Credit crunch hitting more businesses

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KAI RYSSDAL: Part of the frozen credit market is a kind of bond called auction-rate securities. I'll spare you the technical details and just tell you that they used to be good. Now they've gone bad.

Today the Wall Street Journal pointed out that that's trapped some unfamiliar customers in the liquidity squeeze. Technology firms haven't traditionally done much in debt markets 'cause they've always had plenty of cash. We asked Ashley Milne-Tyte whether the credit crunch might catch other companies unawares too.


ASHLEY MILNE-TYTE: Analysts say it's likely companies right across the economy have bought into the $330 billion auction-rate bond market. But no one knows how exposed different firms are.

Joseph Fichera is CEO of Saber Partners in New York.

JOSEPH FICHERA: One of the big problems with this market has been a lack of transparency in terms of tracking both the issuance and auctions that took place and the ownership of them, and it's why this information has been trickling out in the quarterly statements.

Software, retail and manufacturing companies all bought these bonds, says securities lawyer Jacob Zamansky. He says, because they can't sell them now, it's affecting the way they do business.

JACOB ZAMANSKY: A lot of companies are having to change their plans. You know, they may at some point have to lay off workers.

Individual investors are feeling duped too, says Peter Cohan, who runs a management consulting firm. He's heard from hundreds of angry investors

PETER COHAN: People who have their money with these brokerage firms in the auction-rate securities are now determined to remove all of their investments from these firms, and they're looking for a place where they can avoid this problem.

He says, like corporate investors they want to get their money out as fast as possible. But until the market unfreezes, they can't.

In New York, I'm Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.

About the author

Ashley Milne-Tyte is the host of a podcast about women in the workplace called The Broad Experience.

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