Category Archives: leverage risk

5/1/20: EU’s Latest Financial Transactions Tax Agreement

My article on the proposed EU-10 plan for the Financial Transaction Tax via The Currency:

Link: or

Key takeaways:

"Following years of EU-wide in-fighting over various FTT proposals, ten European Union member states are finally approaching a binding agreement on the subject... Ireland, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Malta and Cyprus – the five countries known for aggressively competing for higher value-added services employers and tax optimising multinationals – are not interested."

"The rate will be set at 0.2 per cent and apply to the sales of shares in companies with market capitalisation in excess of €1 billion. This will cover also equity sales in European banks." Pension funds, trading in bonds and derivatives, and new rights issuance will be exempt.

One major fall out is that FTT "can result in higher volumes of sales at the times of markets corrections, sharper flash crashes and deeper markets sell-offs. In other words, lower short-term volatility from reduced speculation can be traded for higher longer-term volatility, and especially pronounced volatility during the crises. ... FTT is also likely to push more equities trading off-exchange, into the ‘dark pools’ and proprietary venues set up offshore, thereby further reducing pricing transparency and efficiency in the public markets."

13/6/19: Russian International Reserves and Government Debt

Earlier today, an esteemed colleague of mine tweeted out the following concerning Russian foreign reserves:

Which is hardly surprising, as Russia has been beefing up its reserves for some time now, following the crisis of 2014-2016 and in response to the continued pressures of Western sanctions. I wrote about this before here:

It is interesting in the light of the above news to look at Russian Government 'net worth' or 'net debt' (note: this is not the total external debt of Russia, nor Government external debt, but the total Russian Government debt comparative). Here is the chart based on the OECD data, with added estimate for Russia for 1Q 2019 based on IMF data and the latest data from CBR:

Based on my estimates and on OECD data itself, Russian Government has the largest positive net worth (lowest net debt) of any country in top 10 countries in the world (measured using nominal GDP adjusted for Purchasing Power Parity), and it is in this position by a wide margin.

The caveat is that India, China and Indonesia are not reported in the OECD data. China's Government net worth is virtually impossible to assess, because the country debt statistics are incomplete and measuring the gross wealth of the Chinese Government is also impossible. India and Indonesia are easier to gauge - both have positive net debt (negative net worth). IMF WEO database shows estimated General Government Net Debt for Indonesia at 25.5 percent of GDP in 2018. India has substantial gross Government debt of ca 70% of GDP (2018 figures), and the Government holds minor level resources, with country's sovereign wealth fund totalling at around 5 billion USD.

Another caveat is where the debt is held (Central Banks holdings of debt are arguably low risk) and whether or not assets held by the Governments are liquid enough to matter in these calculations (for example, Russian gold reserves are liquid, while some of the Russian funds investments in local enterprises are not). These caveats apply to all of the above economies.

On the net, this means that Russian Government is financially in a strongest leveraging position of all major economies in the world.

16/5/19: Gundlach on the U.S. Economy and Debt Super-cycle

U.S. growth over the past five years is based “exclusively” on government, corporate and household debt, according to Jeffrey Gundlach, chief executive of DoubleLine Capital, as reported by Reuters (link below). This is hardly surprising. In my forthcoming article for Manning Financial (in print since last week), I am covering the shaky statistical nature of the U.S. GDP growth figures, and the readers of this blog would know my view on the role of leverage (debt) in the real economy as a drug of choice for boosting superficial medium term growth prospects in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere around the world. What is interesting in Gundlach's musings is that we now see mainstream WallStreet admitting the same.

Per Gundlach, the U.S. economy would have contracted in nominal GDP terms (excluding inflation effects) three out five last years if the United States had not added trillions in new government debt. Just government debt alone. “One thing everybody seems to miss when they look at these GDP numbers ... they seem to not understand that the growth in the GDP it looks pretty good on the screen is really based exclusively on debt - government debt, also corporate debt and even now some growth in mortgage debt.”

And if private sector debt did not expand, U.S. "GDP would have been very negative.” Per Reuters report, nominal GDP rose by 4.3%, but total public debt rose by 4.7% over the past five years, Gundlach noted. "Against this debt backdrop and financial markets “addicted to Federal Reserve stimulus,” these are “very, very dangerous times” for the next U.S. recession, Gundlach ...said."

Per CMBC report on the same speech, Gundlach said that “Any thoughtful person would be concerned... It’s sounding like a pretty bad cocktail of economic risk, and risk to the long end of the bond market.”

As reported by Reuters: and by CNBC

As the charts below show, Gundlach is correct: we are in a continued leverage risk super-cycle. While nominal debt to nominal GDP ratio remains below pre-GFC peak, nominal levels of debt are worrying and debt dynamics are showing sharpest or second sharpest speed of leveraging during the current recovery phase. Worse, since the start of the 1990s, all three non-financial debt sources, households, corporates and the Government, are drawing increasing leverage.