US: Credit Market

Subprime Is Back: Will This End Badly?

The subprime market for risky mortgage backed securities is hot again and its revival is exceeding many people's expectations, the chief market strategist at Rosenblatt Securities said. However, he expects it will end badly.

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The subprime mortgage crisis, which led to the financial crash of 2008, involved institutions making loans to those with poor credit who later had difficulty maintaining their repayment schedule.

Wall Street brokerage firm Rosenblatt, which has been monitoring the situation since the last crisis, said the credit-led bull market is well under way.

"The subprime market's revival is proving to be even stronger than we had anticipated," Brian Reynolds said, in a research note. "This is just a credit cycle, and it will eventually end badly like the others."

Rosenblatt Securities has been worried before. It showed outrage when General Motors bought AmeriCredit car loans firm in 2010. The deal repeated the excesses of the last credit cycle, it said at the time, when GM had to hive off its financial subsidiaries which then needed taxpayers' money to survive.

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And it has noticed another huge development this week. The Wall Street Journal reported that a joint venture between AIG and Fortress will be issuing a securitization of personal loans.

"The average coupon on some of these loans is 25 percent, as some of them have no collateral. The A-rated tranche is expected to yield a whopping (for this environment) 2.5 percent, and we're pretty sure the enhanced cash and cash-plus pseudo-money market funds will gobble this up."

This search for yield has angered Reynolds, who thought he would never see subprime personal loans again. He said the situation was now reminiscent of the structured finance boom that began in 1994.

"We're tempted to go check the attic to see if we have some old Beanie Babies that we could securitize," he said.

"It is likely to add to the intensity of this credit boom for a number of years, and help generate significantly higher stock prices, before the next bear market sets in."

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In the short term, Reynolds expects the yields on Spanish sovereigns to dictate the markets. Pension funds will continue to pile money into the credit markets, he added, eventually lifting share prices to new highs after this current period of caution.

"The issuance of the junkiest subprime deal, in at least a dozen years, during the current equity jitters bolsters this case," he said.

"Given how underweighted many equity investors are, they need to think about using these jitters to add exposure or they will face yet another year of massive underperformance."

By's Matt Clinch