Tim Price is some
kind of genius:
The role of the rating agencies has now been called into question. Leading
industry analysts suggest that the agencies have failed to disclose the true
risk of CDOs, which are a type of sub-strain of the Ebola Zaire virus. A typical
CDO causes an investor’s internal parts to liquefy – typically
during a broader-based market crisis – and then detonate violently. Holders
of the investment grade portion of CDOs, rated ‘Super Lovely’
by agency Duff and ‘Angel Delight’ by rival Substandard and Poor,
are deemed only moderately likely to have their major organs forcibly removed
by anonymous surgeons. Holders of second-tier ‘Mezzanine’ tranches,
rated ‘Ocean breeze’ by Duff and ‘Fields of soft, waving
grass’ by Poor, run a slightly higher risk of holders being tossed over
a cliff onto jagged rocks. The ‘Equity’ tranches, hitherto variously
rated ‘Piquant’ and ‘Saucy’ carry a fairly high risk
of holders having their body parts crushed with small hammers and then being
ripped apart by choreographed attack dogs.
Go read the whole thing. Right now, there’s only one story to be told in the
financial press: insufficient regulation in the subprime mortgage market →
delinquency, default, and foreclosure → Subprime Meltdown → massive
deleveraging → a self-reinforcing credit crunch, a rash of corporate defaults,
and the end of the world as we know it. Or something along those lines.
In reality, credit spreads haven’t widened out very much; the Bear Stearns
hype seems to have been overblown;
there’s still huge amounts of liquidity in the loan market (if not quite as
much as there was a few months ago); and the credit bubble seems on track to
deflate gently rather than burst disastrously. Of course, it’s always possible
that things will go horribly pear-shaped from here on in. Indeed, sooner or
later, something bad is bound to happen: it’s a statistical inevitability. But
right now, the doom-mongers are in dire need of a Tim Price skewering like this.
Thank you, sir!
(By the way, talking of doom-mongers, the incomparable Nouriel Roubini
is today talking about "$100
billion plus of losses for banks, financial institutions, hedge funds and
investors once these CDOs and subprime mortgage backed securities are marked-to-market".
$100 billion, as Michael Milken reminded
us in April, is the amount that Intel stock alone fell in one day
during the dot-com bust. Or, to use a present-day example, it’s less than one
tenth of China’s foreign exchange reserves. Let’s keep things in perspective