Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rocky Humbert Speaks of when Countries are Riskier than Companies

It's a scary world when countries become riskier than companies.

Rocky Humbert responds:

I'm probably being dense, but I still don't follow your logic. You first sentence doesn't address my point about what's happening in the PIIGS right now — sovereigns are being shut out of the bond market, but blue chip borrowers are conducting business (pretty much) as usual. The rising sovereign interest rate seemingly is becoming less and less relevant to the conduct of business to business lending. In pointing out this 7-sigma phenomenon in a private correspondence with a very knowledgeable spec this morning — that this is a a very different world than we've seen for the past 40 years — the spec replied, "[This is closer to ]the world that JP Morgan inhabited, where sovereign credits were more risky than sound companies and the banks bailed out the Treasuries. I grasp what you mean in the context of not-owning-risky assets when things seem uncertain. However, this is a mindbending paradox. The risk is arising from the riskless asset. So if the riskless asset is becoming more risky, does it follow that the risky assets are proportionally more risky? Because if you sell the risky asset because you're scared of the riskless asset, do you buy the riskless asset even though it's becoming risky even though it's what made you sell the risky asset to begin with???