In its 2007, August 13 issue Business Week magazine called it the “Bonfire of the Builders”. Signalling what was already becoming the cause of a major financial crisis in the global markets. After the dot com bubble burst in the 2001 the U.S.
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was seen by many analysts as going through one of its worst periods since the stock market crash in 1987. However the U.S housing market started a period of unprecedented growth, brought in part due to the lowering of interest rates by the Federal Reserve which brought the rates down 11 times i.e. from 6.5% to 1.75% (Open Market operations, 2010). However, the boom started showing signs of warning towards the end of the year 2005. Rates remained flat much of the next year and towards the beginning of the year 2007 a downturn in the housing started. What should have been only a downturn in the housing market turned into a major global credit crunch and resulted in a run on a British bank (Northern Rock).This is not to say that the American financial institutions were any better off. Citi Group reported a 57% fall in its third quarter earnings that year primarily because of the sub-prime mortgage losses (USA Today, 2007). So what was the reason that this housing slump transformed itself into a global credit crunch? The Financial Times (2007) in its special report on the global credit squeeze blames the poor quality of lending by financial institutions in the U.S. primarily banks and mortgage providers gave loans to people with dubious credit history’s and sold these mortgages as bonds to Wall Street institutions which in turn bought these mortgage backed by securities. This encouraged pension funds, hedge funds and other institutional investors to buy them. Things looked good until some of the mortgage borrowers found it increasingly difficult to meet their obligations and rates of default increased. Many of those who defaulted on their loans were sub-prime borrowers, people who had shaky credit histories. As the value of these asset’s began to come down hedge funds began to sell assets of all types not only those linked with mortgages as they found it increasing difficult to get finance from Wall Street banks who were themselves caught in the mortgage mess. Once banks stopped lending to other institutions a liquidity crisis occurred. This crisis was became known as the “Global Credit Crunch”, the heat of which was felt across the globe and markets across the world from Beijing to Bombay and Sao Paulo to Singapore.
Housing bubble and subprime lending: Between 1997 and 2006 the real estate prices appreciated and coupled with low interest rates borrowers were able to obtain housing loans easily. Banks in the anticipation of prices to rise further began to give easy credit to borrowers not realising the positional debt accumulation.
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