16 Mar. 2008

Wall Street's "Crisis Of Faith"

Suddenly even "respectable" economists are talking about "the next Great Depression":
A Goldman Sachs trader in New York said: "Everyone is in a total state of shock, aghast at what is happening. No one wants to talk, let alone deal; we're just standing by waiting. Everyone is nervous about what is going to emerge when trading starts tomorrow."

In the UK, Michael Taylor, a senior market strategist at Lombard, the economics consultancy, said on Friday night: "We have all been talking about a 1970s-style crisis but as each day goes by this looks more like the 1930s. No one has any clue as to where this is going to end; it's a self-feeding disaster." Mr Taylor, who had been relatively optimistic, has turned bearish: "It really does look as though the UK is now heading for a recession. The credit-crunch means that even if the Bank of England cuts rates again, the banks are in such a bad way they are unlikely to pass cuts on."

Mr Taylor added that he expects a sharp downturn in the real UK economy as the public and companies stop borrowing. "We have never seen anything like this before. This is new territory for us. Liquidity is being pumped into the system but the banks are not taking any notice. This is all about confidence. The more the central banks do, the more the banks seem to ignore what's going on."

Mr Taylor added that the problems unravelling at Bear Stearns are just the beginning: "There will be more banks and hedge funds heading for collapse."

One of the problems facing the markets is that, despite the Fed's move last week to feed them another $200bn, the banks are still not lending to each other.

"This crisis is one of faith. We are going to see even more problems in the hedge funds as they face margin calls," said Mark O'Sullivan, director of dealing at Currencies Direct in London.