Monday, August 11, 2008

“Repel the calls to contain competitive markets” Claims Alan Greenspan

Last week, Alan Greenspan penned this article in the Financial Times discussing the current mood on the economy and calls for regulation in the lending industry. Below is an excerpt from the article.

“The surprise of recent months is not that global economic growth is slowing, but that there is any growth at all. The credit crunch of the past year has not followed the path of recent economically debilitating episodes characterized by a temporary freezing up of liquidity – 1982, 1989, 1997-8 comes to mind. This crisis is different – a once or twice a century event, deeply rooted in fears of insolvency of major financial institutions.

This crisis was not brought to closure by the world’s central banks’ injection of huge doses of short-term liquidity. Only when sovereign credits were substituted for private bank credit, first in the case of the UK (Northern Rock) and subsequently in the case of the US (Bear Stearns), was a semblance of stability restored to markets. But the London Interbank Offered Rate spreads on overnight index swaps and credit default swaps of financial institutions have not returned to the modest pre-crisis levels. Fears of insolvency have not, as yet, been fully set aside. There may be numbers of banks and other financial institutions that, at the edge of defaulting, will end up being bailed out by governments.

The insolvency crisis will come to an end only as home prices in the US begin to stabilize and clarify the level of equity in homes, the ultimate collateral support for much of the financial world’s mortgage-backed securities. However, US home prices will stabilize only when the absorption of the huge excess of single-family vacant homes that emerged as the US housing boom peaked in 2006 is much further advanced than it is now. New single-family home completions are currently barely under the rate of home demand generated by household formation and replacement needs. Only later this year will the current suppressed level of housing starts be reflected in completion levels consistent with a rapid rate of liquidation of the inventory glut, and this, of course, assumes that current levels of demand for housing hold up.”

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