Eoin Treacy's view -
Before the pandemic, economic growth was decelerating as confirmed by a decline in world trade in 2019, one of the few yearly declines in the history of this series. While the huge debt financed programs were a response to the pandemic, the end result is that global nonfinancial debt increased to a record 282% of GDP in 2020. The 37% surge of debt relative to GDP was also a record. While this debt may be politically popular and socially necessary, it will weaken growth and inflation after a transitory spurt, which will lead to even more disappointing business conditions than existed prior to the pandemic.
The actual global debt situation may be worse than these numbers indicate because they include China, the world’s second largest economy. Scholarly forensic research indicates that Chinese GDP is overstated by at least 18%. Thus, the official Chinese debt to GDP ratio is suppressing the global numbers. A comparative analysis of money velocity confirms the suspicion about the Chinese figures. Money velocity in China in 2020 was 0.44 versus 1.19 in the U.S. Admittedly money and debt are not identical, but they are opposite sides of the balance sheet and the glaring gap is too much to be ignored.
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Something that has been troubling me for a while is why has China chosen now as the time to clamp down on Alibaba and Ant Financial’s massive money market fund. The rationale that it was politically motivated and that the firm has become too big and powerful for the comfort of the Communist Party is tempting and probably holds some truth. However, the bigger question is whether the financial system needs to reabsorb the flows and be refortified because the debt overhang is much larger than investors are willing to give credence to?
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