How is trade finance coping with the credit crunch
Badly. Steve Rodley, director of London-based shipping hedge-fund Global Maritime Investments, puts it bluntly: "The whole shipping market has crashed." The trouble is that credit is the lifeblood of commerce, but it is built entirely on trust. And that has evaporated. As such, many ship owners can’t get banks to issue letters of credit, particularly on cargoes of price-volatile commodities that no longer look like adequate collateral. Even those who can get letters of credit are finding that their counterparties may no longer trust the credit rating of anything other than large, well-established banks, many of which are now charging big premiums. Letters now cost three times the going rate of a year ago, according to Lynn.
What’s more, the dollar-denominated trade finance lines that exporter companies rely upon to do business are drying up in dramatic fashion amid the global credit crunch. In Brazil — the world’s top exporter of beef, iron ore, sugar and coffee and the No. 2 exporter of soy — total outstanding trade lines have fallen by half this month to around $18 billion.
According to experts interviewed by Bloomberg, "letters of credit and the credit lines for trade currently are frozen," and as a result, "nothing is moving".
Or here is a recent survey of U.S. retailing CFOs:
Some 41 percent of US retailers are seeing tight credit as a result of
the crisis in the banking sector, and many will cut staff and reduce
buying as a result…
Many other surveys paint a similar picture. I can only repeat my earlier words that immediate credit flows are demand-driven and they do not measure bad credit conditions concurrently because they stem from prior bank commitments. To suggest, as commentator Tom does (and Alex endorses), that we have no credit crisis until lines of credit are exhausted, is in my view sheer logomachy (I like that word). Nor is my view "convenient" or unfalsifiable as was suggested. Here is Wikipedia on lagging indicators and yes it tells you that standard forms of credit fall into this category and this has been understood for some time. Look instead at the currently informative pieces of the evidence and you will see that they point in a very consistent direction.
It is true that many credit channels have not shut down. But the ones
that are shutting down are enough to cause a severe global recession.
Addendum: I added this comment to the discussion: "People, financial markets and financial institutions around the world
are falling apart. I’m not pulling this stuff out of a hat or from a
few crazy journalists. There is massive disintermediation going on
right now, much of it in the shadow banking system. I am trying not to
be dogmatic but it is hard for me to see on what grounds anyone would