housing.

The current overhang caused by the tightness of credit (mortgages) will take years not months to unwind and housing prices will not begin to rise again until this occurs.

Observation# 2

Don't trust central banks to always do the right thing.

Evidence suggests that while their intent seems to be genuine, central banks around the world have not been very effective at taming inflation. For example, simply raising interest rates in the underlevered economies of the BRIC countries has been futile, since most consumers and companies do not employ credit to the extent that those of us in the west do.

In the case of the BRIC countries, it appears the problem does not consist of sustaining growth, but rather containing growth. China, for instance, has a record of under-reporting both real and nominal GDP growth, and may have only recently more accurately stated inflation owing to the fact that they could not hide from skyrocketing oil and food prices.

Observation # 3

Policy mistakes are likely to be repeated.

The US is currently at risk of making the same policy making mistakes Japan made 10-15 years ago. US residential property prices have risen more during 2000-2006 boom than did the Japanese during the late 80s boom.

Japan too, though more rapidly, reduced the cost of money dramatically to fend off its crisis.

Japan bailed out many of its institutions and used taxpayers money to fund the activity of fixing the 'unfixable,' and this could have profound implications for the US GDP growth in years to come.

Observation # 4

The golden era of investment banks is over.

The biggest independent investment banks have just become banks. The US investment banking business is becoming more like Canada's where the business is dominated by the large schedule "A" chartered banks and America's "free" market just became a little more socialist. How ironic...The folding of GS and MS into banks also has valuation considerations for the venerated firms as their revenues and earnings are sure to decline under the auspices of Fed regulation. Further de-levering also has negative implications for the market as it entails more liquidation. Hopefully this will be done in an orderly fashion now that the conversion is underway.

Observation # 5

The final shoe hasn't dropped yet.

There is more to come. For instance, the financial system has yet to deal with $1-trillion in Alt-A securities and further degradation of the CDS market and counter-party risks.

Absolute Return Partners states that the commodity bull is just the final leg of the liquidity super-cycle: take a look the Economist's VAR-VAR-Voom chart.

Observation # 6

Leverage is 'dead' but capital is not.

Global savings rates now exceed 20%, except in the US, and while this is a positive for global stability, the question remains about whether investors are willing to invest money where it is most needed, the shore up the world's banks. Failing that, property prices will need to stabilize before we can expect better times.

Observation # 7

The end of the crisis looks further away than it did a year ago.

Its complicated, very complicated.

Commodity price induced inflation has made it hard for policy makers to reduce interest rates. Despite this, interest rate cuts may not be the magic bullet and in 20 of the 36 countries recently surveyed by Morgan Stanley, real short-term interest rates are currently negative.

At this point the $700-billion Treasury/Fed proposal appears to be a solid response, as does the stimulus injections of cash into markets around the world.

This problem remains possibly years away from being done with.

Observation # 8

Traditional risk management has lost its way.

Paul McCulley of Pimco touched on the subject in the July 2008 issue of Global Central Bank Focus:

"[...] every levered financial institution - banks and shadow banks alike - decided individually that it was time to delever their balance sheets. At the individual level, that made perfect sense. At the collective level, however, it has given us the paradox of deleveraging: when we all try to do it at the same time, we actually do less of it, because we collectively create deflation in the assets from which leverage is being removed."

In fact, while it is known that PIMCO was regularly consulted by Secretary Paulson, it was Paul McCulley who rightly proposed in his newsletter during the summer, that the only real solution would consist of the formation of a new government agency to create a market to thaw frozen or cemented assets.  This would be the only viable long term solution.


Where is the opportunity? According to Absolute Return Partners, real value is to be found in credit instruments. This is where the most damage has been inflicted and it is where the biggest bargains are to be found in today's markets.

What would you rather own? Equities which trade at 15-20 times earnings or credit instruments trading at a fraction of that cost? Deutsche Bank estimates that senior secured loans are trading at an implied PE ratio of 5-less than a third of the cost of equities.

You may read the full original version, at Observations on a Crisis, Courtesy John Mauldin

1 comment
  1. It is said that for the past couple of decades investment banks have been operating like mega hedge funds. An ever larger part of profits has been derived from proprietary activities.


    Hedge Fund Jobs

Comments are closed.

Previous Article

Oil Front Month Contract Goes Haywire

Next Article

Is There a Bull Market Somewhere?

Related Posts
Subscribe to notifications
Watch. Listen. Read. Raise your average.