For the chemical industry, much depends on whether the US economy goes into recession during 2008. The signs are not encouraging, with even former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan believing it is a 50:50 chance.
So how would any recession impact the current credit crisis? Writing in the Financial Times their banking editor, Gillian Tett, provides one answer. She has an excellent track record, as I have noted before, and in her forecast for 2008 she points out that current $100bn losses in the banking system could easily grow by a further $200bn if the housing slowdown leads to credit card and commercial property defaults. She then adds:
‘The nightmare scenario, however, is one in which risky companies start to default on their loans. Thankfully, there is no sign of this occurring yet. But if the US economy goes into recession, the chance of corporate defaults will rise – which could produce more losses for banks, and thus a second chapter in the credit crunch story.’
Finance Directors will also have taken note of Chrysler CEO Nardelli’s comments recently to employees that the company is ‘operationally bankrupt’ and likely to have to sell assets quickly to raise funds. A policy of close monitoring of customers’ financial solvency would seem to be a sensible precaution, gicen the uncertainties around.