Worst crisis for 20 years, say banks

LEADING bankers are warning of the worst crisis in the money markets for 20 years, which will come to a head this week when $113 billion (£57 billion) of commercial paper – market IOUs – comes up for refinancing.

This huge refinancing, mainly through London, exceeds the $100 billion that became due in mid-August, and which sparked the most serious phase in the money-market crisis, which has seen banks scrambling for funds and market interest rates rising sharply. “This is a serious pressure point,” said one leading banker.

Another senior executive of one of Britain’s top five retail banks said: “These are the worst conditions I have seen in money markets for 20 years”.

The huge amount of commercial paper becoming due is the hangover from the crisis in credit markets that began with American sub-prime mortgages. Many of the off-balance-sheet structured investment vehicles (SIVs) set up by the banks were borrowed in the form of asset-backed commercial paper.

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