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Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Trillion Dollar Bear

by Calculated Risk on 9/20/2012 03:10:00 PM

Memories ... some new readers might not realize that once upon a time I was one of the most bearish analysts around.

The Flow of Funds report today showed that household mortgage debt has declined by more than $1 trillion following the housing bust (see previous post). Most of that decline is due to defaults (as opposed to homeowners paying down debt). And that reminds me of a post I wrote almost 5 years ago.

From the WSJ in December 2007: How High Will Subprime Losses Go?

The global race is on to find the best phrase to describe the housing and credit mess. The U.K.’s Telegraph quotes an economist who says it “could make 1929 look like a walk in the park” if central banks don’t solve the crisis in a matter of weeks.

The report cites the recent prediction from Barclays Capital that losses from the subprime-mortgage meltdown could hit $700 billion. That would top Merrill Lynch’s recent estimate of $500 billion. The Australian newspaper notes that a $700 billion “bloodbath” — potentially leading the U.S. economy into “the blackest year since the Great Depression” — would top the GDPs of all but 15 nations.

Back in the U.S., the Calculated Risk blog sidestepped the colorful language and went straight for the big number: “The losses for the lenders and investors might well be over $1 trillion.”
Many people thought I was crazy.

And if you look at the post the WSJ referenced, the first paragraph starts: "Within the next couple of years, probably somewhere between 10 million and 20 million U.S. homeowners will owe more on their homes, than their homes are worth."

I was a grizzly bear!