Thursday, February 14, 2008

Credit Bubble: Not Just Houses - Cars Too

Last weekend we travelled to North Carolina to visit my saintly grandmother and her new husband (both widowed last year). It's great to see two people find each other like that, to find a new source of happiness late in life.

But that's the end of the good news. My new grandpa, a gearhead, mentioned that the the market for used cars and trucks was a mess, and that on the new lots, nothing was selling. "They got 'em packed in like sardines." And it was true. Brand new pickup trucks were crammed into lots practically door to door . . . which indicates channel stuffing by the auto makers. And none of it selling.

Shorter: things in the auto world will get much much worse before they get better. And it's already god-awful.

Then, the stories out this week in the NYT and today on CNN indicate that lenders (particularly those tied to the automakers), possibly desperate to keep up sales, reached too far to make the sales. from CNN:
Delinquencies among assets backed by prime auto loans hit a 10-year high in January. The number of delinquencies in assets backed by subprime auto loans jumped 10% since December and 43% from a year ago.

Wages are not going up (except recently for I-Bankers - and those record bonus days are over) for the vast majority . . . and a person can only service so much debt. Times like these, I am very grateful that I slogged through and got that economics degree.

Still, carefully picking your steps doesn't help much when you can be stampeded by a frenzied mob. I hear a steadily growing rumbling in the distance. And it's getting closer.

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