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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

We're about to explain why we need reporters with some serious expertise, and why reporters can be a bit like translators, especially in the world of finance. When the Fed announced this TALF program today, it sent out a press release that to some of us is almost incomprehensible. But not incomprehensible if you happen to speak the language of asset-backed securities, SBA guaranteed business loans, government-sponsored enterprises, you get the picture. Lucky for us, NPR's Adam Davidson is fluent in financial jargon, and he has joined us to translate a few lines from this press release. Adam, I'm going to start with this first line here. Under the TALF, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, otherwise known as the FRBNY, F-R-B-N-Y, will lend up to $200 billion on a non-recourse basis to holders of certain AAA-rated ABS backed by newly and recently originated consumer and small business loans. If this press release was not written for someone like you but instead for, perhaps, your Aunt Millie, how would it be spelled out?

ADAM DAVIDSON: It would be spelled out something like, the government is really worried that regular old consumers like you don't have access to enough borrowed money. They don't have money on their credit cards, they don't have money for student loans, they don't have money to start new businesses. And so the government really wants to get money to the consumers so that consumers can start spending it, start investing it and get this economy going again. But, the part that says AAA-rated, what the government is saying, we're the government, we're not going to mess around with giving money to people who might not pay it back. We're only giving money to the most highly-rated, safest parts of the lending economy, which will eventually get loans to people like you and me, to consumers, to small businesses.

NORRIS: And as this press release continues it notes that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York will lend an amount equal to the market value of the ABS less a haircut, and will be secured at all times by the ABS. We're going to scroll back. Less a haircut, we're not talking about taking out those shears.

DAVIDSON: No, I know. I love less a haircut in this gobbledygook press release. There's this charming little Wall Street phrase. A haircut is bond-speak for a tiny little bit of profit. So if you have a bond that pays, say, three percent and it's worth a hundred dollars and you just need to borrow a hundred dollars from me for a few days and you say, here, I'm going to give you my bond, you give me a hundred dollars cash. I'll give you a hundred dollars tomorrow, and you give me my bond back. I'll say, OK, but I'm only going to do it if I get a haircut, if I get a thin little slice of profit. So that might be a few pennies on the dollar, a little bit of the percentage that that bond pays.

NORRIS: So street lingo, but in this case we're talking about Wall Street.

DAVIDSON: Yes, exactly.

NORRIS: Well, thanks for sharing your street cred with us, Adam. That's NPR's Adam Davidson. Thanks so much.

DAVIDSON: Thank you, Michele.

NORRIS: And you can learn more about the government's latest steps to fix the economy at the Planet Money blog, that's at npr.org/money.

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