I like the Journal’s Ahead of the Tape column today. It points out that Libor, which finally has been decreasing a bit, may not be the best credit indicator to be watching now. This is important because while most people follow the gyrations of the stock market to indicate how bad things are, it’s the debt indicators that really illustrate it.
The problem is that credit is still tightening for everybody else. Yields on below-investment-grade, or “junk,” corporate bonds have blown out to 16 percentage points above comparable Treasury bond yields. That is a record spread; the spread is usually less than six percentage points, and anything over 10 points is considered distressed.
Fannie and Freddie debt spreads over Treasurys have been at records, too, at least until Thursday, when Federal Housing Finance Agency chief James Lockhart spoke of an explicit government guarantee for this agency debt, an assurance his office later dialed back. Though commercial-paper rates have fallen, the market for this short-term debt is still shrinking, according to the latest Fed data, starving companies of vital financing.