Not a good article right at the start of the year. Carmen Reinhart rings warning bells for 2016:
When it comes to sovereign debt, the term “default” is often misunderstood. It almost never entails the complete and permanent repudiation of the entire stock of debt; indeed, even some Czarist-era Russian bonds were eventually (if only partly) repaid after the 1917 revolution. Rather, non-payment – a “default,” according to credit-rating agencies, when it involves private creditors – typically spurs a conversation about debt restructuring, which can involve maturity extensions, coupon-payment cuts, grace periods, or face-value reductions (so-called “haircuts”).
If history is a guide, such conversations may be happening a lot in 2016.
Which ones? She says Puerto Rico, China, Brazil and of course the perennial Brazil:
Some of the biggest risks lie in the emerging economies, which are suffering primarily from a sea change in the global economic environment. During China’s infrastructure boom, it was importing huge volumes of commodities, pushing up their prices and, in turn, growth in the world’s commodity exporters, including large emerging economies like Brazil. Add to that increased lending from China and huge capital inflows propelled by low US interest rates, and the emerging economies were thriving. The global economic crisis of 2008-2009 disrupted, but did not derail, this rapid growth, and emerging economies enjoyed an unusually crisis-free decade until early 2013.
But the US Federal Reserve’s move to increase interest rates, together with slowing growth (and, in turn, investment) in China and collapsing oil and commodity prices, has brought the capital inflow bonanza to a halt. Lately, many emerging-market currencies have slid sharply, increasing the cost of servicing external dollar debts. Export and public-sector revenues have declined, giving way to widening current-account and fiscal deficits. Growth and investment have slowed almost across the board.
From a historical perspective, the emerging economies seem to be headed toward a major crisis. Of course, they may prove more resilient than their predecessors. But we shouldn’t count on it.
In all likelihood, another year which will keep us on the edge if our seats..