This week, ten years ago, the Credit Crunch started with a small rumble in France as local bank BNP Paribas announced it was freezing the assets of three hedge funds with heavy exposures to the US sub-prime mortgage market.
A year later we had a run on Northern Rock, Bear Stearns in the US then the catastrophic collapse of Lehman Bros! The rest is history.
So, 10 years later on and it is interesting to ask whether we have really learnt form the mistakes of the past. The Bank of England thinks we are in a much better place, proclaiming that if there were issues today, “losses that would have wiped out whole capital base of UK banking system in 2006 can now be fully absorbed.”
However, there are still issues. The short-term “medicine” that was meant to help stimulate fast recovery in the guise of lower interest rates and Government schemes to encourage spending and borrowing are causing their own issues.
Whilst unsecured consumer credit tops £200bn for the first time since 2008, there are shaky times ahead especially in the Car Loans market and more recently, consumer spending has actually embarked on it longest sustained fall in 4 and half years.
Then you have Brexit, which could still prove to be the biggest shooting of our own foot in history.
The Bank of England is still trying to look at when it can start weening us off this cocktail of drugs, low interest rates and various schemes. The crucial question of when we will see a rate rise again is very much intertwined with the amount of credit everyone has borrowed as even a mere move back to 0.5% will have “Rates double” headlines and people worrying.
One of the most interesting items in the news is related to this stability as the Bank of England has been looking at ending its Term Lending Scheme in February. This is important because under the scheme, the Bank of England has been charging lenders just 0.25% to borrow money as long as they maintain or expand their net lending, meaning they can lend it out cheaply.
If this ends, whether or not Bank Base Rate rises, mortgage costs look set to increase.
There has also been talk of ending or at least changing the much maligned, but ultimately successful Help To Buy Scheme a little earlier than anticipated; a move that has housebuilders share prices shaking.
Whilst we do need to get clean again, the worry is that the Cold Turkey will be a bit like the famous scene in Trainspotting, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do it.