Bernanke: Blame China, Not Greenspan

The Fed chairman looks at the role of cheap money from abroad.

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While not letting U.S. mortgage markets off the hook for the credit crisis, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben today Bernanke highlighted the role of excess savings from emerging Asia flowing:

In the past 10 to 15 years, the United States and some other industrial countries have been the recipients of a great deal of foreign saving. Much of this foreign saving came from fast-growing emerging market countries in Asia and other places where consumption has lagged behind rising incomes, as well as from oil-exporting nations that could not profitably invest all their revenue at home and thus looked abroad for investment opportunities. ... Saving inflows from abroad can be beneficial if the country that receives those inflows invests them well. Unfortunately, that was not always the case in the United States and some other countries. Financial institutions reacted to the surplus of available funds by competing aggressively for borrowers, and, in the years leading up to the crisis, credit to both households and businesses became relatively cheap and easy to obtain. One important consequence was a housing boom in the United States, a boom that was fueled in large part by a rapid expansion of mortgage lending. Unfortunately, much of this lending was poorly done, involving, for example, little or no down payment by the borrower or insufficient consideration by the lender of the borrower's ability to make the monthly payments.