Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Turmoil in the financial industry - Round up!

The sub-prime mortgage crisis and its affect on the global market have never been seen at such a proportion, perhaps but for the great depression.

The exposure to the credit crunch which started last year and was felt by most leading investment banks notably UBS and Bear Stearns ripples across the globe and is still felt till this week but more in the shape of a tsunami now.

The latest being Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch which over the weekend became the next high profile scalps. Bear Stearns was the first billion-dollar casualty which was bought out by JPMorgan with the US Federal Reserve’s intervention.

Prior to that we had Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, who collectively controls $5 trillion in mortgages, had to be bailed out by the long-suffering US taxpayer.

On Sept. 14, 2008, Merrill announced that it had agreed to be purchased by the Bank of America, rather than run the risk of being pulled under by turmoil surrounding the industry.

Merrill's logo -- a bull -- had long symbolized the fundamental optimism of Wall Street, and its leaders had often been viewed as spokesman for the entire industry. And folks in the street corner and in the office lifts are amazed and stunned that an institution of the size of Merrill Lynch (founded in 1914) could end in such a situation! Just for a minute ponder on this fact that we are never going to have Merrill Lynch again!

Over the weekend, Lehman Brothers, a major American investment banker, has filed paperwork for bankruptcy. It would be the largest collapse of an investment firm in 18 years. Lehman attempted to find a buyer over the weekend but it met with no success.

The latest development is that BARCLAYS has finalised the acquisition of Lehman Brothers' investment banking and capital markets businesses in the US for $2.2 billion.

Goldman Sachs so far has navigated the turmoil better than its peers, avoiding big write-downs. Yet Goldman Sachs reported a 70 per cent plunge in quarterly profit and I am wondering if it will be too preposterous to declare that GS is the potential next in line?

For me, the worst was the fate of AIG as I find it difficult to imagine if the largest insurance company in the world was to collapse? Most importantly who all will it drag along to her grave? Fortunately, the US Federal Reserve gave them a lifeline with an offer of $85 bln and thus preventing what would have been the biggest scalp over the sub-prime fallout!

Nearer at home, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) joined its global counterparts in acting to reassure jittery markets by declaring that it was prepared to inject additional liquidity if the situation so warrants. It is also heartening to note that all the three local banks, DBS, OCBC and UOB have insignificant exposures.

My worry is, for how much longer can we remain an island shielded from the sub-prime crisis and does the ripple affects that we are experience now became a big wave and hit us like a Tsunami? Do we have alternate and contingency plans should such a drastic fate befalls us? Are we prepared? “Que sera, sera, What will be, will be.”
- by Joe Neitham, 6:15PM, 17th Sept, 2008

1 comment:

Sathiya said...

//My worry is, for how much longer can we remain an island shielded from the sub-prime crisis//
Not too long! I think real estate market has never been stable and there has always been up's and down's.