Welcome to the PMBug forums - a watering hole for folks interested in gold, silver, precious metals, sound money, investing, market and economic news, central bank monetary policies, politics and more. You can visit the forum page to see the list of forum nodes (categories/rooms) for topics.
Please have a look around and if you like what you see, please consider registering an account and joining the discussions. When you register an account and log in, you may enjoy additional benefits including no ads, market data/charts, access to trade/barter with the community and much more. Registering an account is free - you have nothing to lose!
Raymond Dalio (born August 8, 1949) is an American billionaire investor, hedge fund manager, and philanthropist. Dalio is the founder of investment firm Bridgewater Associates, one of the world's largest hedge funds. As of January 2018, he is one of the world's 100 wealthiest people, according to Bloomberg.
Is another “Great Depression” on the horizon? It would be easier to dismiss these words from Nouriel Roubini, Marc Faber or other doom-and-gloom prognosticators. Coming from Christine Lagarde’s team, though, they take on a new dimension of scary.
The International Monetary Fund head isn’t known for breathlessness on the world stage. And yet the IMF sounded downright alarmist in its latest Global Financial Stability report, stating that “large challenges loom for the global economy to prevent a second Great Depression.”
Even some market bears were taken aback. “Why,” asks Michael Snyder of The Economic Collapse Blog would the IMF use this phrase “in a report that they know the entire world will read?”
Perhaps because, unfortunately, the findings of other referees of global risks – including the Bank for International Settlements – hint at similar dislocations.
Ten years after the Lehman Brothers crisis, these worrisome warnings that will be explored in depth at this week’s annual IMF meeting in Bali. The tranquil setting, though, will offer few respites from cracks appearing in markets everywhere – from Italy to China to Southeast Asia, where currencies are cratering like it’s 1998 again.
Potential flashpoints and a long line of dominos
Italy is the current flashpoint – and the latest target of “domino effect” chatter in frothy world markets. China’s shadow-banking bubble, and the extreme opacity and regulations that enable it, also came in for criticism. And, of course, the 800-pound beast in any room where global investors gather these days: Donald Trump’s assault on world trade.
But the real worry is the health of foundations underpinning these and other risks.
As the BIS warned on Sept. 23, the global economy faces a potential “relapse” of the “Lehman shock” of 2008. “Things look rather fragile,” says BIS chief economist Claudio Borio. Equally worrying, he adds: “There’s little left in the medicine chest to nurse the patient back to health or care for him in case of a relapse.”
A similar connection of dangerous dots runs through the IMF’s latest report. The big problem, says Malhar Nabar, deputy chief of IMF research, is the one that investors tend to ignore or explain away: how much of the Lehman fallout is still with us.
“There are many countries, even today, that are operating below pre-crisis trends,” Nabar says. “And what’s interesting is not just countries that suffered banking crises in 2007-2008 but also other countries outside of that epicenter that were affected through trade links or through financial links.”
Increased inequality is one troubling side-effect. Yet Nabar highlights, “possible long-lasting effects of the crisis on potential growth” that might seem tangential to Wall Street’s crash – lower birth rates, lower fertility and even “some evidence of slower technology adoption.” All this, he says, “can affect productivity growth and potential growth going forward.”
There is no doubt that many of the official policy actions taken since 2008 “seemed to have helped limit the harm.” But the costs of those efforts are only beginning to get calculated.
2008 crisis measures cast long, dark shadow
Excessively loose monetary policies have exacerbated the widening inequality trends unfolding pre-Lehman crackup. At the same time, there’s been, in the words of the IMF, a “large accumulation of public debt and the erosion of fiscal buffers in many economies following the crisis point to the urgency of rebuilding defenses to prepare for the next downturn.”
Yet all the diplomatic speak in the world can’t sugarcoat the roughly $250 trillion crisis unfolding in slow motion. That’s the level to which the world’s debt burden ballooned since the Lehman crash. That’s 18 times China’s annual gross domestic product.
And with official rates from Washington to Tokyo still at ultra-low levels historically, there’s little ammunition to battle the next reckoning.
Italy’s debt woes are an obvious weak link. One reason: just as with US officials after 2008, Europe did more to treat the symptoms of its woes than address underlying causes.
So is China’s unbalanced economy, one being trolled by US President Donald Trump’s tariffs arms race. This year’s 6.4% drop in the yuan is raising eyebrows for good reason. For one thing, it coincides with a marked slowdown in exports, industrial production, fixed-asset investment and an 18% plunge in Shanghai stocks this year. For another, it raised the specter of sizable defaults on dollar debt, which would reverberate through the global economy.
And therein lies Asia’s problem.
In general, the region has journeyed a long way since the darkest days of 1997 and 1998. Financial systems are stronger and governments are more transparent. Currencies are more flexible. Foreign-exchange reserves have been rebuilt. That leaves advanced economies from South Korea to Singapore reasonably well equipped to withstand fresh turmoil.
But there are cracks in the region’s developing markets, as the ferocity of currency plunges in India, Indonesia and the Philippines show. Investors may argue they’ve learned from past misstates, but still fall prey to herd mentalities.
It’s an urgent wakeup call for India’s Narendra Modi, Indonesia’s Joko Widodo and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines to narrow current-account and budget deficits. Leaders also need to devise macroprudential firewalls against global contagion.
The problem for Asia: contagion could come as much from the West and its own backyard.
Trump’s fiscal incompetence – including a $1.5 trillion tax cut America didn’t need – could roil global rates and the dollar. A recent spike in 10-year yields to 3.2%, the highest in seven years, could be a bad omen. Trump, too, is publicly dueling with his hand-picked Federal Reserve chairman. And given Trump’s legal woes, the odds of new tariffs or even military action to distract voters can’t be ruled out.
Any new assault on China could devastate Japan’s reflation effort. True, epic Bank of Japan easing and a weaker yen boosted exports. It pushed Nikkei 225 index stocks to 27-year highs. Yet Asia’s No. 2 economy is in harm’s way if the US-China brawl trumps the region’s key growth engine.
Even before most policy makers and financiers arrive in Bali this week, the IMF is signaling that global growth has plateaued. It downgraded output to 3.7% from 3.9%.
That not the end of the world, per se. But with trade battles intensifying and dormant old devils re-emerging, all bets could soon be off.
That is a lot more than depressing: it’s terrifying.
"We have no ability to turn the economy around," said Martin Feldstein, President of the US National Bureau of Economic Research.
"When the next recession comes, it is going to be deeper and last longer than in the past. We don't have any strategy to deal with it," he told The Daily Telegraph.
Professor Feldstein, a former chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, described a bleak scenario more akin to the depressions of the 1870s or the 1930s than anything experienced in the post-War era.
He warned that a decade of super-low interest rates and monetary stimulus by the US Federal Reserve has pushed Wall Street equities to nose-bleed levels that no longer bear any relation to historic fundamentals. Stock prices will inevitably come plummeting back down to earth.
Prof Feldstein said the next bear market - most likely triggered by a spike in 10-year Treasury yields - risks setting off a US$10 trillion (NZ$15 trillion) crash in US household assets. The cascading 'wealth effects' will drain the retail economy of US$300bn to US$400bn a year, causing recessionary forces to mestasasize.
"Fiscal deficits are heading for US$1 trillion dollars and the debt ratio is already twice as high as a decade ago, so there is little room for fiscal expansion," he said, speaking earlier on the sidelines of the Ambrosetti forum on world affairs at Lake Como.
The eurozone faces an even worse fate when the global cycle turns since the European Central Bank has yet to build up safety buffers against a deflationary shock. The half-constructed edifice of monetary union almost guarantees than any response will be too little, too late.
"The Europeans don't have a fiscal back-up. They don't have anything. At least you have your own central bank and treasury in Britain, so you will be happier," he said.
"Mario Draghi is going to be very happy when he has left the ECB because it is not clear how they are going to get out of this when they still have zero rates. They can't play the trick of the cheap euro again," he said.
With growth now fading after the Trump tax cut boost (there will be no tax cuts in 2019), the debt-to-GDP ratio is now up to 106%, since debt is growing faster than GDP.
As Grant points out, the national debt has registered compound annual growth of 8.8%, but only 6.3% for GDP. That’s not a sustainable situation. And it’s not at all clear that GDP will close the gap.
Basically, the United States is going broke.
... the CEO of the world's largest asset-management firm said Tuesday during a panel discussion at the New Economic Forum in Singapore that the US dollar's status as the world's dominant currency wouldn't last forever.
And instead of citing external factors like China's expanding economic clout and influence, or an insurgent Russia, Fink pointed to the widening US budget deficit as the biggest risk to the dollar's status as the global hegemon. And while it might not happen tomorrow, or next year, over time, as US interest rates rise and the federal government strains under its tremendous debt burden, the creditors who were once eager to buy up Treasury bonds will gradually disappear.
The US will have a "supply problem" as the widening deficit requires more borrowing. The threat of "interest rates becoming too high to sustain the economy with its growth rates" is becoming a real concern for the US.
Here’s a note from Economic Cycle Research Institute’s Lakshman Achuthan:Notably, the combined debt of the US, Eurozone, Japan, and China has increased more than ten times as much as their combined GDP [growth] over the past year.
Yes, you read that right. In the last year, the world’s largest economies are generating debt 10X faster than economic growth. Adding debt at that pace, if it continues, will boost the debt-to-GDP ratio at an alarming rate.
Lakshman continues....Remarkably, then, the global economy—slowing in sync despite soaring debt—finds itself in a situation reminiscent of the Red Queen Effect we referenced 15 years ago, when tax cuts boosted the US budget deficit much more than GDP. As the Red Queen says to Alice in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”
The pillars of the global financial system are fundamentally unstable and could lead to a frightening chain-reaction in the next crisis, the world's top watchdog has warned.
Giant "central counterparties" (CCPs) that clear much of the $540 trillion (L428 trillion) nexus of derivatives are themselves vulnerable to failure in times of extreme stress.
This is a worry looming ever larger as rising US interest rates expose the weak links in global debt markets.
The Bank for International Settlements said in its quarterly report that the CCPs could cause "a destabilising feedback loop, amplifying stress."
The implicit message is that well-meaning regulators may have made the financial architecture more dangerous by mistake.
The notional value of the derivatives cleared worldwide is 4.4 times world GDP, up from 2.8 times in 2008. JP Morgan alone has a $30 trillion book.
The BIS warned that regulators have inadvertently created a "CCP-bank nexus" -- somewhat akin to the sovereign/bank doom loop in the eurozone -- in which the two feed on such other.
The rotten apple contaminates the healthy banks. A fire sale of assets spreads contagion. Banks may be forced to hoard liquidity to protect themselves. The BIS said "balance sheet interlinkages" and what it calls the "CCP default waterfall" could unravel with "potentially system-wide effects."
The BIS says the nature of the world’s business cycle has entirely changed over the last three decades. For most of the 20th century booms turned to bust when rising inflation forced authorities to jam on the brakes.
This is no longer the case. Globalization and the inclusion of China and emerging Asia in the trading system have suppressed inflation. What now brings the party to an end is excess credit and rising debt service ratios. As conditions tighten, the financial system eventually buckles under its own weight.
he thrust of BIS research is that we may be close to this inflexion point. Standard & Poor's says the number of junk bonds rated B minus or below has jumped from 17 to 25 percent over the last year. This is now the highest since global financial crisis.
The average yield on U.S. junk bonds has risen 165 basis points to 7.2 percent over the last year. A cascade of downgrades has begun. The spike has been even more dramatic in the eurozone where stress is nearing danger levels, leaving credit analysts baffled by the European Central Bank’s decision to halt quantitative easing this month.
The BIS fears a waterfall effect. "The bulge of BBB corporate debt, just above junk status, hovers like a dark cloud over investors. Should this debt be downgraded, if and when the economy weakened, it is bound to put substantial pressure on a market that is already quite illiquid," said Mr. Borio.
Before the 2008 crisis most derivatives were cleared by trading parties in direct dealings. The G20 shift has lifted the share of CCPs for interest rate derivatives from 20 to 60 percent. The effect is to concentrate risk. The BIS warns that the system may encourage a rush for the exit in events of extreme stress.
The International Monetary Fund has also flagged the dangers. It warned this year that CCPs "increase the risk of a failure of the infrastructure itself" and could lead to a "catastrophe" if the all layers of defense were overrun by a big default. It would be like the failure of the Maginot Line.
The G20 may have made the world financial system more hazardous.
Former Federal Reserve Chairperson Janet Yellen told an audience in New York that she fears there could be another financial crisis brewing.
She warned of leveraged loans and the inability for the Fed to bail out banks. ...
Stanley Druckenmiller established himself as one of the most successful hedge fund managers of his generation thanks to an uncanny ability for recognizing signals in asset prices that portended an coming recession. So when he warns about rough times ahead, it's probably worth listening.
Though he's kept a relatively low profile since closing Duquesne Capital in 2010 and opening a family office based in midtown, Druckenmiller's name has been popping up in the headlines of the financial press more frequently lately where his criticisms of the Fed were ridiculed (back in September he warned that we we are at the point in the tightening cycle where "bombs are going off") before they were echoed by no less a figure than the president himself. Over the weekend, Druckenmiller offered his latest contrarian screed against Wall Street pearl clutchers by arguing in an op-ed published with former Fed Gov. Kevin Warsh that Trump has a point, and that the Fed already missed its opportunity to safely tighten monetary policy. Now, the Fed has two choices: either reconsider its plans to raise rates to 3% and beyond over the next year, or risk destabilizing asset markets and the broader economy.
And in an interview that bears similarities to Jeff Gundlachs' "truth bomb"-strewn chat with CNBC, Druckenmiller sat down with Bloomberg for an hour-long interview where he warned that market conditions are about to get a lot worse.
The only question, in Druckenmiller's mind, is not whether the selloff will worsen, but by how much? Because the indicators that Druckenmiller used to anticipate the last four downturns are once again turning red, suggesting the "highest probability is that we struggle going forward."
The world may still be some distance from the next Lehman moment, but nearly a decade at zero rates bred massive malinvestment that cannot withstand a rising interest environment. Unless the Fed starts printing, and soon, and a lot, Lehman will come.
Harvard professor Ken Rogoff said the key policy instruments of the Communist Party are losing traction and the country has exhausted its credit-driven growth model. This is rapidly becoming the greatest single threat to the global financial system.
"People have this stupefying belief that China is different from everywhere else and can grow to the moon," said Harvard professor Ken Rogoff, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. "China can't just keep creating credit. They are in a serious growth recession and the trade war is kicking them on the way down," he told the Telegraph, speaking before the World Economic Forum in Davos.
"There will have to be a de facto nationalisation of large parts of the economy. I fear this really could be 'it' at last and they are going to have their own kind of Minsky Moment," he said.
This refers to the financial instability hypothesis of Hyman Minsky. It is when a seemingly unstoppable debt bubble suddenly collapses under its own weight in a cascade of falling asset and property prices. The authorities can cushion the crash but they cannot escape the brutal mechanics of reversion.
Prof Rogoff is co-author of a magisterial history of debt delusions, This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, written with former IMF firefighter Carmen Reinhart.
He said it was an error to think that China's current slowdown is entirely deliberate and calibrated. While the People's Bank undoubtedly wishes to curb the credit boom it is also riding a tiger that it cannot fully control.
"I fear this will be the third leg of the global debt supercycle, after subprime in the US and the debt crisis in the eurozone. Nobody knows how this is going play out but it could be on the scale of 2008 and it is will be very bad for Asia, and there will be spillovers in Europe," he said.
The eurozone is already suffering the fall-out from the Asian downturn. Most of the region is in industrial recession. Germany and Italy buckled in the second half of 2018, and confidence has slumped to crisis-level lows in France.
"I am very sceptical that the eurozone system can handle another big shock. It is a house half built and if there is something like 2008, it is all going to blow up. Some countries will have to be ring-fenced with capital controls," he said.
The eurozone has little policy powder left to fight deflation. Interest rates are already minus 0.4 percent and the European Central Bank's €2.6 trillion blitz of bond purchases has pushed the institution's balance sheet to 43 percent of GDP. The political bar to renewing quantitative easing is very high.
Europe's leaders have yet to build a crisis machinery fit for purpose. There is still no proper banking union with shared deposit insurance, let alone a fiscal union. The rigid rules of the Stability Pact inhibit use of budget stimulus a l'outrance in a recession.
Prof Rogoff said there is a danger that China and Asian tigers could be forced to pull in some of their trillions of offshore global funds to cover urgent needs at home, drying up or even reversing the so-called Asian ‘savings glut'.
This would have the unpleasant effect of driving up ‘real' interest rates across the world, which would be awkward for the US at a time when President Donald Trump's trillion dollar deficits risking crowding out bond markets. Higher real rates would would trial by fire for parts of Europe.
Jeffrey Gundlach, Wall Street's bond king and respected prognosticator on all financial markets, is painting a bearish picture of the stock and corporate bond markets, as well as the U.S. economy.
In a webcast Tuesday, he cited weak chart patterns, a rising deficit, signs of an economic slowdown and the Federal Reserve's shrinking balance sheet.
"It certainly looks like the U.S. [stock market] is going to break down to me and to a lower level," the founder and chief executive officer of DoubleLine said. He said stocks look headed back to their lows in February and could break below them.
As Davos wraps up today, what have we got so far so far from the cockpit of globalisation? Warnings of rising nationalism. Fears of recession. Worries that everything could come tumbling down again. And a total rejection of any policy alternatives regardless. It’s as if the Captain of the Titanic admits to the passengers early into the journey that the ship is sinkable, and indeed they will all drown horribly when it goes down, but then reassures everybody he’s sticking to the same route towards the iceberg anyway. Before flying home in his private jet.
Public debt ratios are now “significantly higher” than before the global financial crisis across the globe, and governments need to get their fiscal houses in order ahead of the next global downturn, the International Monetary Fund said Wednesday.
Advanced economies have levels of public-debt-to-GDP ratios that are close to unprecedented in peacetime, the IMF said. At the same time low interest rates are helping to make it easier to finance these high debt levels.
Asked about calls from some economists for the IMF to change its orthodox thinking about the need for low budget deficits in the environment of low interest rates, Gaspar said it was an open question how long these low interest rates can persist.
Financial analyst Bo Polny ... thinks the next stock market selloff will start in June, but not everything sells off. Gold, silver and cryptos are going to spike higher. Polny explains, “The crash that comes in July is going to blow away the crash that comes in June. Then there is going to be a rush to safety. People will flee to safety. Remember, how much money have they printed? How much money do we not know that they printed? You know about that whole game of the $21 trillion in ‘missing money.’ With all of this money that has been printed, all of this money has to go somewhere. People will lose faith and confidence in this paper based system. The cycle . . . foretells the end of the paper based monetary system beginning in July. . . . Gold is going to jump in June initially. They are then going to try to hammer it back down. Once it jumps, they are going to start to lose control. When July hits, that’s when it will get pretty epic. By year end, Bitcoin, gold and silver will all, all be at new all-time highs.”
... I believe that monetizations of debt and currency depreciations will eventually pick up, which will reduce the value of money and real returns for creditors and test how far creditors will let central banks go in providing negative real returns before moving into other assets. ...
... I think that it is highly likely that sometime in the next few years, 1) central banks will run out of stimulant to boost the markets and the economy when the economy is weak, and 2) there will be an enormous amount of debt and non-debt liabilities (e.g., pension and healthcare) that will increasingly be coming due and won’t be able to be funded with assets. Said differently, I think that the paradigm that we are in will most likely end when a) real interest rate returns are pushed so low that investors holding the debt won’t want to hold it and will start to move to something they think is better and b) simultaneously, the large need for money to fund liabilities will contribute to the “big squeeze.” At that point, there won’t be enough money to meet the needs for it, so there will have to be some combination of large deficits that are monetized, currency depreciations, and large tax increases, and these circumstances will likely increase the conflicts between the capitalist haves and the socialist have-nots. Most likely, during this time, holders of debt will receive very low or negative nominal and real returns in currencies that are weakening, which will de facto be a wealth tax.
Most people now believe the best “risky investments” will continue to be equity and equity-like investments, such as leveraged private equity, leveraged real estate, and venture capital, and this is especially true when central banks are reflating. As a result, the world is leveraged long, holding assets that have low real and nominal expected returns that are also providing historically low returns relative to cash returns (because of the enormous amount of money that has been pumped into the hands of investors by central banks and because of other economic forces that are making companies flush with cash). I think these are unlikely to be good real returning investments and that those that will most likely do best will be those that do well when the value of money is being depreciated and domestic and international conflicts are significant, such as gold. Additionally, for reasons I will explain in the near future, most investors are underweighted in such assets, meaning that if they just wanted to have a better balanced portfolio to reduce risk, they would have more of this sort of asset. For this reason, I believe that it would be both risk-reducing and return-enhancing to consider adding gold to one’s portfolio. I will soon send out an explanation of why I believe that gold is an effective portfolio diversifier.
◆ “Get knowledgeable and get prepared as this crisis is going to be the worst in my life time”
◆ The next crisis is going to happen so fast that people may not have time to react
◆ The fiat currency experiment of the last 50 years is coming to a brutal end
The Fed desperately needs to keep credit expanding or the economy will collapse. However, it's an unsustainable scheme.
The most important forces that now exist are:
1) The End of the Long-Term Debt Cycle (When Central Banks Are No Longer Effective)
2) The Large Wealth Gap and Political Polarity
3) A Rising World Power Challenging an Existing World Power
The Bond Blow-Off, Rising Gold Prices, and the Late 1930s Analogue
In other words now 1) central banks have limited ability to stimulate, 2) there is large wealth and political polarity and 3) there is a conflict between China as a rising power and the U.S. as an existing world power. If/when there is an economic downturn, that will produce serious problems in ways that are analogous to the ways that the confluence of those three influences produced serious problems in the late 1930s.
The International Monetary Fund has presented us with a Gothic horror show. The world's financial system is more stretched, unstable, and dangerous than it was on the eve of the Lehman crisis.
Quantitative easing, zero interest rates, and financial repression across the board have pushed investors -- and in the case of pension funds or life insurers, actually forced them -- into taking on ever more risk. We have created a monster.
They gonna 'crash the system ' ... ?
The World Has Gone Mad and the System Is Broken
I say these things because:
This set of circumstances is unsustainable and certainly can no longer be pushed as it has been pushed since 2008. That is why I believe that the world is approaching a big paradigm shift.
- Money is free for those who are creditworthy because the investors who are giving it to them are willing to get back less than they give. More specifically investors lending to those who are creditworthy will accept very low or negative interest rates and won’t require having their principal paid back for the foreseeable future. They are doing this because they have an enormous amount of money to invest that has been, and continues to be, pushed on them by central banks that are buying financial assets in their futile attempts to push economic activity and inflation up. The reason that this money that is being pushed on investors isn’t pushing growth and inflation much higher is that the investors who are getting it want to invest it rather than spend it. This dynamic is creating a “pushing on a string” dynamic that has happened many times before in history (though not in our lifetimes) ...
- At the same time, large government deficits exist and will almost certainly increase substantially, which will require huge amounts of more debt to be sold by governments—amounts that cannot naturally be absorbed without driving up interest rates at a time when an interest rate rise would be devastating for markets and economies because the world is so leveraged long. Where will the money come from to buy these bonds and fund these deficits? It will almost certainly come from central banks, which will buy the debt that is produced with freshly printed money. This whole dynamic in which sound finance is being thrown out the window will continue and probably accelerate, especially in the reserve currency countries and their currencies—i.e., in the US, Europe, and Japan, and in the dollar, euro, and yen.
- At the same time, pension and healthcare liability payments will increasingly be coming due while many of those who are obligated to pay them don’t have enough money to meet their obligations. ...
- At the same time as money is essentially free for those who have money and creditworthiness, it is essentially unavailable to those who don’t have money and creditworthiness, which contributes to the rising wealth, opportunity, and political gaps. ...
Wealthy people around the globe are hunkering down for a potentially turbulent 2020, according to UBS Global Wealth Management.
A majority of rich investors expect a significant drop in markets before the end of next year, and 25% of their average assets are currently in cash, according to a survey of more than 3,400 global respondents. ...
Nearly four-fifths of respondents say volatility is likely to increase, and 55% think there will be a significant market sell-off before the end of 2020, according to the report which was conducted between August and October and polled those with at least $1 million in investable assets. Sixty percent are considering increasing their cash levels further, ...
... Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio and Paul Tudor Jones - joined Yahoo Finance for the 2nd annual Greenwich Investment Forum earlier this month. ... PTJ and Dalio focused their "Fireside Chat" on the flaws of Fed policy, the dangers of America's ballooning budget deficit, and the steps that must be take to "stop us from killing each other" in a violent revolution, as Dalio warned.
The World Bank has warned the largest and fastest rise in global debt in half a century could lead to another financial crisis as the world economy slows.
The 'Global Waves of Debt' report looked at the four major episodes of debt increases that have occurred in more than 100 countries since 1970 — the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s, the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s and the global financial crisis from 2007 to 2009.
The bank said during the fourth wave, from 2010 to 2018, the debt to GDP ratio of developing countries has risen by more than half to 168 per cent.
That was a faster increase on an annual basis than during the Latin American debt crisis.
Problematically, the rise in debt has been across both private companies and governments across the world, amplifying the risks if there is another global financial crisis.
The impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on economic prospects is severe
Growth was weak but stabilising until the coronavirus Covid-19 hit. Restrictions on movement of people, goods and services, and containment measures such as factory closures have cut manufacturing and domestic demand sharply in China. The impact on the rest of the world through business travel and tourism, supply chains, commodities and lower confidence is growing.
The OECD became the first international organisation to sound the alarm about coronavirus on Monday, saying the world economy was “at risk” and warning of the possibility that global growth will halve this year from its previous forecast. Just the effect of the widespread closure of factories and businesses in China was likely to cut 0.5 percentage points from the global growth forecast in 2020, the Paris-based international organisation said, lowering its forecast from an already weak 2.9 per cent to 2.4 per cent. That puts the global economy on the verge of a recession, which is traditionally defined as growth below 2.5 per cent. If there was a “longer lasting and more intensive coronavirus outbreak, spreading widely throughout the Asia-Pacific region, Europe and North America”, prospects would dim further and global growth “could drop to 1.5 per cent in 2020, half the rate projected prior to the virus outbreak,” the OECD added. Calling on governments to act “swiftly and forcefully” on health and economic effects, it called for supportive monetary and fiscal policies to restore confidence even though it recognised that economic policies cannot offset the immediate effects of shutdowns in business activity designed to slow the spread of the virus.
Ray Dalio said:I will repeat my overarching perspective, which is that I don’t like to take bets on things that I don’t feel I have a big edge on, I don’t like to make any one bet really big, and I’d rather seek how to neutralize myself against big unknowns than how to bet on them. That applies to the coronavirus. Still, there’s no getting around having to figure out what this situation is likely to mean and how we should deal with it, so here are my thoughts for you to take or leave. In reading them please realize that I’m a “dumb shit” when it comes to viruses, though I do get to triangulate with some of the world’s best experts. So, for the little that they’re worth, here are my thoughts.
As I see it there are three different things going on that are related yet are very different and shouldn’t be confused: 1) the virus, 2) the economic impact of reactions to the virus, and 3) the market action. They all will be affected by highly emotional reactions. Individually and together they lend themselves to a giant whipsaw with big mispricings, with the off chance that it will trigger the downturn that I have been worried would happen with both the big wealth/political gap and the end of the big debt cycle (when debts are high and central banks are impotent in trying to stimulate).
1) The Virus
The virus itself will almost certainly a) come and go and b) have a big emotional impact, which will most likely produce a big whipsaw. It will most likely lead to an uncontained global health crisis that could have high human and economic costs, though how it is handled and what the consequences will be will vary a lot by location (which will also affect how their markets behave). Containing the virus (i.e., minimizing its spreading) will occur best where there are 1) capable leaders who are able to make executive decisions well and quickly, 2) a population that follows orders, 3) a capable bureaucracy to enforce and administer the plans, and 4) a capable health system to identify and treat the virus well and quickly. It will require the leaders to turn on “social distancing” quickly and effectively ahead of the virus accelerating and to withdraw it quickly as it declines. I believe that China will excel at this, major developed economies will be less good but OK, and those who are weaker than them in these respects will be dangerously worse. For this reason, I am told that it’s likely that it will s pread fast in these other countries and roughly in proportion to those four factors I just mentioned, and likely as a function of the weather (e.g., the hot weather in the Southern Hemisphere is thought to be an inhibitor). Because it is spreading fast to many countries and the reported cases and deaths are likely to increase rapidly, the news is likely to rapidly increase panicky reactions. Also, in the US there will be much more testing happening over the next couple of weeks, which will dramatically increase the numbers of reported infected people, which will also probably lead to more severe reactions and greater social distancing controls. I am told that the stresses on hospitals could become very large, which will make handling the cases of all patients more difficult. In short, I am told that we should expect much more serious problems ahead.
2) The Economic Impact
Reactions to the virus (e.g., “social distancing”) will probably cause a big short-term economic decline followed by a rebound, which probably will not leave a big sustained economic impact. The fact of the matter is that history has shown that even big death tolls have been much bigger emotional affairs than sustained economic and market affairs. My look into the Spanish flu case, which I’m treating as our worst-case scenario, conveys this view; so do the other cases.
While I don’t think this will have a longer-term economic impact, I can’t say for sure that it won’t because, as you know, I believe that history has shown us that when a) there is a large wealth/political gap and there is a battle against populists of the left and populists of the right and b) there is an economic downturn, there are likely to be greater and more dysfunctional conflicts between the sides that undermine the effectiveness of decision making, and this is made worse when c) there are large debts and ineffective monetary policies and d) there are rising powers challenging the existing world powers. The last time that happened was during the 1930s leading up to World War II, and the time before that was in the period leading up to World War I. Certainly, the wealth gap and political conflict leading to possible policy changes will be top of mind along with the coronavirus on this Super Tuesday.
3) The Market Impact
The world is now leveraged long with a lot of cash still on the sidelines—i.e., most investors are long equities and other risky assets and the amount of leveraging that has taken place to support these positions has been large because low interest rates relative to expected returns on equities and the need to leverage up low returns to make them larger have led to this. The actions taken to curtail business activities will certainly cut revenues until the virus and business activity reverse which will lead to a rebound in revenue. That should (but won’t certainly) lead to V- or U-shaped financials for most companies. However, during the drop, the market impact on leveraged companies in the most severely affected economies will probably be significant. We will show you what that looks like shortly. My guess is that the markets will probably not distinguish well between those which can and cannot withstand well the temporary shock and will focus more on their temporary hit to revenues than they should and underweight the credit impact—e.g., a company with plenty of cash and a big temporary economic hit will probably be exaggeratedly hit relative to one that is less economically hit but has a lot of short-term debt.
Additionally, it seems to me that this is one of those once in 100 years catastrophic events that annihilates those who provide insurance against it and those who don’t take insurance to protect themselves against it because they treat it as the exposed bet that they can take because it virtually never happens. These folks come in all sorts of forms, such as insurance companies who insured against the consequences that we are about to experience, those who sold deep-out-of-the-money options planning to earn the premiums and cover their exposures through dynamic hedging if and when the prices get near in the money, etc. The markets are being, and will continue to be, affected by these sorts of market players getting squeezed and forced to make market moves because of cash-flow issues rather than because of thoughtful fundamental analysis. We are seeing this in very unusual and fundamentally unwarranted market action. Also, what’s interesting is how attractive some companies with good cash yields have become, especially as many market players have been shaken out.
As far as central bank policies are concerned, interest-rate cuts and increased liquidity won’t lead to any material pickup in buying and activity from people who don’t want to go out and buy, though they can goose risky asset prices a bit at the cost of bringing rates closer to hitting ground zero. That’s true in the US. In Europe and Japan, monetary policy is virtually out of gas so it’s difficult to imagine how pure monetary policy will work. In Europe, it will be interesting to see if fiscal policy stimulations can pick up in this political environment. Also, in all countries, don’t expect much more stimulation coming from rate cuts because most of the rate cuts have already happened via the declines in bond and note yields which is what equities and most other assets are priced off of. So, it seems to me that containing the economic damage requires coordinated monetary and fiscal policy targeted more at specific cases of debt/liquidity-constrained entities rather than more blanket cuts in rates and broad increases in liquidity.
The most important assets that you need to take good care of are you and your family. As with investing, I hope that you will imagine the worst-case scenario and protect yourself against it.