First impressions and observations from ASF 2008:
  • Attendance remains strong, although it does appear off from last year; at the opening remarks, ASF executive director George Miller notes paid attendance of 6,000. Last year's show ran just a smidge over 6,600. Here's guessing the gap is due to (former) MBS analysts.
  • Sanjeev Handa, head of global public markets at TIAA-CREF and ASF chairman, delivered a keynote that was well-balanced, and successfully avoided looking as if the secondary market was looking to blame primary market participants; he made it clear, however, that the ASF wants the markets to self-clear without legislation -- "regulators should not stifle innovation," he said. Handa also noted a clear "disclosure deficiency," primarily relating to loan-level data in residential mortgage-backed securitizations. (I did say in an earlier that due diligence was hot, right?)
  • Much of the opening remarks had a mea culpa feel to them, with most of the focus on "the importance of the securitization industry" and "what can be done to ensure a positive future." Not too much chest-thumping on new records, emerging markets successes, as you would have expected in the past.
  • It appears the ASF is against proposed cram-down legislation, which Handa alluded to as "changing the rules mid-game." Couldn't agree more.
  • There are a good number of financial journalists here -- I've met with a few, will be meeting with a few more. I'm surprised how many actually read the site, to be honest. It's also worth noting that the ASF does a great job of press relations; the press are even invited to the industry-only dinner event Monday evening. Very little is off-limits.
I'll post another update later in the day. David Berson from PMI, along with Calvin Schnure from Freddie Mac, are speaking on the U.S. housing market at a session today at 11:25am US PST.