Sub-prime delinquency has increased drastically in period-to-period % terms, but from an unnaturally low base. What has driven the current crisis is the extreme effective leverage applied by some of the ABS buyers. You can make a AAA tranche out of sub-prime paper, but only by putting it in a last-loss position vis-a-vis a first-loss "equity" tranche. Buy that equity tranche and you’ve already applied leverage. Buy it on deep margin and you’ve got a lever big enough to shift the Moon. And the slightest bump wipes you out. This has very little to do with work-out difficulties (and work-outs often don’t, um, work out anyway) or less info on the part of new-style lenders (they have less info, to be sure, but it shows in pricing differentials; I regularly see us undercut by credit unions that know their customers well). It has to do with the risk that must exist if you’re getting outsized returns, even if you don’t see it.
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