The headline above is not a mistake; aggregate debt to GDP is now growing again in the US . This is evident if we look at the broadest measure of credit in the US which rose to a new high of $57 trillion USD in the first quarter of 2013.
The cyclical recovery in Europe is real and will likely have further to go in the second half of this year. However, amid upbeat cyclical indicators, it is important to keep a close eye on developments in the periphery and in particular Spain. The process of clearing bad debts is far from over in our view and the idea that Spain has, “turned the corner” lacks logic and evidence.
In our view, the Spanish banking system is in need of wholesale recapitalisation to deal with the sizeable losses in the country’s property market. This will likely include a bad bank provision. Before that happens, the ECB’s open market operations will mainly buy time in the form of liquidity as well as provide banks with money to exchange bad loans for lending to the government.
Greece is in default and Ireland and Portugal are in limbo with the market pricing in a Greek outcome in both economies. However, the situation has changed in Spain and Italy and on this measure alone, the ECB’s LTRO has been successful.
Many economists expect catastrophic consequences if any country exits the euro. However, during the past century sixty-nine countries have exited currency areas with little downward economic volatility. The mechanics of currency breakups are complicated but feasible, and historical examples provide a road map for exit.
The real problem in Europe is that EU peripheral countries face severe, unsustainable imbalances in real effective exchange rates and external debt levels that are higher than most previous emerging market crises. Orderly defaults and debt rescheduling coupled with devaluations are inevitable and even desirable. Exiting from the euro and devaluation would …