Newspeak is Alive and Well, and Living in Our Homes!
Date: Sunday, March 11 2007
"In the odd logic of the real estate bubble, debt has come to equal wealth."
Crisis Looms in Market for Mortgages
On March 1, a Wall Street analyst at Bear Stearns wrote an upbeat report on a company that specializes in making mortgages to cash-poor homebuyers. The company, New Century Financial, had already disclosed that a growing number of borrowers were defaulting, and its stock, at around $15, had lost half its value in three weeks.
What happened next seems all too familiar to investors who bought technology stocks in 2000 at the breathless urging of Wall Street analysts. Last week, New Century said it would stop making loans and needed emergency financing to survive. The stock collapsed to $3.21.
The analystís untimely call, coupled with a failure among other Wall Street institutions to identify problems in the home mortgage market, isnít the only familiar ring to investors who watched the technology stock bubble burst precisely seven years ago.
Now, as then, Wall Street firms and entrepreneurs made fortunes issuing questionable securities, in this case pools of home loans taken out by risky borrowers. Now, as then, bullish stock and credit analysts for some of those same Wall Street firms, which profited in the underwriting and rating of those investments, lulled investors with upbeat pronouncements even as loan defaults ballooned. Now, as then, regulators stood by as the mania churned, fed by lax standards and anything-goes lending.
Investment manias are nothing new, of course. But the demise of this one has been broadly viewed as troubling, as it involves the nationís $6.5 trillion mortgage securities market, which is larger even than the United States treasury market.
Hanging in the balance is the nationís housing market, which has been a big driver of the economy. Fewer lenders means many potential homebuyers will find it more difficult to get credit, while hundreds of thousands of homes will go up for sale as borrowers default, further swamping a stalled market.
Has this been foretold?