Friday, September 26, 2008

Credit markets collapse

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Just when it looked like relief was on its way, credit markets seized up again Friday. With the Treasury's $700 billion financial industry bailout proposal in jeopardy, and with Thursday night's collapse of an agreement and subsequent JPMorgan Chase takeover of Washington Mutual - the largest bank failure in the nation's history - bank lending has again stalled. "Things have frozen over again," said Steve Van Order, chief fixed income strategist with Calvert Funds. "Banks are nervous about lending to each other, and the commercial paper market has come to a standstill." Market gauges of lending risk showed cramped markets and flights to safety Friday. For instance, the difference between the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, and the Overnight Index Swamps rose to an all-time high of 0.208%. The decade-old Libor-OIS spread measures cash availability among banks, with higher spreads signaling fewer available funds.

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Stocks Set to Fall as Bailout Deal Collapses
Stocks Set to Fall as Bailout Deal Collapses News that the government's financial bailout plan ran into major snags sent stock indexes sharply lower and exacerbated strains on credit markets
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Source: BusinessWeek
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Government Bonds Rise as Bailout Plan Stalls, WaMu Collapses
Government Bonds Rise as Bailout Plan Stalls, WaMu Collapses By Kim-Mai Cutler ... Central banks have so far failed to unlock the credit markets and get banks to lend to each other again.
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European Stocks Decline as Bank Bailout Stalls, WaMu Collapses By Adria Cimino ... Insurance stocks will remain ``vulnerable to swings in both the credit and equity markets,'' Merrill wrote in a separate report ...
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US SWAPS-2Y spread collapses on hopes of bailout passage
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JPMorgan Chase buys WaMu after 'largest U.S. bank failure in history'
WaMu collapsed as its credit rating was slashed to junk and its stock price tumbled. ... Securities and Exchange Commission protected from short selling in an effort to stabilize stock markets.
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Source: News-Press
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The TED spread - the difference between Libor, what banks pay to borrow money for three months, and the three month Treasury borrowing rates - rose to 0.31%, the widest margin for that measure since 1982. A wide spread is considered to show high risk of loan defaults, sending investors to safer havens. The Ted spread was at 0.111% just a month ago. With loads of troubled assets on their balance sheets, banks are hesitant to take on more loans if the risk of default is high. Furthermore, when banks need to write down those assets, they have less cash on hand to issue loans. That stops the financial system's gears from turning, hurting customers who need a loan to finance a home, a car or tuition. "The interbank lending markets are clogged up, because there is a freeze-up in the pipes that normally carry funding from central banks to banks to customers," Van Order explained. How WaMu makes it worse: The announcement that JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500) acquired the banking assets of Washington Mutual (WM, Fortune 500) late Thursday after the beleaguered thrift was seized by federal regulators sent yet another shock to already skittish lenders. "JPMorgan is going to have to take a writedown and ultimately raise capital," Van Order said. "The bank's lines of credit are being drawn on, and they can't hit the commercial paper market, so the acquisition puts another strain on lending." As JPMorgan tries to finance its purchase, if there are no lenders available, they will have to turn to a backup line of credit, further seizing up the flow from bank to bank to customers. The bailout's impact: With the credit markets all but stopped, the Bush administration hopes that the removal of risky assets from the financial institutions would restore the flow of credit. But as partisan politics put the enactment of a bill in doubt, banks worried that the wrench in the gears may not be removed anytime soon. "If banks don't have the market to sell off illiquid assets, we're just going to be stuck in the same situation a year from now," Van Order said. "There's just no market for whole classes of asset- backed securities, and the government is the only one that is large enough to create a market." With the only potential buyer debating whether or not to make the deal, financial institutions continued to invest in less risky assets like government bonds. Treasurys: The unprecedented events of the past two weeks have had investors moving into and out of Treasurys quickly. U.S. government bonds are considered one of the safest places to keep assets, and so as anxiety in the marketplace increases, so does demand for Treasurys. "The holdup of the rescue plan and of course the failure of WaMu is once again flocking investors toward safety," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners. The benchmark 10-year note rose 20/32 to 101-24/32 and its yield fell to 3.79% from 3.84% late Thursday. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions. The 30-year bond jumped 1-2/32 to 102-17/32 and its yield dipped to 4.35% from 4.39%. The 2-year note rose 9/32 to 99-30/32, while its yield fell to 2.03% from 2.16%. The yield on the 3-month bill fell to 0.70% from 0.74% as prices ticked higher. Yields on 3-month Treasurys have remained at very low levels as demand for the notes has increased amid the uncertainty in the financial markets. The 3-month note is a popular asset for money markets looking for stability because it offers a safe place to park cash on a short-term basis. On Thursday, bond prices were mixed as key lawmakers announced they had reached an agreement for the proposed $700 billion bailout of the financial system, which has been battered by the collapse of the housing market. Investors started tip-toeing out of the safe haven of government bonds; stocks rallied, sending the Dow Jones industrial average up 197 points. But the bank failure and the breakdown in the bailout agreement sent investors running right back to the safe haven of Treasurys. Looking for a lifeline: After days of negotiations in Congress, lawmakers said Thursday they were taking a revised bailout proposal to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. But a meeting at the White House on Thursday between President Bush, Congressional leaders and the presidential candidates failed to provide a conclusion, sending fresh anxiety to Wall Street that maybe the much-needed relief was not imminent. "The financial markets are burning and the politicians are playing politics," said Cardillo. As the uncertainty mounts as to what form a bailout would eventually take, investors returned to the perceived safety of government bonds, sending the prices of Treasurys higher. As the situation in the financial sector continues to deteriorate, "people are trying to protect their assets and they are running into Treasurys," said Cardillo. In order to pay for a costly rescue plan, the government would need to sell a lot more debt. On Thursday, the government auctioned $24 billion worth of 5-year notes. The Treasury received bids totaling nearly $46 billion, with a median yield of 3%. To top of page


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Published on: 9/18/2008 4:46:39 AM
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Published on: 9/8/2008 3:44:12 PM
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Published on: 9/26/2008 11:02:31 AM


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