Des banques et des sauvetages

PALO ALTO – Des signes de rebond dans l'industrie, déjà forts en Asie, ont permis d'espérer une modeste amélioration de la profonde crise internationale. Mais une réelle amélioration durable de l'économie est peu probable à moins de trouver une solution au problème des actifs toxiques qui empoisonnent les institutions financières et déstabilisent les économistes un peu partout dans le monde. 

Le système financier est une interaction complexe de prêteurs et d'emprunteurs, d'acheteurs et de vendeurs, d'épargnants et d'investisseurs. Lorsque ce système fonctionne bien, il permet d'équilibrer les risques et les gains ainsi que l'innovation et la sécurité.

Les banques et les autres institutions financières empruntent à court terme, ces dernières années plutôt sur le marché des valeurs mobilières, et non celui des dépôts, et prêtent à long terme à des taux d'intérêts plus élevés, prenant à la fois un risque sur le crédit (par défaut) et sur les taux d'intérêt. L'augmentation de l'endettement est très rentable quand la tendance est haussière mais est très risquée à la baisse. Rien d'étonnant donc que les grandes institutions financières qui se sont retrouvées en faillite (Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae et Freddie Mac, AIG et Lehman Brothers) aient eu un taux d'endettement parmi les plus élevés, de l'ordre de 30 à 40 fois la valeur de leur capital.

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