Credit crisis impacts commercial paper

commercial paper spread

This chart shows the spread in interest rates between “high and low quality 30 day nonfinancial commercial paper.” This may sound esoteric, but CP is what the business world runs on. This current unprecedented spike in rates shows that institutions are afraid to lend for fear of being blindsided by lurking financial icebergs.

Calculated Risk notes the current spike is “Worse than August [when the market plunged]. Worse than 9/11.”

From the comments to their post

Something very large is coming unmoored as the dreaded words counterparty risk drag the cold dead eyed folks from risk management into the conference rooms off of the trading floors. And then into the fine wood paneled executive suites.

confession time is coming.

and less dramatically phrased

What is happening is that financial institutions no longer trust the solvency of other institutions and are conserving their own money for their own problems. As a result higher returns are required on loaned money and some of the credit markets are locking up.

No more money to lend, or much more expensive money.

Among other things, this means companies that routinely borrow short-term money, like to make payroll, will do so at much higher rates – if they can do so at all.

If these CP numbers continue their current trend for much longer, real companies — not banks or brokerages or mortgage lenders, but real companies in the real world — will have to start liquidating real assets and/or firing real people.

The recent actions of the Fed appear to have affected these rates little, if at all. From my readings of multiple financial blogs and websites, it certainly seems like Things That Go Bump In The Night might be arriving soon in the financial world unannounced and unwanted. A major bank failure. A cascade of defaults. At the very least, that’s what everyone is afraid of.