Analyst Meredith Whitney, who caused a stir over the weekend by saying that up to 100 U.S. municipalities will default in this coming year and thereby create a huge sell-off in the muni bond market, added to her warnings by noting that such financial collapses will lead to mass layoffs and social unrest.
In response to her Sunday night interview on “60 Minutes,” Whitney told CNBC that she stands buy her original assertion, given that states facing serious budget deficits will not be able to support the municipalities anymore.
“We're looking at the numbers,” she said. “This is how it plays out. States clearly have been funding municipal governments—for now up to 40 percent of their total expenditures. As the states become more compromised from a fiscal standpoint, that funding is going to end.
Whitney further noted that the Federal government will probably not help the states too much either because the cost of such an endeavor – which she estimates at $1-trillion – would be politically unpopular.
Who in Nebraska's going to want to bail out someone in Florida? she said.
In addition, Whitney referred to the street protests and turmoil sweeping through Europe in response togovernment austerity proposals.
When you have so many different municipalities default ... you [are] going to have so many issues in terms of layoffs of employees, she said. This is going to be such a [widespread] issue. It's going to look like Europe in terms of programs [being] cut, you're going to see a lot of social unrest.
With respect to muni bonds, Whitney indicated that (in the event they suffer a large sell-off) , some might present attractive buying opportunities.
When you start to see the first major defaults in this area [states and cities], when you see more defaults and indiscriminate selling—if you do your research now and figure out who's protected where and which revenues are protected, there will be great buying opportunities, she said.
People are complacent about these defaults. The news about all this isn't out there yet. And only when it is out there, then there will be a buying opportunity [for munis].
Whitney is CEO and founder of Meredith Whitney Advisory Group.