Meredith Whitney: Muni Defaults, Social Unrest Ahead
A wave of defaults by state and local governments in the coming months will spark a selloff in the municipal bond market, hurting US economic growth and stocks and causing social unrest as governments are forced to lay off workers and cut back on services, well known financial analyst Meredith Whitney told CNBC Tuesday.
Responding to the uproar over her "60 Minutes" interview broadcast on CBS Sunday night, Whitney defended her prediction that at least 50 to 100 cities and towns could default on their debt as states and the federal government cut back on financial support.
Muni experts, including an analyst from Standard & Poor's, dismissed her predictions, saying the numbers don't add up.
"I appreciate that the reaction is so violent," she said in a live interview with CNBC. "I didn't put the debt on these states. We're looking at the numbers. This is how it plays out."
The big problem is that cash-strapped states will no longer be able to provide the financial support to municipalities as they have in the past, said Whitney, who is CEO and founder of Meredith Whitney Advisory Group.
"States clearly have been funding municipal governments—for now up to 40 percent of their total expenditures," she explained. "As the states become more compromised from a fiscal standpoint, that funding is going to end."
Wave of Muni Defaults to Spur Layoffs, Social Unrest: Whitney