Hey, we whipped up something to help investors monitor the front lines of the credit crisis: a "Credit Spreads" page.At the heart of the crisis is lending ... or lack of it at this point. Banks typically lend to each other all the time, charging each other an interest rate (that'd be the LIBOR I obsess aboutfrom time to time).
When times are tough, like they are now, that rate gets jacked up. You measure that rate against the rate for government treasuries (considered the base-level, no risk investment) and you get the TED spread.
Okay, it's a little eye-crossing. But basically, the bigger the TED spread number, the more hesitant banks are to lend to one another. And that reverberates all the way up the credit chain. (And that swap rating, basically the rate institutions put on trading cash flow streams, is even more complicated. In the end, it's a measure of risk aversion).
You don't have to be fluent in all this credit notions to make use of the page. In the end, it's a way of monitoring whether banks and other credit institutions are getting more nervous, or less nervous. Here's hoping those numbers head down. Let's watch'em.