US subprime losses may reach $150 billion: S&P

Mumbai: Losses from the US subprime mortgage crisis will total $100 billion to $150 billion, but the defaults are unlikely to peak until 2009, David Wyss, chief economist at international rating agency Standard and Poor''s, said.

"These problems are not over. We think in the United States, the housing market is not going to bottom until winter. We think the losses in these sectors won''t really hit their peak until 2009," he told a news conference in Mumbai.

>The US sub-prime housing crisis will not peak until 2009 and total defaults could reach $150 billion, but robust emerging markets would help keep global growth strong, he said.

>"Housing starts are going to drop further, the unemployment rate is going to tick up further, we are expecting another year of sluggish US economic growth," Wyss said. "We are not halfway through with this crisis yet," he added.

S&P expected the world economy to grow 3.6 per cent in 2007 and 3.5 per cent in 2008. The US economy would grow at 2 per cent in both years, down from 2.9 per cent in 2006.

>"World growth remains strong despite the weaknesses seen in the US economy - especially in emerging markets because of healthy domestic demand conditions and export strength to non-US market," S&P said in a report released in Mumbai.

"The fact that the US slowdown is concentrated in housing, which has relatively low import content, helps," it said.

>Emerging markets were far less vulnerable to credit market turmoil than during previous crises because of the capital flows attracted by high economic growth coupled with improved corporate governance standards, S&P said.

Moreover, high commodity prices were also helping many emerging market economies, such as Latin American and African countries that are major exporters.

>S&P estimated that, on a purchasing-power parity basis, the United States would contribute only 9 per cent of world growth in 2007, compared to China''s 33 per cent and India''s 12 per cent.

>Housing was the major weakness in the US economy and the subprime crisis - which roiled global markets in late July and August - was far from over, although its shock value was wearing off, the S&P chief economist said.

>Wyss expected the US trade deficit to shrink in coming months as stronger overseas growth and a weaker dollar would make US exports more competitive.