Bill Gross: Varones was right!

Bill Gross, of 4.5%-interest-rates-forever fame, suddenly sees reason for panic:
Escalating delinquencies of course ultimately lead to escalating defaults. Currently 7% of subprime loans are in default. The percentage will grow and grow like a weed in your backyard tomato patch. Now I, the curmudgeon of credit, am as sure of this as I am that the sun will set in the west. The uncertain part is by how much. But look at it this way: using the current default rate of 7% (3-4% total losses), the holders of some BBB investment grade subprime-based CDOs will lose all of their moolah because of the significant leverage. No need to worry about fictitious 100 cents on the dollar marks here. One hundred percent of nothing equals nothing. If subprime total losses hit 10% then even some single-A tranches face the grim reaper. AAA’s? Folks the point is that there are hundreds of billions of dollars of this toxic waste and whether or not they’re in CDOs or Bear Stearns hedge funds matters only to the extent of the timing of the unwind. To death and taxes you can add this to your list of inevitabilities: the subprime crisis is not an isolated event and it won’t be contained by a few days of headlines in The New York Times. And it will not remain confined to a neat little Petri dish in some mad financial derivative scientist’s laboratory. Ultimately through capital market arbitrage it will affect risk spreads in markets completely divorced from U.S. housing. What has the Brazilian Real to do with U.S. subprimes? Nothing except many of the same bets are held in hedge funds that by prudence or necessity will reduce their risk budgets to stay afloat. And the U.S. economy? Of course it will be affected. Consumption will be reduced to say nothing of new home construction over the next 12-18 months. After all, attractive subprime pricing has been key to the housing market’s success in recent years. Now that has disappeared. Importantly, as well, and this point is neglected by most pundits, the willingness to extend credit in other areas – high yield, bank loans, and even certain segments of the AAA asset-backed commercial paper market should feel the cooling Arctic winds of a liquidity constriction.

Welcome, Bill. Nice to see you've come around.

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