Thursday, November 8, 2007

Are the Monolines Going Broke? MBIA, AMBAC et al?


With all the hype surrounding 'sub prime' and US housing and multi billion dollar write downs from American Banks (and European, that's right UBS, not so smart now, Rocky made more personally than your entire Investment Bank last quarter, although admittedly, so did anyone who didn't lose billions of dollars, which is most of us.) people have forgotten that the whole game with mortgages and debt products is really about shifting risk. Who is willing to hold the hot potato? If I bundle up a big bunch of bad debts so that on average, most of them get paid and I flog the product to a pension fund as a high yield product. I'm really just shifting the bad credit risk from the bank that issued the loans to the unit holders in the pension fund. Where is this ramble going? Well in a long winded and not particularly pointed way, I'm having a crack at the these so called Monoline insurance companies, who package up lowly rated credit risks from various companies and 'wrap' it to AAA. So that the investors in the product, aren't buying BBB credit risk and yield, they're buying something like AAA risk for AA yield. Sounds good right? But this little trade forgets one of the fundamental laws of nature. It's damn tricky to get something for nothing. If you don't pay for AAA, you don't get AAA. So when a few trillion dollars worth of CDOs and AAA wrapped bonds turn out to be worth a little less than the paper they're written on, no one should be surprised. When MBIA writes down $20bn on some dodgy guarantees, you know they don't have a 'business model' or any sort of mathematically sensible risk control, they're just a bunch of 'positive carry' cowboys like the rest of them. The kids who took economics and business maths at school were all the brightest ones right....?

3 comments:

Big City Bear said...

Caisse d’Epargne and Banque Populaire, two French mutual banks, have pledged to inject $1.5bn into CIFG, a bond insurer, to enable it to weather the collapse of the subprime mortgage debt market.

Rocky said...

Yeah I saw that and I was going to write about it, but I decided that people thought Monolines were a little dull.

Big City Bear said...

Yeah, monolines are f'n boring mate.