The delinquency rate on loans is key in understanding banking. It answers one question: what percentage of loans is overdue for payment? The delinquency rate is by far the most useful indicator for “credit stress.” It seems, however, as if delinquency no longer counts. Few are paying attention to the quick and sudden rise of the delinquency rate. What does it tell us and is a new banking crisis imminent?
This Is What Happened after Janet Yellen Hiked the Fed Funds Rate in December
I have said it many times over and I will repeat it here: the last time around, it took Fed-chairman Alan Greenspan over two years and seventeen rate hikes to bring the Fed funds rate from a then all-time-low of 1% to 5.25%, before the U.S. economy suffered the worst recession since the 1930s. We are not so lucky this time.
Greenspan’s rate hikes didn’t affect delinquency rates straight away. Credit stress was subdued until a year after Greenspan’s last hike. Only in the first quarter of 2007, delinquency rates began to move higher. The reason is as clear as the water surrounding the Bahamas: in the years preceding the Great Recession credit growth was mainly focused on the U.S. housing market.
Credit growth was mostly driven by mortgage lending. Mortgages were generously provided by banks, but increasingly to subprime borrowers (subprime referring to their poor credit). Yet these subprime borrowers didn’t pay higher interest rates on their mortgages the moment Alan Greenspan began hiking rates. But as soon as their (promotional) teaser rates resetted, they started “feeling the Alan.” Delinquency rates went through the roof and the U.S. economy into recession.
Teaser rates, the low initial interest rate a borrower pays for the first few years, were responsible for the lag between Greenspan’s rate hikes and the 2008 recession.
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