According to the International Monetary Fund, global debt has grown to a staggering grand total of 152 trillion dollars. Other estimates put that figure closer to 200 trillion dollars, but for the purposes of this article let’s use the more conservative number. If you take 152 trillion dollars and divide it by the seven billion people living on the planet, you get $21,714, which would be the share of that debt for every man, woman and child in the world if it was divided up equally.
So if you have a family of four, your family’s share of the global debt load would be $86,856.
Just as everyone was finally accepting the idea of deflation and negative interest rates, inflation decides to pay a return visit. In the past week, articles with the following headlines appeared in major publications around the world:
What happened? Well, towards the end of 2015 most of the world’s major governments apparently got spooked by deflation and decided to ramp up their borrowing and money creation. China, for instance, generated the following stats in 2016:
New loans totaling 12.65 trillion yuan, or $1.8 trillion.
M2 money supply growth of 11%.
Debt-to-GDP ratio jump from 254% to 277%.
In Europe, the European Central Bank ramped up its bond buying program, pumping about a trillion newly-created euros into the Continental economy:
A Korean special prosecutor indicted Samsung chief Jay Y. Lee on bribery charges.
Korean press is reporting that China has told its travel agents to halt sales of holiday packages to South Korea.
Bulgaria’s interim government said it may apply to join the eurozone within a month.
South Africa’s main labor union Cosatu accepted a government-proposed minimum wage.
New Commerce Secretary Ross appears to be taking a less confrontational stance with regards to Nafta.
Press reports suggest Mexico may request a swap line from the Fed.
Peru’s central bank cut reserve requirements again.
In the EM equity space as measured by MSCI, Turkey (+1.5%), Czech Republic (+1.4%), and Mexico (+1.2%) have outperformed this week, while Colombia (-3.4%), Brazil (-2.1%), and UAE (-2.1%) have underperformed. To put this in better context, MSCI EM fell -1.4% this week while MSCI DM rose 0.3%.
In the EM local currency bond space, India (10-year yield -11 bp), Poland (-9 bp), and Indonesia (-3 bp) have outperformed this week, while Turkey (10-year yield +44 bp), Colombia (+18 bp), and Malaysia (+14 bp) have underperformed. To put this in better context, the 10-year UST yield rose 18bp to 2.50%.
In the EM FX space, MXN (+1.6% vs. USD), PLN (+0.4% vs. EUR), and ARS (+0.2% vs. USD) have outperformed this week, while COP (-3.1% vs. USD), TRY (-3.0% vs. USD), and KRW (-2.2% vs. USD) have underperformed.
A Korean special prosecutor indicted Samsung chief Jay Y. Lee on bribery charges. He is accused of exchanging bribes for government favors, which were uncovered during the investigation of President Park. Lee allegedly directed tens of millions of dollars to a confidante of President Park in return for government support of a 2015 merger that benefited his interests. These developments could fundamentally change the role of the chaebol in the Korean economy.
Korean press is reporting that China has told its travel agents to halt sales of holiday packages to South Korea. If confirmed, the move would likely be in retaliation for Korea agreeing to deploy a US missile defense system. Spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry said he wasn’t aware of any such measures while an official at the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) said China has issued the ban. KTO estimates that nearly half of the foreign visitors to Korea last year were from China.
China’s National People’s Congress gets underway this weekend, and investors will get an update on the health of the US labour market.
Here’s what to watch in the coming days.
Li Keqiang, China’s premier, delivers the country’s proposed economic targets on Sunday at the opening of the fifth session of the 12th National People’s Congress, the country’s top legislature.
While much of the discussion takes place in closed-door meetings, economists are paying attention to the Government Work Report and the 2017 growth target. Jian Chang, economist at Barclays, said their base case is for 6.5 per cent growth. He also expects the government to maintain the budget deficit at 3 per cent and inflation target at 3 per cent.
On the politics front, China-watchers will keep their eyes peeled for clues on who could make it to China’s 25-member Politburo and possibly the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), following a reshuffle of some senior provincial and central government leaders, particularly with the 19th Party Congress scheduled for this fall.
UK chancellor Philip Hammond will present his first budget on Wednesday, and economists expect it to show a decline in gilt issuance.
“The UK economy has outperformed earlier forecasts, and so there should be a bit more revenue to play with, leading to the first decline in borrowing in 3 years,” strategists at TD Securities said. “But we see a cautious budget with few giveaways as the UK approaches Brexit.”
One week ago, Deutsche Bank analysts warned that the global economic boom is about to end for one reason that has nothing to do with Trump, and everything to do with China’s relentless debt injections. As DB’s Oliver Harvey said, “attention has focused on President Trump, but developments on the other side of the world may prove more important. At the beginning of 2016, China embarked on its latest fiscal stimulus funded from local government land sales and a booming property market. The Chinese business cycle troughed shortly thereafter and has accelerated rapidly since.”
DB then showed a chart of leading indicators according to which following a blistering surge in credit creation by Beijing, the economy was on the verge of another slowdown: “That makes last week’s softer-than-expected official and Caixin PMIs a concern. Land sales, which have led ‘live’ indicators of Chinese growth such as railway freight volumes by around 6 months, have already tailed off significantly. “
After Credit Suisse reported yet another significant loss for the full year 2016, amounting to 2.35 billion Swiss francs, more than the CHF2.07bn expected, the Swiss banking giant said it was looking to lay off up to 6,500 workers and said it was examining alternatives to a planned stock market listing of its Swiss business.
“We’re setting a target now of between 5,500 and 6,500 for 2017,” Chief Financial Officer David Mathers said in a call with analysts on Tuesday after the bank published earnings. The bank did not specify where the extra cuts would come but said this would include contractors, consultants and staff, Reuters reported.
For the fourth quarter, Credit Suisse reported a 2.35 billion franc net loss, largely on the back of a roughly $2 billion charge to settle U.S. claims the bank misled investors in the sale of residential mortgage-backed securities. Despite the loss, Credit Suisse proposed an unchanged dividend of 0.70 francs per share, in line with market expectations.
CEO Tidjane Thiam, who took over at Switzerland’s second biggest bank just over 18 months ago, is shifting the group more toward wealth management and putting less emphasis on investment banking. As part of his turnaround plans, the bank is looking to cut billions of dollars in costs and cut a net 7,250 jobs in 2016 with more to follow this year.
With two months left until the French election, analysts and political experts find themselves in a quandary: on one hand, political polls show that while National Front’s Marine Le Pen will likely win the first round, she is virtually assured a loss in the runoff round against either Fillon, or more recently Macron, having between 20 and 30% of the vote; on the other, all those same analysts and political experts were dead wrong with their forecasts about both Brexit and Trump, and are desperate to avoid a trifecta as being wrong 3 out of 3 just may be result in losing one’s job.
Meanwhile, markets are taking Le Pen’s rise in the polls in stride, and French spreads over Germany are moving in lockstep with Le Pen’s rising odds. In fact, as noted earlier in the week, French debt is now the riskiest it has been relative to German in four years.
While Bank of Japan officials see no grounds for Donald Trump’s accusation of currency devaluation, they still worry that the bank’s unique measure to control long-term rates could become the next target as the president continues his rhetorical battles.
“I have no idea what he is saying,” said one baffled BOJ official after learning about the criticism Trump leveled against the central bank.
Bond investors seem similarly perturbed. Yields on 10-year Japanese government bonds temporarily rose 0.025 percentage point Thursday, hitting 0.115% — the highest since the BOJ announcement of negative interest rates Jan. 29, 2016. The climb also reflects market anxiety over whether the central bank will continue buying up JGBs at the current pace.
BOJ Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda refuted Trump’s accusation in the Diet on Wednesday, saying Japan’s monetary policy is designed to defeat persistent deflation and not to keep the yen weak. “We discuss monetary policy every time Group of 20 finance ministers and central bankers meet,” he said. “It is understood among other central banks that [Japan] is pursuing monetary easing for price stability.”
In fact, U.S. monetary policy is chiefly responsible for the yen’s depreciation against the dollar. The Federal Reserve in 2015 switched to a tightening mode after keeping interest rates near zero for years, judging quantitative easing to have worked its expansionary magic on the economy. The gap between American and Japanese rates is now the widest it has been in around seven years, encouraging heavier buying of the dollar — the higher-yielding currency — than the yen.
The Income Tax department has identified 18 lakh people who have made ‘suspicious’ cash deposits post demonetisation, including those having deposited over Rs5 lakh, and will send emails and SMSes seeking explanation about their source of funds.
These people will have to reply within 10 days to avoid any notice from the tax department or further enforcement action.
The department today launched ‘Operation Clean Money’ project under which CBDT, with data analysis and profiling of assessees, will send e-communications to people whose cash deposits post November 8 note ban do not match their income.
“Operation Clean Money/Swachh Dhan Abhiyan is a programming software which will be used to get answers on all the deposits made and only after preliminary answers from the people, if need be, we would take legal action against those people,” Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia said.
Adhia also said Operation Clean Money will ensure there is no physical contact between the assessee and the tax department officials as questions will be asked online.
“People have been fearing there will be Inspector Raj as tax department will have data about all the deposits. But, the new programing software will enable e-verification of all bank deposits during the period of demonetisation,” he said.
Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) Chairman Sushil Chandra said 10 days’ time would be given to people to reply to the e-communication and replies can be filed by logging on to the e-filing portal of the Income Tax department.
“In the initial phase, we are putting data of those persons who have deposited Rs5 lakh or more and deposits between Rs3 lakh and Rs5 lakh of suspicious nature and who have poor tax compliance after November 8,” Chandra said.
Initially, this will cover 18 lakh tax payers whose data will be uploaded on e-filing portal. These people while filing reply have to explain to tax department the sources of deposit
Press reports suggest that China’s central bank has ordered banks to limit new loans in Q1.
Fitch revised the outlook on Nigeria’s B+ rating from stable to negative.
Russia announced details of the FX purchase plan.
Brazil’s central bank confirmed it will simplify the reserve requirement system for banks.
S&P cut the outlook on Chile’s AA- rating from stable to negative.
Mexican announced another hike in fuel prices will take place on February 4.
Mexican President Pena Nieto canceled a planned meeting with President Trump as tensions flare
In the EM equity space as measured by MSCI, Mexico (+5.1%), Russia (+4.5%), and Poland (+4.0%) have outperformed this week, while UAE (-1.5%), Hungary (-0.1%), and South Africa (flat) have underperformed. To put this in better context, MSCI EM rose 2.2% this week while MSCI DM rose 1.1%.
In the EM local currency bond space, Colombia (10-year yield -17 bp), the Philippines (-16 bp), and Peru (-10 bp) have outperformed this week, while Poland (10-year yield +18 bp), South Africa (+13 bp), and Korea (+7 bp) have underperformed. To put this in better context, the 10-year UST yield rose 3 bp this week to 2.50%.
In the EM FX space, MXN (+2.7% vs. USD), CLP (+1.1% vs. USD), and ZAR (+0.9% vs. USD) have outperformed this week, while TRY (-2.7% vs. USD), HUF (-0.7% vs. EUR), and COP (-0.4% vs. USD) have underperformed.
Press reports suggest that China’s central bank has ordered banks to limit new loans in Q1. The PBOC reportedly emphasized its concern about mortgage lending. Reports also suggest that it may make some lenders pay more for deposit insurance. If reports are true, then we would expect the economy to slow as we move through 2017. For now, China is not one of the major market drivers but this news would clearly be negative for risk and EM.