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Wednesday July 2, 2008 - 18:32:46 GMT
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Forex Blog - Financial Crisis Followed by Corporate Crisis

Despite the loaded irony in Merrill auto analysts warning of a possible bankruptcy for GM unless it can raise $15bln in capital. Pot calling the kettle black, no?  But beyond the irony there is a loaded question here…have we moved from a period of a largely banking-related failure risk to a broader corporate failure risk…from firms that actually make things as opposed to firms that bet on things that they assume can’t turn out bad. 

Call me Chicken Little, but hey will there be a US auto industry in another 6 months?  Detroit papers are full of stories that Chrysler is facing a large funding shortage (real test of private equity stomach for business cycle and the old economy).  Also Ford is out showing Volvo to all interested parties – Renault, but Tata has to be in the mix as well.  This is an act of near desperation.  Oil at $140-150 looks more permanent than the bill of goods peddled by central bankers and finance ministers through 2007 – it’s temporary (gone from the lexicon).  What will airline firms do at these prices for fuel?  Raise prices but people will stop flying.  Stick a fork in this business model too.

Somehow I think the standard in the executive branch for too interconnected to fail in the goods producing sector is far higher than it is in the banking sector.  Maybe if United and GM were more active in securitizing tickets and auto loans than flying passengers and making cars they too would be too interconnected to fail.  There will be no Bush bailout for a US automaker or airline ahead.  And I would bet anything Congress passes would see the veto pen of the President in defense of moral hazard.    

And with consumers generally pulling back on spending – like on non-necessities including travel – stick a fork in Vegas casinos.  Retail stocks also face serious downside risks as shopping at the malls of America is more likely to be replaced with rotor-tilling home gardens.  Big screen TVs?  How about a loaf of bread and half a tank of gasoline instead?  You think real estate is weak now, what happens if the unemployment rate shoots up as firms trim costs and layoff workers ahead? 

Clearly the Fed is tapped out on what it can do to simultaneously support growth and fight inflation.  Indeed in light of the credit crisis it is difficult to tell if 325bps of Fed easing really made any difference to the real sector as credit conditions and market rates did not move in the direction of official rates with any regularity and significance. 

The heavy lifting ahead has to come from the White House (US Treasury) and Congress and it could not be a worse time for bi-partisan action…presidential and Congressional elections in November.   But there also appears to be a lack of urgency in the White House…President Bush said his administration is filled with “strong dollar people”.  Mr President the dollar has fallen in every year but one of your administrations.   Wait it out…everything will be fine in time.  Less government nor more, lower taxes not higher taxes and markets are best at setting the level of the dollar.  Paulson thinks he is different than O’Neill and Snow…he really really believes in a strong dollar being in US interests whereas the other two Treasury Secretaries pretended to believe in it and were at best benign neglectors of the currency.  It’s show me time Hank.

If corporate defaults/bankruptcies mount ahead as I suspect they will what happens to CDS market?  Are these securities not based on models with assumptions about rates of defaults which would be within historic norms and not tail outcomes?  Welcome to the 3 standard deviation world.

David Gilmore




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