Deficits, debt in The Monday Briefing
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China’s growth rate has slowed in recent years. Its sustainable growth rate has almost halved, to around 6.0% in a decade or so.
By Western standards this is an unattainably rapid growth rate. It would enable China’s economy to double in size every 12 years. China is still a fast-growing country, and one that exercises growing authority on the world stage. From technology to overseas investment and geopolitical influence China increasingly matters.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – dubbed by the authorities as “the Project of the Century” – illustrates the scale of the government’s ambitions. Launched in 2013 as a vast programme of overseas infrastructure, president Xi Jinping proclaimed it would restore the ancient Silk Road trading route that connected Asia and Europe.
To outsiders the British can seem slightly obsessed with house prices. Yet it is an asset that matters. Two-thirds of UK households are owner occupiers and 35% of household wealth is tied up in property.
Last year I was asked to give a presentation on the challenges facing Western policymakers. We ranged widely across a depressing set of subjects, from stagnating incomes to inequality, public sector austerity, job insecurity and the rise of populism.
Last month the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, issued a stark warning about the impact of climate change: “If…companies and industries fail to adjust to this new world, they will fail to exist”. Mr Carney’s statement was co-signed by the chair of the Network for Greening the Financial System, a coalition of 36 central banks, including the People’s Bank of China. The Network helps central banks measure and mitigate the risks to the financial sector posed by climate change. Last month’s statement signals that climate change has well and truly arrived as an issue for central bankers.
Today’s Briefing summarises the findings of the latest Deloitte Survey of Chief Financial Officers which was released overnight. The full report is available at: https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/finance/articles/deloitte-cfo-survey.html
There’s no doubt that growth in the West is slowing. The question is whether the slowdown could turn into a recession. Last month the US yield curve, a key gauge of future US growth, temporarily dipped into recessionary territory for the first time in ten years.
With Brexit uncertainty undimmed we start this week’s Briefing with a short recap on the economics of leaving the EU.
The consensus among economists is that the UK will grow by 1.3% this year and 1.5% next year. With activity slowing across the world, particularly in the euro area, and the UK scheduled to leave the EU, growth at these rates looks pretty respectable. Given the uncertainties facing the UK it’s perhaps surprising that its economy is expected to outpace Italy’s or Germany’s this year.
Last October the International Monetary Fund warned of the risk of another global financial crisis. The Fund sees a 60% rise in global indebtedness in the last ten years and the exposure of banks to illiquid assets as major risks.
The latest Deloitte survey of UK Chief Financial Officers released today shows that uncertainty over Brexit is driving a marked shift towards defensive strategies among British businesses. With the UK’s growth prospects heavily dependent on the so far uncertain nature of its exit from the EU, corporates are cutting back on capital expenditure and hiring. Cost reduction is the top priority for CFOs who are placing a greater emphasis on it now than at any time in the last nine years.
A boom in low quality mortgage lending in America triggered the Global Financial Crisis. It was a crisis of indebtedness which, courtesy of low interest rates, quantitative easing, government spending and bank bailouts, was resolved by the accumulation of even more debt.