Saturday, August 23, 2014

23/8/2014: That Pesky Problem of Real Debt...

Again, revisiting IMF's Article 4 consultation paper for Euro Area, published in July 2014, here is a summary of the Euro area 'peripheral' countries debt overhang.

First real economic debt (debt of non-financial companies, households and public sector):

 Points of note:

  1. Ireland's debt overhang is severe. More severe than of any other 'peripheral' country. Bet you forgot that little bit with all the 'best-in-class' growth performance droning in the media. Ah, and worse, remember, not the level alone, but the rate of debt increases over time, also matters. And by this metric, we too are the worst in the group, both for debt increases on 2003 levels and debt increases on 2008 levels.
  2. Ireland's households' debt has declined over 2008-2013, more so than in Portugal and Spain. But it remains second highest after the Netherlands' and this decline masks true extent of debt problem because 2013 figure no longer counts household debts issued by banks that left Ireland and books of loans sold to investment funds. This also excludes some securitised debt.
  3. Ireland's corporate debt problem is potentially overstating true extent of real debt in the economy, as it includes a small share of MNCs debt - debt issued by Irish institutions. This is likely to be relatively minor, in my view, as MNCs largely do not do debt intermediation via Irish domestic institutions. 
Now on to our household debt deleveraging in more detail:

Good news is, when it comes to our households, we are aggressively deleveraging compared to pre-crisis debt peak. As aggressively (in rate terms) as the U.S. Caveats mentioned above apply.

But there is a problem with all the debt legacy:

In the above 'PS' stands for private sector, not public sector. So private sector debt legacy is associated with negative subsequent economic growth, in general. But as above shows, for the peripheral countries, including the basket case outside Troika capture, Slovenia, and the rarely mentioned case of Finland (see chart below) it is also compounding structurally weak fundamentals other than debt alone.

So a timely reminder: that debt problem - it has not gone away. Not by any measure and most certainly not for Ireland.

Note: to see the problem in Finland consider the following chart:

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