Saturday, 7 November 2009

No Good Options Left - John Mauldin

The current situation in the largest world economy can well be summarized in the way John Mauldin did his latest newsletter. The conclusion is that there are no good options left and whether the path from here is controlled (evolution) or left to market (revolution) is the only question. An excellent read.

Like teenagers, we as a US polity have made a number of bad choices over the past decade. We allowed banks to overleverage and, in the case of AIG (and others), sell what were essentially naked call options of credit default swaps, based on their firm balance sheets, far in excess of their net worth; and that put our entire financial system at risk. We gave mortgages to people who could not pay them, and did so in such large amounts that we again brought down the entire world financial system to the point that only with staggering amounts of taxpayer money was it brought back from the brink of Armageddon. We assumed that home prices were not in a bubble but were a permanent fixture of ever-rising value, and we borrowed against our homes to finance what seemed like the perfect lifestyle. We did not regulate the mortgage markets. We ran large and growing government deficits. We did not save enough. We allowed rating agencies to degrade their ratings to a point where they no longer meant anything. The list is much longer, but you get the idea.

Now, we are faced with a continuing crisis and the aftermath of multiple bubbles bursting. We are left with a massive government deficit and growing public debt, record unemployment, and consumers who are desperately trying to repair their balance sheets.

If present trends are left unchecked, we will need to find $15 trillion in the next ten years, just to pay for US government debt, let alone state, county, and city debt. And perhaps some loans for business will be needed? Where can all this money come from? The answer is that it can't be found. Long before we get to 2019 there will be an upheaval in the market, forcing what could be unpleasant changes.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

RBA Lifts Rate to 3.5%

Today's RBA decision was for another base point (0.25%) raise. The official cash rate in Australia is now 3.5%.
RBA lifts cash rate by 25bps to 3.5% - News - Business Spectator