How Missed Signs Contributed to a Mortgage Meltdown
All through last year, Jim Melcher saw the signs of a rapidly deteriorating American housing market — riskier mortgages, rising delinquencies and more homes falling into foreclosure. And with $100 million in assets at his hedge fund, Balestra Capital, he was in a position to do something about it.
So in October, as mortgage-backed bonds were still flying high, he bet $10 million that these bonds would plunge in value, using complex derivatives available to any institutional investor. As his gamble began to pay off in the first months of 2007, Mr. Melcher, a money manager based in New York, plowed the profits into ever bigger wagers that the mortgage crisis would worsen further, eventually risking some $60 million of the fund’s money.
“We saw the opportunity of a lifetime, and since then events have unfolded on schedule,” he said. Mr. Melcher’s flagship fund has since doubled in value, even as this summer’s market turmoil cost other investors billions, forced the closing of several major hedge funds and pushed the stock market down 7 percent since mid-July. This week, Mr. Melcher is heading to Paris for a vacation with his wife.
What a misleading headline. There were no missed signs, just plenty of greedy underwriters and even they–supposed professionals–couldn’t get off the cocaine high of money to be made and made and made.
This is a market correction. It’s come way too late, but at least it’s come.