economic crisis

Reuters Overpromises, Underdelivers on New "Crisis"

December 8, 2009

Here’s a Reuters story that could desperately use some of that long-form, enterprise reporting the wire service says it’s going to be doing more.

The headline is certainly an attention-grabber:

Crisis in sovereign, commercial debt seen

But the story (if you can call it that—at 404 words it barely rises above a brief) doesn’t have the goods. It just gets a handful of quotes from four investment managers. Something like a man on the street story, but with better suits.

Still, even the legendary Greg Packer gets asked to justify his opinions more than these sources.

“I think the next shoe to drop, which will be the world’s biggest shoe, is the continued decline of the dollar and ultimately the breaking of the U.S. government market, which will set the other markets on another terrible path,” said Steve Shenfeld, president of MidOcean Credit Partners, which started in 2003 as the private equity arm of Deutsche Bank.

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Frightening! Why do you think that, Steve? We’re not told.

Another source at least gives the vaguish “amount of leverage in governments across the globe” as evidence for his presumed bearishness on sovereign debt. But rather than zeroing in on something that might illuminate why a crisis may be imminent, Reuters asks him where to put your money. Thud.

Asked about investment opportunities, managers said some of the best investments may come in leveraged loans, high-yield bonds and higher quality, senior secured pieces of collateralized loan obligations, or CLOs.

Say what? It’s not easy to make a mess out of a 400-word story, but that’s what Reuters does here. So there’s a “Crisis in sovereign, commercial debt seen,” but you ought to go out and buy a bunch of commercial debt? Oh, and avoid investments in Mexico and emerging markets while you’re at.

Hey, I’d still like to read that story if Reuters can get around to writing it.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR’s business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.