This week we look at a report called “Working Out of Debt,” about debt and deleveraging, from the McKinsey Global Institute. This is a well-done summary of their longer paper, which has been updated, called “Debt and deleveraging: Uneven progress on the path to growth.” I discussed the original paper both in my regular letter and in Endgame. It is one of the best, most definitive pieces on the topic I have read. For those trying to understand how the deleveraging process will affect their particular world, I think it is a must-read. I have been spending more and more time thinking about the whole process of deleveraging, and am coming to think deleveraging is the critical and fundamental factor shaping the economic environment and impacting every decision countries and businesses are faced with. This paper was done by Karen Croxson, Susan Lund, and Charles Roxburgh; and they are to be especially commended for their insight and work.
This summary and the full report look at the relevant lessons from history about how governments can support economic recovery amid deleveraging, and at the signposts business leaders can look for to see where economies are in that process.
Overall, they tell us, the deleveraging process has only just begun: “During the past two and a half years, the ratio of debt to GDP, driven by rising government debt, has actually grown in the aggregate in the world’s ten largest developed economies. Private-sector debt has fallen, however, which is in line with historical experience: overextended households and corporations typically lead the deleveraging process; governments begin to reduce their debts later, once they have supported the economy into recovery.”
You can sign up at their website and see the full report at https://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Working_out_of_debt_2914. I would strongly recommend you do so, not only for this report but because their website is chock full of well-done articles on a wide variety of topics, and they update it frequently with more material. It is all top-notch. It is worth visiting just to see what they have done in areas that may be of more specific interest to you, or because like me you are an information junkie and want to keep up on a wider world than just macro-economics.
Have a great week. Mine will be busy but interesting, which is always good. And this Friday I start a series on the choices that we face in the US, so there will be lots to ponder amidst the noise.
Your wondering how the Giants got into the Super Bowl analyst,
As my good friend Gary Shilling says, in leading off his piece on 2012 investment themes, which is this week's OTB, "This year is just the first step in the long-run journey that will continue to be dominated by The Age of Deleveraging" – which also just happens to be the title of Gary's latest book. Whether you call it that or call it the End Game, as I have, it shapes up as a profoundly different and challenging era for all of us. Gary identifies 9 causes of slow global growth in the years ahead:
1. U.S. consumers will shift from a 25-year borrowing-and-spending binge to a saving spree. This will spread abroad as American consumers curtail the imports of the goods and services many foreign nations depend on for economic growth.
2. Financial deleveraging will reverse the trend that financed much global growth in recent years.
3. Increased government regulation and involvement in major economies will stifle innovation and reduce efficiency.
4. Low commodity prices will limit spending by commodity-producing lands.
5. Developed countries are moving toward fiscal restraint.
6. Rising protectionism will slow–even eliminate–global growth.
7. The housing market will be weak due to excess inventories and loss of investment appeal.
8. Deflation will curtail spending as buyers anticipate lower prices.
9. State and local governments will contract.
Gary has always been prescient in looking ahead – witness his call nearly a year ahead of the Great Housing Debacle that commenced in '07 – but you don't just want to know what's coming, you want to know what to do about it; and that's exactly what Gary is going to run down for you, sector by sector and asset by asset, in the following pages.
I note that this piece is just an excerpt from the January issue of Gary's INSIGHT newsletter. OTB readers can get the entire 48-page tour de force, and a full year's subscription, plus the Jan. 2013 issue as a bonus, for $275 via email, by calling them at 888-346-7444 or 973-467-0070. Be sure to mention Outside the Box to get the special rate and free issue.
Now let's check out Gary's investing themes for the coming year.
Your antsy about 2012 analyst,