I saw this ominous headline in the Times:
Banks press for terms of lending to be widened in liquidity scheme
The article seems to be the first shot in a renewed campaign to force the Bank of England to begin a more serious bailout of UK banks. According to the Times:
The banks are reported to be pushing for the terms of lending to be widened, and are expected to argue that the scheme has not done enough to restore confidence among banks, which remain cautious about lending money to each other and customers.
The key demand from the Banks is spelt out with shocking clarity:
The banks will arrive armed with a number of propsoals. It is thought that one of these is the possibility of extending the scheme to include mortgages written this year.
If the banks get their way, then the public sector would be drawn into a scheme specifically designed to keep credit flowing to the housing market. Recent home loans will be bundled up into mortgage backed securities and sold the the government. Since credit is the lifeblood of the bubble, the extended scheme would be a crude attempt to prop up housing prices.
It is scandalous stuff, but in the current desperate environment, the Bank of England and the government are probably ready to consider anything. The Banks are likely to get their way.
Even if the scheme is extended, it won't provide much long term relief for the housing market. The fundamental issue is asset overvaluation. Houses cost too much relative to home buyer's income. Any bank issuing a high LTV mortgage today runs an unacceptably high risk of default.
The lack of housing credit is the solution not the problem. Once home sellers cut their prices to more reasonable levels, banks can again begin to lend. Of course, bank balance sheets are in terrible condition. However, the answer to this problem is not more bad lending, even if the banks manage to shift some of the risk to the taxpayer.