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Is the Superfund Capable of Restoring Confidence?

Jan 3, 2008
The M-LEC, as it is called, has been created in order to restore investor confidence in some areas of the economy that are neccesary for credit to maintain its liquidity, or ease of transference from one entity (a bank) to another. This loss of liquidity comes in the wake of the discovery of high-risk, sickly subprime mortages that have been sold off in pieces, often in the form of supposedly secure money market funds to thousands of investors. Over the past several years, those funds have changed hands so many times that their spread is difficult to chart for the average investor, who therefore loses confidence investing in a potentially tainted company or financial institution, which, over time, results in a credit crunch, which is a surefire recipe for recession.

In order to avoid such an outcome, this superfund aims to selectively buy large number of securites from what is called Structured Investment Vehicles- or SIV's, which sell so-called "commercial paper" to finance themselves. Commercial paper is sold at most of what it is worth and matures quickly (over a period of months rather than years) which, although a risky investment (because it has a smaller percentage of the investment reserved in case of a drop in value), means it can quickly be converted into a more stable form, most often in a money market fund. Bond rating institutions rated the money market funds as being much safer than they actually were, because SIV's transfer the securities through commercial paper before they make their way to the stable funds.

Since it became more apparent that these small conduits only appeared to be trustworthy investments, they have lost popularity and have few potential buyers. Although this is not inherently bad, it reflects two scenarios. The first possibility is that the market is functioning improperly due mostly to a loss of investment confidence, which depends on the perception of the average investor that the economy is stable and therefore worth investing in. The other possibility is that the economy is unstable due to real underlying debts that cannot be avoided, and therefore this new conduit is just a smokescreen for the big banks to pay lip service for making so many bad loans in the first place.

The second scenario is unfortunately the more likely one, which means a recession could be unavoidable. The reason the conduit functions ineffectively is twofold: because it depends on the bank's promises that they will buy the SIV's assets even if no one else will, thus placing an artificial incentive in place for investors, and because the bank's guarantee is also dependent on their securities maintaining a certain amount of their value. This means that the financial institutions can take fees from the securities in exchange for an incomplete guarantee, thus justifying their purchase. The fund could theoretically have a positive impact, if willful suspension of disbelief takes hold of the globe, or if you view a slowdown in the US economy as a positive outcome.
About the Author
Living in Austin, Texas Ki works to help clients interested in the Austin real estate market. If you are looking for a home in Austin his site provides a search of the Austin MLS along with more general information on his Austin Real Estate Blog.
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