At the end of debt binges, there is a massive increase in speculation, because that’s one of the few uses of borrowed funds that still offers the prospect (always overstated) of a positive return. Such is the case now in China. From John Rubino at dollarcollapse.com:
China’s historic post-2009 debt binge flew largely under the radar — fooling most observers into thinking the global economy was recovering rather than just re-leveraging.
Now Beijing is back at it, borrowing over $1 trillion in this year’s first quarter, buying up commodities and creating the illusion of global growth. But this time the scam hasn’t gone unnoticed. Reporters, editors and money managers seem, at last, to be catching on. Some representative headlines: [see original article for links]
George Soros warns of credit crisis in China
Chinese cities dive back into debt to fuel growth even as defaults rise
China debt climbs to US$25 trillion
China’s banks cut bad debt buffer as profits flatline
Doug Noland, meanwhile, goes to the heart of the problem in last night’s Credit Bubble Bulletin:
I recall an early-1998 Financial Times article highlighting the explosive growth in Russian ruble and bond derivatives. Not only had the “insurance” market for risk protection grown phenomenally, Russian banks had become major operators in what had evolved into a huge speculative Bubble in Russian debt exposures. That was never going to end well.
There was ample evidence suggesting Russia was a house of cards. Yet underpinning this Bubble was the market perception that the West would not allow a Russian collapse. With such faith and the accompanying explosion in speculative trading, leverage and a resulting massive derivatives overhang, any break in confidence would lead to illiquidity, panic and a devastating bust. Just such an outcome unfolded in August/September 1998.
From a recent Financial Times article: “The [Chinese] market for pledge-style repos — short-term, bond-backed loans — is currently bigger than the stock of outstanding debt”. Within this undramatic sentence exists the potential for a rather dramatic global financial crisis. And, to be sure, seemingly the entire world has operated under the assumption that Chinese officials (and global policymakers in general) have zero tolerance for crisis – let alone a collapse. So Credit, speculation and leverage have been accommodated – and they combined to run absolute roughshod.
The Financial Times article includes a chart worthy of color printing and thumbtacking to the wall: “China’s Use of Bonds as Loan Collateral Rises Sharply”. The pink line shows “Onshore Market Bonds” having almost doubled since mid-2011 to about 40 TN rmb ($6.17 TN). The Red Line – “Pledge-Style Repos” – has ballooned four-fold since just early 2014 to surpass 40 TN rmb. So basically, in this popular market for inter-bank borrowings, borrowing banks have pledged bond positions larger than the entire market as collateral for their (perceived safe) short-term borrowing needs.
To continue reading: Consensus Forming: China Heading Back Into Financial Crisis