For Bloomberg Users, Tracking Losses Moves to Center Stage

Underscoring a fundamental shift in market focus, Bloomberg News reported on usage patterns tied to its own ubiquitous terminals over the weekend; a new terminal function called WDCI, which allows users to track bank/financial sector write-downs, has seen its usage trump the more traditional league table function usually used by analysts to track bond and stock underwriters (LEAG). “WDCI is the new league table, or even better, the negative league table,” James Hyde, a banking analyst at London-based European Credit Management Ltd., told the new agency. “If people look at LEAG these days, it’s to see who the biggest underwriter of mortgage securities was in the past. You’re incriminated if you were.” The WDCI function in Bloomberg now shows that 110 of the world’s largest financial firms have tallied $514 billion in write-downs as the credit crunch has moved onward. Most analysts and market observers now believe the total cost of the credit crunch will run between $1 trillion and $2 trillion dollars. “We are in a credit crisis the likes of which I’ve never seen in my lifetime,” said Ted Forstmann in a recent editorial, whose scathing editorial in the Wall Street Journal twenty years ago warned things would end badly for the S&L industry. “The credit problems in this country are considerably worse than people have said or know. I didn’t even know subprime mortgages existed and I was worried about the credit crisis.” In April, the International Monetary Fund estimated total losses from the mortgage crisis at $1 trillion, a number that already looks as if it will be the lower bound for a broader financial crisis that has grown in its wake. The IMF cited “worrying macroeconomic feedback effects” as its primary concern, where uncertainty leads banks and consumers to pull back, further exacerbating uncertainty — and so the loop continues. “It is now clear that the current turmoil is more than simply a liquidity event, reflecting deep-seated balance sheet fragilities, which means its effects are likely to be broader, deeper, and more protracted,” the study’s authors wrote. The IMF is expected to update its forecast later this month.

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