Why could over $60 trillion in credit derivatives turn this financial crisis into market mayhem?
*The Economist, September 23, 2008
“Financial Crisis – Carping About the TARP
Congress Wrangles Over How Best to Avoid Financial Armaggedon
IF ONLY, America’s financial authorities must feel, they could gag congressmen as easily as they have muzzled short-sellers. Financial markets around the world were choppy this week as Republicans and Democrats wrangled over the $700 billion rescue plan for Wall Street proposed last week by Hank Paulson, America’s treasury secretary.
One fear is that Mr Paulson’s troubled asset relief programme (TARP) will be blocked on Capitol Hill. That is possibly overdone: the risk of being blamed for plunging the world’s greatest economy into financial ruin is a good incentive for all sides to reach a compromise. Of more concern is that the plan, if it were approved, would neither shore up the financial system nor save the American economy. On that point there is room for argument, and hence for more uncertainty in the markets.
Mr Paulson’s plan is to use public money to buy assets from banks whose value has slumped with every lurch downwards in America’s housing market and which have been shunned by the private sector. With a floor put under the value of those instruments it should be easier for banks to raise capital. Without capital, and amid relentless write-downs on those toxic assets, banks would have to curtail lending, causing a massive credit drought in America. That would not only further batter the housing market. It might also push companies into bankruptcy, too, causing mayhem in the $62 trillion market for credit derivatives.”
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