Pomboy: A Looming New Credit-bust

Stephanie Pomboy of MacroMavens was quoted extensively in this week’s Up and Down Wall Street column by Alan Abelson:

“The people necessary to drive the kind of increase in spending that would justify this year’s sizzling move in markets are consumers at the high end, the top 5% of households who own no less than 84% of equities. Yet, all the evidence suggests, they’re far from spending with their old abandon.

Stephanie speculates that one reason for their reluctance could be that while stocks have rallied, thus enriching their portfolios, dividends have been relentlessly shrinking: the $775 billion-plus annual dividend windfall the affluent had grown accustomed to has been slashed by a third or so. Or, it just may be that “even for the high-end, housing deflation outweighs equity inflation.”

Pomboy further notes that so far, we have only seen a temporary rebuild of balance sheets:

“Ben Bernanke has achieved through his unprecedented actions over the past year, it’s “only a pause in a broad deleveraging story.”

But, she warns, the game is far from over. “As the clock starts on the New Year, the likes of exotic mortgage recasts, small-biz failures and state and local tax hikes will take the field. And the realization will dawn that none of our fundamental problems — most notably excess leverage — have been solved…And just as one could argue that markets were overly aggressive in discounting the end of existence as we knew it back in March, so, too, they may be guilty of anticipating our imminent arrival at Nirvana today.”

The agent of the great awakening will be gathering pressures on the credit market, as banks are “forced to re-provision, and resurgent delinquencies find Fannie and Freddie (and everyone else) putting ill-made mortgages back to lenders.”

Credit will grow dear and do so precisely as the demand for it from borrowers looking to roll over maturing obligations swells.

The numbers, Stephanie exclaims, are unbelievably big. Uncle Sam must roll over $2.5 trillion in debt during the next two years, banks worldwide have some $7 trillion due in the same stretch and commercial real estate will weigh in with another $750 billion.

Oh, dear . . .


A Jolly Good Year
Barron’s, December 28, 2009

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