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Thursday, 8 May 2008

'The Worst Is Behind Us': Paulson Joins Street Luminaries, Declares Victory

With Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Merrill's John Thain chiming in, there's now near unanimity of opinion on Wall Street: The worst of the credit crisis is over.

Such comments seem outrageous given the latest batch of scary headlines from UBS, Fannie Mae, Legg Mason, Lazard, et al. But hope springs eternal on Wall Street, and the reality is the crisis in the debt markets has eased since JPMorgan's Fed-engineered purchase of Bear Stearns, which Paulson called "an inflection point." (Critics have used similar terms, but with a far different meaning.)

Meanwhile, even Henry "Mr. Sunshine" Blodget is starting to come around to the idea that the housing market may be hitting bottom, thanks to an op-ed by Cyril Moulle-Berteaux, managing partner of Traxis Partners, in The Wall Street Journal.

In making the case for a housing-market bottom, Moulle-Berteaux notes house price affordability has improved dramatically and the inventory of new homes is falling. (The piece appeared prior to Wednesday's weak report on pending sales of existing homes for March.)

The fund manager makes a compelling case, but omits the key element of financing. While demand for housing remains fairly stable and mortgage rates are still historically low, even buyers with high credit scores and large down payments are reportedly struggling to secure as lenders like Countrywide and WaMu grapple with the bubble's aftermath.

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