Next month marks the tenth anniversary of the financial crisis that shook the world. I said at the time that the financial ramifications would not last as long as the economic ramifications, and the economic ramifications would not last as long as the political ramifications. That prediction, based on the history of the Great Depression, turned out to be more accurate than I could have imagined.
But politics aside—my friends at the McKinsey Global Institute have done a useful primer on where the world stands a decade later in economic and financial terms. You can read the full briefing note here. Some key takeaways:
Global debt continues to grow. A decade ago, many predicted a period of deleveraging. In fact, the combined debt of governments, nonfinancial corporations, and households has grown by a stunning $72 trillion since the end of 2007, and the global debt-to-GDP ratio has grown from 207% to 236%.
Government debt grew fastest—from $29 trillion to $60 trillion—as government spending rose in response to the crisis. Corporate debt also soared, fueled by low interest rates—from $37 trillion to $66 trillion. Household debt declined, as a share of GDP in the countries hit by the crisis, including the U.S., U.K. and Germany, but rose in other advanced countries, including Australia, Canada, and South Korea. Overall, household debt grew from $31 trillion to $43 trillion.
Banks are safer, but less profitable. Tier 1 capital ratios have risen from less than 4% in the U.S. and Europe in 2007 to more than 15% last year. Return on equity for banks in advanced countries has fallen by half, with the biggest declines in Europe.
Contagion is less likely, as a result of a sharp decline in cross-border capital flows, which have dropped from $12.7 trillion in 2007 to $5.9 trillion last year. Europe led the retreat from international activity.
New risks bear watching. Policy makers have a tendency to fight the last war. Where might the next one be fought? Growth in corporate debt bears watching, particularly as interest rates rise. China—which has seen the fastest growth in corporate debt—gives cause for pause, especially since roughly half of that debt is associated with real estate. Cryptocurrencies have reached “bubble-like conditions,” the report says. And looming over everything “are heightened geopolitical tensions, with potential flash points now spanning the globe and nationalist movements questioning institutions, long-standing relationships, and the concept of free trade.”
Which brings us back to politics. More news below.
U.S. corporate profits in the second quarter were 16.1% up year-on-year, thanks to the Trump administration’s tax cuts—taxes paid were down by a third—and strong economic growth, which at 4.2% outstripped an earlier estimate of 4.1%. Wall Street Journal
Moody’s has cut Ford’s credit rating to one notch above junk, with a negative outlook. The ratings agency has little confidence in the iconic carmaker’s ability to restructure its business effectively, and notes that its “global business position” is slipping. CEO Jim Hackett’s “fitness initiative” is necessary, Moody’s said, but “it will take several years for material financial and operating benefits of the program to be realized” and “success could be challenged by having to address the serious performance problems in multiple business units simultaneously.” Bloomberg
Amazon v. Bernie
Bernie Sanders hammered Amazon over low wages and poor fulfilment-center working conditions, and Amazon unusually hit back. “Senator Sanders continues to spread misleading statements about pay and benefits,” the company said in a blog post. “We encourage anyone to compare our pay and benefits to other retailers.” Fox Business
The South African telecoms giant MTN Group lost more a fifth of its value after Nigeria’s central bank said MTN and its bankers had illegally moved $8.1 billion abroad, and must return it. The telco’s share price fell by more than 21% this morning. MTN Nigeria denies the central bank’s claim that it must refund dividends repatriated by MTN Nigeria between 2007 and 2015. BusinessTech
Around the Water Cooler
Trump on Canada
President Trump says the U.S. and Canada are “probably on track” to see the latter join in NAFTA’s replacement, which he is currently calling “The United States-Mexico Trade Agreement,” by tomorrow. Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said the negotiations were at a “very intense moment…and we’re trying to get a lot of things done very quickly.” CNBC
India’s epic demonetization drive of 2016—in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi startled the nation by abruptly voiding 500- and 1000-rupee banknotes in order to flush “dark money” out of the system—was a crashing failure, according to a new Reserve Bank of India report. Not only did the episode snip 1% off the Indian GDP and destroy 1.5 million jobs, but Indians returned more than 99% of the voided notes to the country’s banks. That means Modi failed to touch the unaccounted wealth he was trying to target. Guardian
Argentina has asked the IMF to accelerate its bailout by releasing a $50 billion loan earlier than planned. IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said the fund was ready to assist the Argentine government in “developing its revised policy plans.” The Argentine peso has fallen 40% against the dollar this year despite the world’s highest interest rates and IMF backing, and the government seems to be getting desperate. BBC
China and North Korea
President Trump has accused China of thwarting the U.S.’s attempts to denuclearize North Korea, prompting Beijing to accuse him of “irresponsible and absurd logic.” Trump’s much-touted deal with Kim Jong-un hasn’t borne much fruit, and the U.S. is now threatening to resume military exercises with South Korea. Trump tweeted: “North Korea is under tremendous pressure from China because of our major trade disputes with the Chinese Government.” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying: “This logic is not easily understood by all.” South China Morning Post