Gone are the days when subprime loans were what kept bankers up at night, thanks to explosions in other corners of finance. But, In terms of toxicity, subprime loans had no equal. That is until now. The loans of better heeled people are now beginning to go bad at an alarming rate.Alt-A troubled loans have already brought down some banks, including IndyMac, a California bank. Mooney’s, a rating agency, has recently quadrupled its loss projections on bonds backed by Alt-A loans. It now projects losses for 2006-2007Alt-A securities to top 20%, compared to a historical average of under 1%.
The problem is that much of the Alt-A lending came at the tail-end of the credit boom in late 2006 and 2007. By then subprime was already getting a bad name. So Wall Street hit on a ruse. What it did was to take borrowers who in normal times would have been subprime and dressed them up as mid-prime! Many of these loans were doomed from the start. According to the Bank for International Settlements, a staggering 40% of these American mortgages originated in the first quarter of 2007 were interest only or negative amortization loans.
Alt-A mortgages, were offered to borrowers sandwiched between subprime and prime. These loans were supposed to be for people who had reasonable credit standing but unsteady income, such as the self-employed. The lending institutions had very low standards for these loans, using scant documentation and any way to make a loan, such as exotic negative-amortization mortgages, which allow borrowers to pay less than the accrued interest, with the difference added to the loan balance. Like I said before, the main requirements were to put a mirror in front of your face, if the mirror steamed, it meant you were breathing and you had a loan.
Analysts at Goldman Sachs put possible write downs on the $1.3 trillion of total Alt-A debt, including both securitized and un-securitized loans, at $600 billion, almost as much as expected subprime losses.
So, prepare yourself for another wave of foreclosures, this time the Alt-A mortgages, due to poor lending practices by banks and Wall Street.