Treasury Secretary John Snow focused on the need to reform Social Security as one of the most pressing topics facing the U.S. economy at last week's annual Bond Market Association meeting. He touched on a wide variety of topics during a keynote luncheon address, but Social Security was at the top of his agenda. "There's no way to repeal the laws of arithmetic," Snow said, in a reference to strains on the system from the coming baby boomer retirement years, adding, "every year we wait, the problem gets bigger."
On the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac front, Snow called for the creation of a tough regulator able to impose constraints on the size of the government sponsored enterprises' retained portfolios. The issue has implications for the broad financial markets and a lack of portfolio limits could have far-reaching consequences, he said. "GSE's without a strong regulator are susceptible to creating systemic risk." He predicts new legislation will be enacted by this fall.
Surprisingly, Snow said he is not concerned by the rapid rise in home prices, although several fixed-income portfolio managers said at a panel earlier in the day they have great concern over what appears to be an overheated market, or worse yet, a bubble in certain spots like Los Angeles and New York. To the contrary, when asked by a BW reporter whether he is concerned about the impact a decline in home prices could have on the economy as a whole, Snow said hot spots are isolated in certain areas and do not pose any contagion risk to the market.
For full coverage of the conference, click here.