There has been a lot of speculation lately about the extent to which the current growing trade war may affect the economy and markets. Some expect a benign effect on both. Well, Bloomberg has run a piece arguing that the trade war may lead to a Chinese debt crisis, which could in turn lead to a global financial crisis. The impact of the tariffs on the Chinese economy could be serious. China is already seeing a very high level of defaults, and with the extra burden of tariffs coupled with a weaker Yuan, it could create credit chaos for Beijing. Bloomberg put it this way, saying “That the massive burden of debt will drag the economy into recession is as obvious as the empty towers that rise on every landscape … But on any metric, the amount of new lending each year grows faster than the economy, and the interest newly owed exceeds the incremental rise in GDP. In other words, the whole economy is a Ponzi scheme”.
FINSUM: It is hard to imagine a more forceful comment than that last one from Bloomberg. We don’t know if we would go so far, but given how indebted the Chinese economy is, and their reliance on exports, tariffs could spark a meltdown that then spreads overseas.
Three of the foremost experts on Financial Crises—proven by their experience in 2008—have just weighed in on the threat of another Crisis. Ben Bernanke, Tim Geithner, and Hank Paulson have just commented in a joint press conference that while the US financial system has better barriers in place to prevent a crisis, its tool kit should one come is considerably weaker than in 2009. The main weaknesses cited were the massive increase in debt the government has experienced since the Crisis, giving it less room to bail out the market; and secondly, the deep political divisions which could more easily block any bipartisan action that may be necessary to save the financial system. Geithner summed it up this way, saying “Better defenses, weaker arsenal”.
FINSUM: This is some very good insight from the most experienced Crisis fighters out there. All their points sound quite reasonable to us.
Hedge fund managers have seen a real decline in their reputations over the last decade. Chronic underperformance and the rise of passive vehicles has led to a high degree of skepticism. Therefore, take their comments with a grain of salt. That said, the hedge fund community is ever more loudly saying a new crisis is on the way. Particularly in Europe, famed managers are saying a repeat of the Crisis is coming. These names include Crispin Odey, Alan Howard, Greg Coffey, and Russell Clark.
FINSUM: There is a lot of doom and gloom out there, but there has been for years (periodically). Everyone was saying the same thing in 2015, and here we are three years later with markets much higher and the economy doing well. That said, we do see some storm clouds brewing.
In what shocked us as a very eye opening statement, a number of funds are saying the market now is more fragile than before the Financial Crisis. According to one so-called tail fund, or funds that invest for profiting when there is a big market reversal, “The financial system is a lot more fragile than it was in 2007 … Leverage is up on every single metric, in just about every category, and debt has increased. The more you indebt someone, the more fragile they become, especially with variable interest rates”, says hedge fund manager Richard Haworth.
FINSUM: These kind of funds are always warning about the next catastrophe, but somehow their warnings seem more prescient right now.
A huge investment bank has just put out an eye-opening, no, eye-watering, article that jumps right off your browser window. Societe Generale is now saying that the S&P 500 will fall to its 2009 lows. And not just that, as SocGen says we will fall into a new financial “ice age”. The argument is based on analysis of what happened to Japan’s markets and economy in the 1990s, a fate Societe Generale says the West is doomed to repeat. The bank argues that the West was headed for this fate when the Financial Crisis kicked off, but that the Fed managed to reverse the pattern by inflating assets.
FINSUM: This is one of the most bearish arguments we have ever read. We doubt this will occur, but nonetheless felt compelled to share it.