1 ‘Sub-prime autos the next crisis’ (Chris Arnade in The Guardian) Many people are buying cars with the help of Wall Street banks, which are lending money to people with bad credit again – just as they did prior to the financial crisis of 2007. In the last crisis, it was houses. The $26bn worth of subprime car loans is far short of the $500bn of subprime real estate securitization in 2006, at the top of the housing bubble, partly because cars are a lot cheaper than houses.
This time, like last time, Wall Street isn’t directly lending poor people money. That part is done by an array of smaller financial companies in strip malls and office parks. The smaller financial companies sell the loans to Wall Street. Wall Street puts them into big piles, sorts them from weakest to strongest credit scores, and then sells the pieces and parts of them to their customers. The customers can be hedge funds in Greenwich, Connecticut, or other banks. No part of the loan goes unsold: from the highest rates to the lowest-rated, buyers are always there.
This process is called subprime securitization, and about $26bn of it will be done this year in auto loans to poor people. Who are these borrowers? To quote Wall Street: “Obligors who do not qualify for conventional motor vehicle financing as a result of, among other things, a lack of or adverse credit history, low income levels and/or the inability to provide adequate down payments.”
Meaning people who usually can’t borrow money. These are loans that charge on average 17% a year, often exceed 20%, and sometimes are as high as 30%. If 20% for a loan isn’t onerous enough, many now come with a technological twist: the newer loans will turn off your car if you fall behind. The $26bn of the financial crisis alone is not enough to cause a financial crisis, but the philosophy behind it is. These are loans to desperate people at desperate rates being facilitated by Wall Street.
2 France outlook cut to negative (BBC) Credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s has cut France’s credit outlook to ‘negative’, due to concerns about the country’s struggling economic recovery. However, it affirmed France’s AA/A-1+ rating, the third-highest rating.
Official figures from the Bank of France showed that the French economy did not grow at all in the second quarter, and for the third quarter it is forecasting growth of 0.2%. It added that it expected France’s budget deficit will average 4.1% of GDP between 2014 and 2017, an increase from earlier projections of 3.2%.
The French government has also said it will reduce its budget deficit to below the EU threshold of 3% of GDP by 2017, two years later than promised. S&P said the negative outlook indicated a one in three chance that certain events would occur which would push it to downgrade France’s actual credit rating within the next two years. S&P last downgraded France in November 2013 when it cut its rating to AA.
3 Ebola on the move (Khaleej Times) The contagious disease Ebola is no more Africa-specific. It is now on the move and a couple of cases had been tested positive in regions as far as Britain and the US. The mandatory screening of passengers from African destinations landing in the US is a case in point, which hints at the level of alert that is underway to fight the virus. This decision has come close on the heels of concerns that US President Barack Obama expressed over the spread of disease, and the slow pace of response from the world governments in containing the infectious bug.
And now with reports that a Texas health worker — who treated an Ebola victim before his death — has been tested positive for the virus, the disease is supposed to be fought on a war footing. Many such suspected patients that are quarantined elsewhere at Western airports and in isolated clinics might prove out to be potential carriers of the virus, impacting the health workers and medical practitioners.
This demands a high-profile research and development index as well as a foolproof environment to contain the virus. As hoped by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon an early discovery of a vaccine can be a source of great relief in preserving the world from going the Ebola way. The symptoms of the dreaded disease are so concealed that any patient with slight fever can get away from the mandatory checks at airports and clinics only to explode later into a carrier of death. This phenomenon has to be scientifically fought and exterminated.