Rickards: The Makings Of A Global Debt Crisis Are Now In Place
In 2017, the financial world was filled with talk of synchronized sustainable growth in major economies for the first time since before the 2008 global financial crisis. This was being proclaimed by global financial elites including Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF.
Now that vision is in ashes. Synchronized global growth has turned into a synchronized global slowdown. Growth has already turned negative in two of the world’s largest economies, Japan and Germany, and is slowing rapidly in the world’s biggest economies, China and the U.S.
China may report something like 6.8% GDP growth, but when all the waste in its economy is stripped out the actual growth is probably closer to 4.5%. That’s still growth, but not nearly enough to sustain China’s massive debt overload. Its debt is growing faster than the economy and its debt-to-GDP ratio is even worse than the U.S.
For a sense of perspective, China had about $2 trillion total debt in 2000. Today, it’s about $40 trillion. That’s an unbelievable 2,000% increase in under 20 years.
Growth is also slowing in the U.S. The 2009–2018 recovery has already been the weakest recovery in U.S. history despite a few good quarters here and there. And there’s little reason to expect it to pick up from here.
GDP expanded 3.5% last quarter, which looks good on paper. But the trend is pointing down. Since this April, we’ve seen growth of 4.2% (Q2), and 3.5% (Q3). This trend tends to confirm the view that 2018 growth was a “Trump bump” from the tax cuts that will not be repeated. And Q4 GDP will probably be lower than Q3.
Goldman Sachs, for example, projects fourth-quarter GDP to expand at 2.5%. It further expects growth to drop to 2.2% by the second quarter of 2019, and to 1.6% by the end of the year.
Global slowdowns of the type we’re seeing now are exacerbated by the escalating trade wars and a new Cold War between the U.S. and China. But while global growth may be slowing down, debt creation is not.
I mentioned China. But it goes far beyond China. According to the Institute of International Finance (IIF), total debt held by economies it tracks (both mature and emerging) rose to a record $247 trillion in the first quarter of 2018. That’s up 11% over the same period in 2017.