The Super Mario of Finance

Today’s quote of the day comes courtesy of Felix Salmon, who thinks we need Super Mario to come in and clean some financial pipes:

It seems we don’t need Ben Bernanke any more, we need Super Mario to come in and unclog those pipes. It’s a hugely important job, but the problem is that no one knows how to do it, especially insofar as the clogs look like rational market pricing more than crisis-related market inefficiency. (Remember, the prepayable fixed-rate 30-year mortgage itself is something which is never found in a laissez-faire capitalist system: only government intervention can ever persuade banks to issue such things.)

So who will be this Super Mario of finance? Click through the post to see a startling long-term trend in mortgage originations vs. FICO scores.

Financial Bombshell of the Day

The details unveiled in the Bloomberg Markets Magazine piece “Secret Fed Loans Gave Banks Undisclosed $13B” are stunning. And here we thought we knew everything we knew about the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Think again:

The Federal Reserve and the big banks fought for more than two years to keep details of the largest bailout in U.S. history a secret. Now, the rest of the world can see what it was missing.

The Fed didn’t tell anyone which banks were in trouble so deep they required a combined $1.2 trillion on Dec. 5, 2008, their single neediest day. Bankers didn’t mention that they took tens of billions of dollars in emergency loans at the same time they were assuring investors their firms were healthy. And no one calculated until now that banks reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed’s below-market rates, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its January issue.

Saved by the bailout, bankers lobbied against government regulations, a job made easier by the Fed, which never disclosed the details of the rescue to lawmakers even as Congress doled out more money and debated new rules aimed at preventing the next collapse.

This statistic is just astonishing (half the value of U.S. GDP!):

The amount of money the central bank parceled out was…dwarfed the Treasury Department’s better-known $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. Add up guarantees and lending limits, and the Fed had committed $7.77 trillion as of March 2009 to rescuing the financial system, more than half the value of everything produced in the U.S. that year.

There’s a lot more quotable material here, so I suggest you read the whole thing…