Morgan Stanley issues full US recession alert

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
London Telegraph
Tuesday December 11, 2007

Morgan Stanley has issued a full recession alert for the US economy, warning of a sharp slowdown in business investment and a "perfect storm" for consumers as the housing slump spreads.

In a report "Recession Coming" released today, the bank's US team said the credit crunch had started to inflict serious damage on US companies.

"Slipping sales and tightening credit are pushing companies into liquidation mode, especially in motor vehicles," it said.

"Three-month dollar Libor spreads have jumped by 60 to 80 basis points over the last month. High yield spreads have widened even more significantly. The absolute cost of borrowing is higher than in June."

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"As delinquencies and defaults soar, lenders are tightening credit for commercial, credit card and auto lending, as well as for all mortgage borrowers," said the report, written by the bank's chief US economist Dick Berner. He said the foreclosure rate on residential mortgages had reached a 19-year high of 5.59pc in the third quarter while the glut of unsold properties would lead to a 40pc crash in housing construction.

"We think overall housing starts will run below one million units in each of the next two years -- a level not seen in the history of the modern data since 1959," he said.

Although the US job market has apparently held up well, an average monthly fall of 138,000 in the number of self-employed workers over the last quarter suggests it may now be buckling. "Consumers face what could be a perfect storm," said Mr Berner.

The partial freeze on subprime mortgage rates announced last week by US treasury secretary Hank Paulson may help cushion the blow for some banks, but it could equally backfire by adding a "risk premium" that drives even more lenders out of the mortgage market.

Full article here.

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