The Great Debate UK

from The Great Debate:

Lessons from the credit crisis debacle

- Steven Miller is managing director of Standard & Poor’s LCD, a unit not part of Standard & Poor’s ratings business. The opinions are his own and not those of S&P.-

As the worst credit crisis since the 1930s recedes, investors are starting to boil down the lessons of the past two and a half years.

With time, we’ll get smarter about how to interpret the recent upheaval but for now, it comes down to these: (1) financial covenants, which test the financial health of a borrower each quarter, can be used to reset loan spreads when times are tough, (2) collateral is indeed resilient, (3) bubbles work in both directions, (4) models are better at predicting the past than the future and (5) “black swans” –- those big unexpected events and their consequences -- take many forms.

Covenants
This first item is hardly a surprise. Lenders knew going in that by foregoing covenants, which would have allowed them to re-price loans to struggling issuers, they were giving up the power to force borrowers to pay more as their financial profile deteriorated. The extent of that omission is now clear: By the end of 2009, loans with covenant tests paid an average spread over LIBOR of 3.20 percent compared to 2.33 percent for loans that lacked such tests -– the so-called “covenant-lite” loans that proliferated during the height of the boom.

How significant was the Lehman collapse to the UK economy?

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geoffrey-wood- Geoffrey Wood is professor of economics at Cass Business School in London. The opinions expressed are his own -

The collapse of Lehman Brothers on September 15, 2008, was the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history, sparking a crisis that paralysed the global financial system. But how significant was the bank’s collapse to the UK economy? What about other events such as Northern Rock? Professor Wood argues that the fall of Lehman was just one of many symptoms of the recession in this country.

from The Great Debate:

Do we need a credit policy?

John Kemp Great Debate-- John Kemp is a Reuters columnist.  The views expressed are his own --

The last eighteen months have witnessed a revolution in financial regulation -- if by that we mean a fundamental reconstruction, total change or turn round from the previous orthodoxy occurring in a relatively compressed time.

In particular, the sheer scale of recent policy interventions in the banking system is throwing up very uncomfortable questions about the government's role in the economy, centered on its function as the ultimate re-insurer of risk and its function via the central bank as "lender of last resort" (LOLR) to the banking system.

from The Great Debate:

Obama’s radical environmental strategy

John Kemp Great Debate-- John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Most successful elected leaders must disappoint their most ardent supporters at some point, as the bright hopes of an election campaign give way to the complex realities and constraints of governing, and need to occupy and retain the political center-ground to win re-election.

The trick of really successful leaders is to let supporters down gently to avoid turning disappointment into frustration and anger, retaining allegiance and support even when the maximum agenda goes unfulfilled and compromises must be made. Political supporters have to be given enough policy gains to be kept loyal, even as some cherished objectives fall by the wayside.

from The Great Debate:

Brace yourself: Political-market risks in 2009

prestonkeat-- Preston Keat is director of research at Eurasia Group, a global political risk consultancy, and author of the forthcoming book “The Fat Tail: The Power of Political Knowledge for Strategic Investors” (with Ian Bremmer). Any views expressed are his own. For the related story, click here.

There are a number of macro risks that will continue to grab headlines in 2009, including the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, cross-border tensions and state instability in Pakistan, and Iran's 
ongoing quest to develop advanced nuclear technologies.

from Ask...:

Money, money everywhere …except in your pocket?

There's lots of money sloshing around the financial system these days. The Federal Reserve has established a target range of 0-0.25 percent for its key rate, bringing it closer to unconventional action to lift the economy out of a year-long recession.

From Washington, the first package aimed at rescuing the credit crisis-hit banking sector amounted to $700 billion. Treasury can use only half of that amount and it has already pledged all but $15 billion of it. The Senate has refused to pass a $14 billion rescue package for Detroit's three major car companies last week, leaving it in the hands of the Bush administration to work out a deal.

from The Great Debate:

Great U.S debt engine slips into reverse

John Kemp Great Debate-- John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own --

After six decades of uninterrupted credit creation and an unprecedented era of consumption and prosperity, the credit process has come to an abrupt halt. If credit has been the locomotive of the modern economy, the third quarter of 2008 marked the point when the engine stalled and the economy began to roll back down the hill.

For decades, financial activities have grown much faster than the real economy. Between 1952 and 2007, U.S. nominal GDP grew by a factor of 39 times, while total credit market debt outstanding surged 101 times.

from The Great Debate:

Finance throws sand in wheels of trade

James Saft Great Debate -- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --

Trade finance, a basic lubricant for the global economy, is becoming much more expensive and tougher to get, accelerating an already harrowing downturn.

Banks are reluctant to allocate scarce capital to trade finance, which funds cross-border buying and selling, and are very wary about being caught short by defaults by other banks which write letters of credit or by the importers and exporters themselves.

from Reuters Editors:

And the band played on: covering the economic crisis

dean-150I recently visited one of the most frightening sites on the Web—the place where I look at my shrinking retirement account.

As I calculated the investment loss since the steep decline in the markets began, and particularly since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in mid-September, some questions arose (in addition to: Will I ever be able to retire?).

from UK News:

Would you take a pay cut?

A small but growing number of companies are considering asking their workers to take a pay cut as a means of cutting costs without having to fire anyone.

In the latest example, three unions representing steelworkers at Corus have offered to take a 10 percent cut across the company's entire UK workforce of 25,000 for six months in an attempt to save one of the last remaining steel factories in Britain -- the plant at Llanwern in Newport, South Wales.

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