I had wondered why, given the swift and brutal contraction of the commercial paper market in August and September, that there weren’t more apparent signs of distress. Outstandings fell an eyepopping $368 billion.
Commercial paper is short-term borrowings, maximum 270 days, but typically much shorter. If a borrower can’t roll his commercial paper but still needs the dough, he has to either find other sources of funding pronto or sell other assets. And given that the contraction was almost entirely in the asset backed commercial paper market, meaning CP supported by mortgages, car loans, credit card receivables, one would have expected to see a change in borrowing terms in those markets.
This Bloomberg article lays out the answer….
Banks shut out of the market for short-term loans are finding salvation in a government lending program set up to revive housing during the Great Depression.
Countrywide Financial Corp., Washington Mutual Inc., Hudson City Bancorp Inc. and hundreds of other lenders borrowed a record $163 billion from the 12 Federal Home Loan Banks in August and September as interest rates on asset-backed commercial paper rose as high as 5.6 percent. The government-sponsored companies were able to make loans at about 4.9 percent, saving the private banks about $1 billion in annual interest.
To meet the sudden demand, the institutions sold $143 billion of short-term debt in August and September, according to the FHLBs’ Office of Finance. The sales pushed outstanding debt up 21 percent to a record $1.15 trillion, an amount that may become a burden to U.S. taxpayers because almost half comes due before 2009.
There is no way to put a happy spin on this one. I agree with Naked Capitalism’s comment section on this one. Except I think that the American people as whole must share some of the blame.