'Big Short' investor Steve Eisman just joined those sounding the alarm on rising corporate debt

Paramount PicturesSteve Carell as Mark Baum, who was based on Steve Eisman, in ‘The Big Short.’
  • Steve Eisman, the hedge fund manager famous for betting against the US housing market ahead of the 2008 crash, is sounding the alarm on the spectacular rise of poorly rated debt among corporations.
  • Eisman, a central figure in the book “The Big Short” and the subsequent film, told the Financial Times that the rising stock of corporate debt rated at BBB, just one notch above junk status, is a cause for serious concern.
  • Stocks of such debt have more than quadrupled since the crisis, standing at about $US2.7 trillion.

Steve Eisman, the hedge fund manager famous for betting against the US housing market ahead of the 2008 crash, is sounding the alarm on the spectacular rise of poorly rated debt among corporations.

Eisman, a central figure in the book “The Big Short” and the subsequent film, told the Financial Times that the rising stock of corporate debt rated at BBB, just one notch above junk status, is a cause for serious concern.

Stocks of such debt have more than quadrupled since the financial crisis, standing at about $US2.7 trillion, according to the Bloomberg Barclays index that tracks corporate debt issuance.

According to the FT, Eisman’s concern is not with the actual amount of debt, but with the fact that major banks have cut their trading capacity for BBB-rated debt. As a result, he said, when the next recession comes, the only way to sell such debt will be to do so at a big discount, costing funds and asset managers.


Read more:
Here’s how the risky behaviour of debt-heavy corporate giants like GE and AT&T could spark the next financial crisis

Rising stocks of risky and badly rated corporate debt have become a major worry for many in the markets, with the growth of leveraged loans a particular concern.

The major surge in debt issuance by US corporations through highly levered buyouts and low-interest-rate acquisitions could be a major part of the next financial crisis, the research firm CLSA said in a note last week.

Eisman, however, is marginally less concerned, saying he does not see a recession on the horizon imminently.

“You can’t have a recession when consumer credit quality is as good as I’ve seen it in my whole career,” Eisman, who is now a portfolio manager at Neuberger Berman in New York, told the FT.

Since gaining recognition beyond the financial sphere after the book’s publication, Eisman has been a vocal market commentator, and in the past couple of years he has frequently warned about the health of European banks, particularly those in Italy, and Germany’s biggest lender,Deutsche Bank.

In November, Eisman said he was shorting two British bank stocks in anticipation that the UK falls out of the European Union without securing an exit deal.

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