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Credit Crisis Indicators Going Bonkers Again! Batten Down the Hatches!

June 1st, 2010 9:10 AM by Lehel S.

Credit Crisis Indicators Going Bonkers Again! Batten Down the Hatches!

The very same “Credit Crisis” indicators that were flashing red before the stock market meltdown of 2007-2008 — the ones Martin and I used to get our subscribers out of almost all stocks, and “short” the market via inverse ETFs — are flashing red again.

Pay attention and you might save your portfolio. Ignore them and you could get slaughtered.

What the heck is happening? Why is the market in so much peril? Because governments worldwide did exactly what we warned them not to do!

By bailing out, backstopping, and propping up countless lousy institutions and assets during the private credit crisis … rather than allowing a quicker, more painful, but ultimately cleansing collapse … they turned a Wall Street debt crisis into a sovereign debt crisis.

They temporarily postponed the day of reckoning, while failing to solve the underlying problems.

They tried to paper over a private credit crisis brought on by too much bad debt by creating a huge new pile of public sovereign debt.

And now, the markets have had enough. They’re rebelling around the world.

Here Are the Warning Signs — Please Heed Them!

Where’s the evidence of this? All around me …

Swap spreads blowing out as credit rish rises!

First, look at this chart of the two-year swap spread.

This is the cost to swap fixed-rate payments for payments based on floating rates in the derivatives market. It’s expressed as a spread, in basis points, over yields on underlying Treasuries.

I know it sounds complicated. But you can think of this as a crisis indicator that rises when banks are more leery of doing business with each other. They charge higher premiums at times when they’re worried about counterparty credit quality and extreme volatility.

You can see the spread was a paltry 9.6 basis points in March. It has since EXPLODED to as much as 64 basis points — almost a seven-fold increase. That’s also a 13-month high!

Second, check out LIBOR, the London Interbank Offered Rate. LIBOR is the rate banks charge each other to borrow money for short periods of time.

Swap spreads blowing out as credit rish rises!

When credit markets are functioning normally, short-term LIBOR tends to move in lock step with the federal funds rate. But when they start going haywire, LIBOR costs rise as banks price in the risk that the guys they’re lending to won’t be able to pay them back.

Lo and behold, as you can see in the chart to the left of 3-month, dollar-based LIBOR, those borrowing costs are rising sharply. That rate has more than doubled to 54 basis points from 25 points in December.

That’s still low on an absolute basis. But it’s the highest level in almost a year — and it’s coming at a time when both the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank wouldn’t choose to raise interest rates on their own.

Third, there’s the credit default swap market. That’s where financial players buy and sell insurance against credit risk. When times are good, insurance is cheap. When the credit markets go nuts, the cost goes up … and right now, it’s surging!

An investor would have to spend about $131,000 per year now to insure a benchmark portfolio of $10 million of investment grade corporate bonds against default. That’s up dramatically from $76,000 in January.

What You Need to Consider Doing …

My paying subscribers have already received actionable recommendations designed to protect themselves — and profit — from the chaos in the markets. Naturally I can’t share the same advice here (Though you can join Safe Money Report and get that kind of valuable information for only 24 cents a day. Just click here.).

I will say this, however: We’re already seeing the stock market begin to crack. But the declines so far could be just a walk in the park compared to what lies ahead.

Or in plain English, we’ve had a “bought and paid for” stock market and economic recovery since March 2009. It was financed almost entirely by massive government borrowing and spending. That was designed to paper over the underlying causes of the credit crisis rather than confront them head on.

Now the markets are taking away the credit card for sovereign nations around the world, which could kneecap the recovery.

So if you haven’t already prepared yourself for that possibility by paring back your stock, corporate bond and junk bond exposure, do it now. Yes, now.

Posted in:General
Posted by Lehel S. on June 1st, 2010 9:10 AM

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