Thursday, July 19, 2007

“No value left” in Bear Stearns funds

Bear Stearns estimates that its two troubled hedge funds that invested in securities backed by subprime mortgages are nearly worthless today, after “unprecedented declines” in the value of underlying collateral. The smaller, “enhanced leverage” fund has “effectively no value left” in it while the older High-Grade Structured Credit Strategies Fund has lost 91% of its value. Shares of Bear Stearns dropped $2.47, or 1.8% to $137.44.

As markets watch everything that has “subprime” on it collapse, fears are spreading among consumers who don’t know exactly what their retirement savings are invested in. Now that securities backed by Alt-A loans are getting downgraded, many are beginning to realize how problems in the lending sector could affect nearly everyone. Moody’s, the rating agency which recently started downgrading the securities, says it is not being hired by issuers of commercial mortgage-backed securities. Underwriters are “rating shopping” and the agencies that get hired are the ones most likely to give higher ratings.

I can’t help but wonder if there will be a significant difference between ratings done by Moody’s and other companies. After all, ratings agencies need a good reputation so giving false ratings doesn’t make much sense. It seems that more downgrades are inevitable, so this “rating shopping” trend shouldn’t really last for long. But who knows…

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