S&P Finally Says Subprime is Mostly Junk
This is just too huge not to post:
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- Standard & Poor's just drove a huge harpoon into the heart of the mortgage credit bubble, and it's going to take a long time to clean up the mess once the beast finally dies.
S&P, one of the three main credit-rating agencies that served as enablers of the subprime-mortgage boom, announced Tuesday that it would lower its ratings on 612 bonds, a small portion of the mortgage-backed securities it had given its seal of approval to. See full story.
But the bigger news is that S&P isn't going along with the charade anymore. S&P said it would change its methodology for rating hundreds of billions of dollars in residential-mortgage-backed securities. And it would review its ratings on hundreds of billions of dollars in the more complex collateralized debt obligations based on those subprime loans.
A lot of debt will be downgraded to junk status. A lot of that debt will have to be sold at fire-sale prices. A lot of pension funds and hedge funds that once thrived on the high returns they could get from investing in subprime junk will now lose a lot of money.
S&P's announcement is a death warrant for the subprime industry. No longer will mortgage brokers be able to help buyers lie their way into a home. Fewer stressed homeowners will be able to refinance their mortgage, thus extending and exacerbating the housing bust.
"We do not foresee the poor performance abating," S&P said.
Prices will fall, and foreclosures will rise. More mortgage fraud will be uncovered as the tide goes out.
And hedge funds will have to find another way to beat the market -- if they survive this blow, that is.