The sudden collapse of shares in the Centro group following the announcement that they were having trouble refinancing their debt (there’s been a partial recovery today) reminds us that no-one really knows what is going on in global credit markets. Bad debts have been buried under layers of collateralised debt obligations, and seemingly sound companies may (or may not) have all kinds of off-balance sheet obligations, liable to be called in at short notice.
Given that we are collectively among the most indebted people on earth, we probably ought to be more worried than we are. But, as Costello and Howard found during the election campaign, it’s hard to stir up concern about a possible crash when we’re still worrying about whether strong growth will overheat the economy.
Individually, the only real preparation for a possible jam in credit markets is to make sure that we are not relying on the availability of credit on easy terms in the near future. For example, if you are planning on refinancing a home loan and locking in a fixed rate, you might think about doing so sooner rather than later (note: I’m not a financial adviser, and this isn’t financial advice – if you’re actually in this, or a similar, situation, consult a professional).