Interest Rate Roundup

Friday, August 03, 2007

More mortgage market turmoil ...

I can't even keep up with all the stories flying around about problems in the mortgage market. Suffice it to say that the turmoil we've been dealing with recently has not gone away. In fact, Bloomberg reports that Bear Stearns shares are having their worst day since the day the markets reopened after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The catalyst was a decision by Standard & Poor's to lower the firm's credit rating outlook to negative.

I've been saying on this blog that market conditions (unfortunately) look a lot like they did in 1998. We may not see as large a decline in the market as we did then. But the possibility is there. For more thoughts on that matter, click here.

UPDATE: Bear Stearns just responded as follows ...

"The Bear Stearns Companies Inc. said today that it is disappointed with S&P's decision to change its outlook on Bear Stearns. Most of the themes highlighted in its report are common to the industry and are not likely to have a disproportional impact on Bear Sterns. S&P's specific concerns over issues relating to certain hedge funds managed by BSAM are unwarranted as these were isolated incidences and are by no means an indication of broader issues at Bear Stearns.

'S&P's action highlights the concerns in the marketplace over the recent instability in the fixed income environment,' said James E. Cayne, chairman and chief executive officer of The Bear Stearns Companies Inc. 'Contrary to rumors in the marketplace, our franchise is profitable and healthy and our balance sheet is strong and liquid. Bear Stearns has thrived throughout both tumultuous and fortuitous markets for the past 84 years. We are experiencing another market cycle and we are confident in Bear Stearns' ability to succeed in this environment as it has in so many others.'

With respect to operating performance and financial condition, the company has been solidly profitable in the first two months of the quarter, while the balance sheet, capital base and liquidity profile have never been stronger. Bear Stearns' risk exposures to high profile sectors are moderate and well-controlled. The risk management infrastructure and processes remain conservative and consistent with past practices. This structure and strong risk management culture has allowed the firm to operate for all of its history as a public company without ever having an unprofitable quarter.

All other major rating agencies have affirmed their stable or positive outlook on Bear Stearns within the last six weeks."


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