Thursday, November 8, 2007

Bernanke: "Recent Develpements May Well Lead to Healthier System":

Some highlights from Bernanke's testimony to congress today.

"Although the problems with subprime mortgages initiated the financial turmoil, credit concerns quickly spilled over into a number of other areas. Importantly, the secondary market for securities backed by prime jumbo mortgages also contracted, and the issuance of such securities has declined significantly. Prime jumbo loans are still being made to prospective home purchasers, but they are at higher spreads and have more-restrictive terms. Concerns about mortgage-backed securities and structured credit products (even those unrelated to mortgages) also greatly reduced investor appetite for asset-backed commercial paper, although that market has improved somewhat recently. In the area of business credit, investors shied away from financing leveraged buyouts and from purchasing speculative-grade corporate bonds. And some larger banks, concerned about potentially large and difficult-to-predict draws on their liquidity and balance sheet capacity, became less willing to provide funding to their customers or to each other.

To be sure, the recent developments may well lead to a healthier financial system in the medium to long term: Increased investor scrutiny of structured credit products is likely to lead ultimately to greater transparency in these products and to better differentiation among assets of varying quality. Investors have also become more cautious and are demanding greater compensation for bearing risk. In the short term, however, these events do imply a greater measure of financial restraint on economic growth as credit becomes more expensive and difficult to obtain."

Going forward:

"In the days since the October FOMC meeting, the few data releases that have become available have continued to suggest that the overall economy remained resilient in recent months. However, financial market volatility and strains have persisted. Incoming information on the performance of mortgage-related assets has intensified investors' concerns about credit market developments and the implications of the downturn in the housing market for economic growth. In addition, further sharp increases in crude oil prices have put renewed upward pressure on inflation and may impose further restraint on economic activity. The FOMC will continue to carefully assess the implications for the outlook of the incoming economic data and financial market developments and will act as needed to foster price stability and sustainable economic growth."

In short, the economy is good, credit is tight, financials will be fine, long term this is good, oil sucks. Will oil seep into the system? To date it has had a limited effect on the consumer. This does bear close watching though.

Whole testimony here:

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