Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lack of imagination (2)

An earlier post today commented on Greenspan's lack of imagination, and suggested that while Fed Chairman he had discounted the risk of really bad things happening.

Here's a repost from long ago providing documentation of these sentiments:
Note: the current mess was to some extent anticipated by a near-deified expert, Alan Greenspan:

The apparent froth in housing markets appears to have interacted with evolving practices in mortgage markets. The increase in the prevalence of interest-only loans and the introduction of more-exotic forms of adjustable-rate mortgages are developments of particular concern. To be sure, these financing vehicles have their appropriate uses. But some households may be employing these instruments to purchase homes that would otherwise be unaffordable, and consequently their use could be adding to pressures in the housing market. Moreover, these contracts may leave some mortgagors vulnerable to adverse events. It is important that lenders fully appreciate the risk that some households may have trouble meeting monthly payments as interest rates and the macroeconomic climate change.
[Testimony of Chairman Alan Greenspan
Federal Reserve Board's semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress
Before the Committee on Financial Services, U.S. House of Representatives
July 20, 2005]
Alas, he somewhat undermined the doom-and-gloom picture in his very next paragraph:

The U.S. economy has weathered such episodes before without experiencing significant declines in the national average level of home prices. Nevertheless, we certainly cannot rule out declines in home prices, especially in some local markets. If declines were to occur, they likely would be accompanied by some economic stress, though the macroeconomic implications need not be substantial. Nationwide banking and widespread securitization of mortgages make financial intermediation less likely to be impaired than it was in some previous episodes of regional house-price correction. Moreover, a decline in the national housing price level would need to be substantial to trigger a significant rise in foreclosures, because the vast majority of homeowners have built up substantial equity in their homes despite large mortgage-market-financed withdrawals of home equity in recent years.

So, although we "cannot rule out" bad things happening, it's best to pretend that they won't... after all, "a decline in the national housing price level would need to be substantial to trigger a significant rise in foreclosures", and we know that's just not going to happen!
It's fun to be able to exploit my psychic abilities by simply reposting some previous bit of brilliant commentary!

I note today that "widespread securitization of mortgages" in fact did NOT "make financial intermediation less likely to be impaired", but is, in fact, a cause of the crisis we now face.
No one really understood the technical details of this "widespread securitization", not even the demi-god Greenspan.
As it turns out, it was just exactly this unregulated "widespread securitization of mortgages" that has cratered the U.S. financial system!

Stop the madness!

No comments:

Post a Comment