Mar 17, 2008

Bear Stearns And The Fed

The question is can the Fed keep these banks afloat till after the election.

Last week BS was forced to close two of their funds that were leveraged 32 : 1. The current trend was to issue very short-term low-interest notes to pay for their higher interest debt that they had purchased, allowing them too subsequently book the difference in the interest rates as profit. When the market for these short-term notes dried up they lost their ability to redeem the ones that were coming due, creating a devastating margin call. This was the game that most of the investment banks were using to build their bottom lines over the last five years.

The next headache happens when the Fed is forced to react to inflation and raise interest rates to the point where these guys can no longer cover the cost of the longer term debt, which they are holding, with lower-rate short term money. Each time the Fed cuts rates, the game keeps going. It has only been a little over two years when the Fed started raising rates and the “biggies” started having troubles, this will happen again and again as long as the Fed feeds the cycle and prevents the unwinding of these debt instruments.