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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Silence of The Banks

Whilst the credit crunch has hit home on the other side of the Atlantic, with profit warnings issued (eg Citigroup) and the scalps of leading bankers being claimed, on this side of the Atlantic matters seem relatively sedate and calm (aside from the Northern Rock debacle).

However, there are those who believe that this calmness precedes the storm and that the silence of the banks about their exposure wrt bad debts and dubious debt bundles precedes a similar meltdown here.

Analysts are calling for British banks to give public statements about their precise exposure to the global credit crisis.

Credit Suisse warned, in a briefing note, that investors are being "spooked" by the banks' silence. The complexity of British accounting standards has allowed the banks to perform a "smoke and mirrors" act wrt disclosing their true exposure.

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) claim that banks are bound by the Stock Exchange listing rules, in the same way as other companies. However, the rules allow companies to keep information private if they are unable to quantify the size of the problem reasonably precisely.

Given the ever shifting nature of the credit crunch, that is quite an opt out clause.

Whilst the banks, the analysts and the regulatory authorities engage in theorising about the true nature and size of the crisis, the hapless British financial consumer is already feeling the effects. Banks and other financial institutions are already tightening their lending rules, and reducing the credit that they extend to consumers and potential house buyers.

It is clear that, for the consumer holding debt, matters will get a lot worse before they get better.

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