Since 2008, debts owed by China’s nonfinancial sector have soared by more than 90 percentage points relative to GDP. As David said, that’s “pretty damn fast.”
Almost all of that increase can be attributed to corporate borrowers. Chart via Goldman:
Iren Levina, economics lecturer at Kingston University, brings to our attention a fascinating, if under-appreciated, phenomenon in finance.
She describes this as the “puzzling rise in financial profits and the role of capital gain-like revenues” throughout most of the 2000s, which were totally delinked from real economic growth during the period.
Okay. Why so puzzling you ask? Don’t we know these profits were the result of too much risk taking? And haven’t there been hundreds of papers about this sort of thing?
Well, yes. But this isn’t quite Levina’s argument.
In a paper published in April this year she instead argues that the reason financial profits became disassociated from real economic growth was because of the way they were formed and the way they were transferred through the financial system consequently.
More to the point, because they were enabled by the very phenomenon of “capital gain-like revenues’.
Unfortunately, the monetary assets which facilitated these revenues have been incorrectly understood by the financial system. In Levina’s eyes they are not, as many believe, borrower liabilities matched by real assets at financial institutions, but rather borrower liabilities matched by something altogether different. Read more
Just when you think there’s nothing left to say about China’s debt dilemma up pop some more pieces to greet the new year. Two of the most recent saw Soros on the self-contradiction in Chinese policy boat saying that “restarting the furnaces also reignites exponential debt growth, which cannot be sustained for much longer than a couple of years” and Patrick Chovanec providing a touch more detail about what all that messy debt actually means:
To those who wrote off China’s first banking seizure in June as a fluke, this latest episode [interbank lending market spiked to near 10 percent again last week] appeared to come out of nowhere. They cast about for explanations: Perhaps some seasonal surge in cash withdrawals was to blame, or the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision to taper its bond-buying policy. Optimists assumed the PBOC was tightening credit on purpose, as a warning to banks to rein in unsafe lending practices. With inflation at manageable levels, they reasoned, the People’s Bank of China had plenty of room to loosen monetary policy again and ease the cash crunch.
Faced with a mountain of maturing loans this year, China has given local governments the go-ahead to issue bonds as a way of rolling over their debt to avoid defaults.
The announcement by the National Development and Reform Commission, a top central planning authority, is the most explicit official endorsement of a massive debt refinancing operation that has become unavoidable and is already under way, analysts said.
(Title credit to Anne Stevenson-Yang of J-Capital, who kindly insisted we steal what we would have stolen anyway.)
Brushing aside the obvious points that Xi is ‘Deng II, the Reformer’ and that his third plenum will be a knockout success similar to the big man’s in 1978, let’s pretend there’s a chance it might go wrong. Read more
SIV/ LGFV/ LGIV/ *shrug*
Whatever you choose to call the vehicles China’s local governments used to fund infrastructure when Beijing restricted financing (we are going with LGFVs here) they are very near the centre of Chinese debt fears. Which means it’d be nice to know how big they really are.
From Stephen Green at Standard Chartered (our emphasis): Read more
Ok, we’ve been slow to get this up. That’s because…
But here, belatedly, is a paper from Achim Dübel of Finpolconsult: Creditor Participation in Banking Crisis in the Eurozone – A Corner Turned? Read more
The following is a guest post from Chris Cook, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Security and Resilience Studies at University College London. His work is focused on a new generation of networked markets – which will, in Chris’s view, necessarily be dis-intermediated, open, decentralised and, therefore, resilient.
The second attempt to resolve the unsustainable debt burden of Cyprus’s over-leveraged banks spreads the pain differently to the disastrous initial attempt, but looks likely to leave Cyprus as an economic wasteland for generations. Frances Coppola outlined brilliantly yesterday the sort of financial disaster zone which Cypriots can expect. Read more
Paul Krugman has penned a rather wonderful explainer on the economics of Google Reader, and why it makes economic sense for Google to shut down a much-loved service like Reader even if people say they are prepared to pay for it.
Krugman actually picks up where Ryan Avent left off, but the following paragraph does a good job of nailing the problem:
Basically, if the monopolist tries to charge a price corresponding to the value intense users place on the good, it won’t attract enough low-intensity users to cover its fixed costs; if it charges a low price to bring in the low-intensity user, it fails to capture enough of the surplus of high-intensity users, and again can’t cover its fixed costs.
US Treasuries are kicking up with the 10 year threatening to push through 2 per cent for the first time in quite a while. It’s a little bit of economic optimism — better data means more chances of Fed tightening.
Capital Economics did the needful and put voice to the idea that the bull rally in Treasuries might have further to run for all sorts of not very contrarian reasons (our emphasis): Read more
We’ve run a couple of posts here on FTAV recently about how cancellation of QE debt isn’t really such a big deal: more an accounting change than anything material because both treasuries and central banks are part of the public sector.
Here is an argument that this mere accounting exercise could be worthwhile — particularly if the debt-laden developed countries descend into another downturn. Read more
So, we’re going to the wire once again in the now traditional dance between Greece and the troika. As the FT reported on Thursday:
Eurozone leaders face a new round of brinkmanship over Greece’s €174bn bailout after international lenders failed to bridge differences on how to reduce Athens’ burgeoning debt levels, pushing the country perilously close to defaulting on a €5bn debt payment due next week.
Greece’s new budget was announced on Wednesday. With it came projections for the country’s economic health. The patient is not well. Even before the government’s own-self assessment of conditions, revisions by the IMF alone revealed the deterioration, as Exotix’s Gabriel Sterne points out in a note on Thursday. More of his analysis further down, but first this from the FT on the Greek government’s figures: Read more
Euro-zone countries are considering a proposal that would see Greece cut its debt by buying back bonds held by private creditors at a discount.
The exercise–one of a number of options being studied–could persuade the International Monetary Fund to sign off on a loan payment desperately needed by the debt-laden country and keep Greece’s bailout on track for the medium term, two officials with direct knowledge of the discussions said Thursday.
The answer is $49,000, according to the Credit Suisse global wealth report, based on their estimate that global household wealth in mid-2012 totaled $223 trillion at current exchange rates (emphasis ours).
Looking ahead, and assuming moderate and stable economic growth, we expect total household wealth to rise by almost 50% in the next five years from USD 223 trillion in 2012 to USD 330 trillion in 2017. The number of millionaires worldwide is expected to increase by about 18 million, reaching 46 million in 2017. We expect China to surpass Japan as the second wealthiest country in the world. However, the USA should remain on top of the wealth league, with USD 89 trillion by 2017.
Between mid-2011 and mid-2012, only China and North America increased their net worth, and India and Europe saw the sharpest falls, according to the report. The world as a whole had a 5.2 per cent fall in household wealth. Read more
From Standard Chartered:
Local-currency emerging bond markets have seen ever greater levels of foreign demand as global investors flee from the ongoing European sovereign crisis and continue to allocate to fixed income securities. From less that USD 150bn in March 2009, foreign holdings of local-currency government bonds in emerging markets (EM) are now well above USD 500bn.
Bubble? Read more
Spain has tipped a toe into the 10yr debt market and found the water isn’t as cold as it once was. They managed to get away a larger than planned issue of €3.9bn 3yr and €859m 10yr paper on Thursday with borrowing costs on the longer term paper falling markedly alongside decent demand.
However, the 3yr stuff was a new issue with the yield coming in near enough to this year’s average while the offering of the 10yr paper was small and oh-so-cautious. Read more
In our previous post, we attempted to explain to goldbugs why a fiat-based monetary system provides many more benefits to society than a gold-backed monetary system. More importantly, that to dismiss a fiat system is to potentially misunderstand the role of money and gold in society.
For the more reliable the joint liability system, the fewer the incentives that the lower level of government has to economise…
The case for common eurozone bonds taking flak again? Nah. Read more
The Greek fall-out continues with Spanish 10-year yields hitting 6.5 per cent, their highest level in almost six months:
Both Spain and France managed to get decent debt sales away this morning and although yields did jump in Spain there was at least some solid demand to provide solace. Not bad considering it was Spain’s first auction since the country’s rating got cut by S&P last week. The steady demand will also provide reassurance as the ECB’s LTRO effects start to wane.
French borrowing costs actually fell! Interest rates on the €1.6bn of nine-year paper sold fell from 3.29 per cent previously to 2.85 per cent while those on the €3.3bn of 10-year bonds dropped by 2 basis points to 2.96 per cent. Read more
We’ve discussed MMT’s recent foray into the mainstream, and the confusion it has consequently courted.
But that’s the funny thing about the theory. It is naturally divisive because most of the time it fails to communicate its message succinctly. Which is weird, since the premise is actually fairly simple to understand. We’d say it’s akin to looking at an autostereogram. Once you get it, you never see things quite the same way again. But at the same time, try as they might, some people will never be able to see the image. Ever. Read more
Breaking on Tuesday morning: Italy pays more to borrow for three years than it does for 10 years…
RTRS-ITALIAN 3.5 BLN EURO NOV 2014 BTP BOND AUCTION GROSS YIELD 7.89 PCT Read more
European sovereign debt, that is.
And the answer is over €500bn, according to Nomura, which has pieced together data from the IMF and national sources to come up with an updated picture of foreign exposure globally to the Eurozone. Read more
First the good news.
Italy managed to raise the targeted amount of €10bn at Friday’s short-term debt auction. Read more
Thinking of booking the next summer holiday with Thomas Cook?
Tuesday’s price action might make you think twice. Read more
Or as Matt King at Citi put it in his latest presentation, “Payback Time: The Coming Decade of Deleveraging”. In short, we’ve borrowed much too much, and the public sector can’t substantially reduce its debt without a corresponding increase in borrowing in the private sector, or growth will suffer. All of this being particularly painful for countries that can’t unilaterally weaken their currencies.
The charts the Citi strategist uses to make these point are enthralling… but then FT Alphaville does have a tendency to go weak at the knees at the sight of a graph that perfectly encapsulates a story. Read more
Congratulations to Ben Dyson, self-professed “money and banking specialist” for finally discovering, err, money. Or, how money works.
In a column in the Guardian on Tuesday, Dyson recounts in grand revelatory style how the solution to the system’s current ails is nothing other than recognition of the fact that “money has been privatised”. Shock, horror! Read more