Two interesting developments. One quite positive and the other more than a little disconcerting.
The NYT is reporting that a deal has been struck to buy IndyMac Bank. What makes it interesting is that the buyers are all either private equity or hedge funds. Even more interesting is the fact that they have all been sniffing around the sector for some time. Bottom fishing as it were, trying to pick up distressed assets on the cheap. It looks like they may be zeroing in on a big fish.
How the Fed greases this one and gets by their regulations regarding bank ownership remains to be seen. Equally fascinating will be how the buyers deal with the FDIC and Sheila Bair’s insane commitment to loan modifications regardless of the economics.
My guess is that they figure that the whole loan-mod discourse is nothing more than political sound bites and this is a golden opportunity to pick up real estate assets on the cheap.
The report from the Times is positive in the sense that it indicates that animal spirits are starting to reassert themselves and possibly some sophisticated people see opportunity at the bottom of a cycle.
Much less sanguine is a report in the Telegraph which passes on the information that HSBC has amended its forecast for global growth and now sees a contraction in growth for the planet in 2009. It’s a short article, so rather than paraphrase it, here it is its entirety:
HSBC has warned that global gross domestic product will contract in 2009, describing this as “an extraordinary development in the modern era”. In a comprehensive examination of the economic crisis, it predicts that next year will be the worst in peacetime both for rich countries and the wider global economy since the Great Depression.
And in a further blow to the Chancellor Alistair Darling, the bank warned that the UK will endure its worst year of growth since the bleak winter recession of 1947, forcing the Bank of England to slash interest rates to only a quarter percentage point above zero. The gloomy forecasts are far more pessimistic than those from the Treasury or the International Monetary Fund.
Stephen King, HSBC’s chief economist, said: “For a while, it was possible to pretend that the financial and economic crisis was merely a problem for the major industrialised countries.
“Over the last three months, however, that theory has been blown out of the water. We have made savage downgrades to our forecasts with some of the emerging markets bearing the brunt of the bad news.
“On the basis of nominal GDP weights, we expect global GDP to shrink in 2009, an extraordinary development in the modern era.”
He added that the serious risk now is that families and businesses will begin to hoard cash rather than spending it, as deflation rears its head across the rich world.
“Stuffing cash under the mattress, however, will only end in cumulative tears,” he said.
“This, after all, was part of the dynamic associated with the Depression in the 1930s.”
So there you have it. Two views. One that involves putting money on the line in what must be a bet that things will start to improve. The other grim in the extreme. I hope that the hedge funds are on the right side of the wager; I fear that HSBC may be calling the true game.