Sunday, January 17, 2010

It has barely begun

On Thursday, I attended a Goldman Sachs investment conference in Lucerne. Jim O'Neill, the firm's chief strategist, gave the keynote presentation containing an outlook for the world economy, which was surprisingly optimistic (this year's global growth rate is expected at 4.4% vs 3.9% consensus). To my question where deleveraging was in that picture, he answered that it wasn't because there is no reliable information about leverage available, and that we shouldn't trust anyone who claims to have it.

It appears to be more than a little cavalier to ignore a presumably major phenomenon simply because it is hard to measure. It is therefore very timely that MGI has just published a major report on debt and deleveraging. MGI looks at the buildup of debt at a per country and per sector level and distills four archetypal deleveraging scenarios from past episodes: Austerity, Inflation, Default and Growth. Unsurprisingly, they find that deleveraging has only just begun in a quite moderate way, as private sector debt reduction is compensated by increasing public sector debt.

No comments: