Ill Omens From Aussie Bank Write-Downs

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Can we talk about Australian banks for a moment? Earlier this week, ANZ Bank of Australia warned that its profits could fall by 25% and said it was writing down $1.2 billion (Aussie money) of bad loans. This contributed to a massive sell-off in Australian financial stocks, which were already hurting from last week's news that National Australia Bank was taking a $830 million write down.
ANZ's problems are simply an Australian version of what's been happening in the US--a housing boom was attended by a mortgage boom (or was it the other way around?) and now mortgages are defaulting at unprecedented rates. NAB's problems, on the other hand, aren't even an Australian version of what's happening in the US--they are what's happening in the US. Most of NAB's write-downs came from debt linked to the US mortgage market. NAB said it is suffering a 50% loss on American housing loans.
Veteran Australian business writer Robert Gottliebsen says that this paints a very bleak picture for financial markets around the world, and for the US in particular.
"This is an unprecedented event and means that the cost of bailing out the US financial system is now far beyond the highest estimates. A US recession is now locked in, but more alarmingly, 55 per cent loan losses point to the possibility of a depression," he writes.
Gottliebsen thinks that write-downs of $1,300 billion "and perhaps even more" are "on the cards."

NAB will shock Wall Street
[Business Spectator]

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