Tilson: Subprime Was Just The Beginning -- But Now Is Time To Buy Stocks

Think the subprime crisis was bad? The skyrocketing loan defaults and related corporate writedowns were just the first phase of a much wider housing crisis, fund manager Whitney Tilson and credit rating expert Sean Egan — both of whom predicted the subprime debacle — tell CBS’ 60 Minutes.

The coming problems center on two other types of risky mortgages — so-called “Alt-A” and “Option ARMs” — that are starting to reset to much higher rates. Asked what kind of scale these two loan types (many of which include small teaser rates that increase sharply) involve, Tilson says that “the sub-prime is, was approaching $1 trillion, the Alt-A is about $1 trillion. And then you have option ARMs on top of that. That’s probably another $500 billion to $600 billion on top of that.”

Tilson says that, based on current option ARM default rates — which are coming before they reset and drive monthly payments up by almost 100 percent in some cases — he expects about 70 percent of the loans will default after the resettings.

Egan, meanwhile, says that he expects the situation to be “miserable” in 2009 and 2010, because of the massive amount of homes that are on the market. “We’re not going to get the housing industry back on track until we clear out this garbage that’s in there,” Egan said. “This problem, the economic difficulties, are not going to be resolved in a short period of time. It’s not gonna take six months, it’s not gonna 12 months, we’re looking at probably about three, four, five years, before this overhang, this supply overhang is worked through.”

While Tilson’s view of the coming crisis is bleak, take heart in this: He says he’s as bullish as he’s been in the decade he’s managed money. “The stock market, for the first time I can say this, in years, has finally figured out how bad things are going to be,” he says. “And the stock market is forward looking. And with U.S. stocks down nearly 50 percent from their highs, we’re actually finding bargains galore. We think corporate America’s on sale.”