Many indicators in global finance are pointing downwards – and some even think the crash has begun.
Let’s assemble the evidence. First, the unsustainable debt. Since 2007, the pile of debt in the world has grown by $57tn (£37tn).
The underlying cause of this debt glut is the $12tn of free or cheap money created by central banks since 2009, combined with near-zero interest rates. When the real price of money is close to zero, people borrow and worry about the consequences later.
Next, let’s look at the price of real things. Oil collapsed first, in mid 2014, falling from $110 a barrel to $49 now, despite a slight rebound in the interim. Next came commodities. Copper cost $4.50 a pound in 2011, but was half that in September.
In these circumstances, the only way in which the expanding credit mountain can be an accurate signal about the future is if we are about to go through a spectacular productivity boom. The technology is there to do that, but the social arrangements are not.
In short, as the BIS economists put it, this is “a world in which debt levels are too high, productivity growth too weak and financial risks too threatening”.
It’s impossible to extrapolate from all this the date the crash will happen, or the form it will take. All we know is there is a mismatch between rising credit, falling growth, trade and prices, and a febrile financial market.
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