Based on what Julian Robertson said yesterday, and the fact we all know America is playing with fire - this CBSMarketwatch story had to be the scariest headline of the week. I don't know how realistic it is, but if China eventually turns into a net debtor instead of creditor... it will be time to call in Scooby Doo: Ruh Roh Raggy!
- China is emerging as a key export destination for Asian economies faster than many expected, thanks to the impact of rising income levels and government stimulus on the nation's consumption.
- But as import growth continues to outpace the nation's export growth after bottoming out earlier this year, the world's largest foreign-exchange accumulator is now on a path to start reporting trade deficits soon, according to Eric Fishwick, head of CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets' head of economic research.
- China will be recording, at the current run rate of exports and import growth, monthly trade deficits early next year or the turn of the year, Fishwick said Monday at the CLSA Investors' Forum 2009. What is remarkable about its composition of imports is not just the pace, but the breadth. Nearly everything is going up at more or less the same sort of rate.
- Official data released earlier this month showed that China's exports slumped a larger-than-expected 23.4% in August from the same period a year earlier, while imports narrowed by a margin of 17%.
- Fishwick said trade data released by other emerging countries in Asia show that China has been a big importer of a range of other products, outside of commodities, including motor vehicles and parts, along with other consumer durables and electronic products.
- The trend bears out in other nations' trade statistics as well. Singapore, for instance, reported its non-oil exports to Europe fell 27% on year in August, but non-oil exports to China dropped just 5.3%. Even Taiwan reported an overall on-year drop of 24.6% in August exports but a more modest 18.5% fall for its exports to China.
Hmmm, so our largest creditor suddenly would not incrementally more money to keep funding our massive deficits. Oh well, I'm not too worried about it - these things always work out in the end (source: kick the can policies)
- And as the pace of China's investments exceeds the growth in its savings, the current account is also likely to swing from its traditional surplus to a deficit by 2010.
- The size of that deficit may be miniscule for a country with over $2.1 trillion in foreign-exchange reserves, but it would be a sizeable shift from the surplus of around $430 billion recorded in 2008, he said.
- If China indeed reports a deficit in 2010, it would be its first such current-account gap since 1993.
- Fishwick said that a current-account deficit for China may hardly be noticed at home, but it might prove to be a major problem for the rest of the world, including the U.S. In recent years, China has been a major purchaser of Treasurys, a factor which has helped in keeping U.S. interest rates lower then they otherwise could be.
- In 2010, China's net purchases might be substantially smaller than they are now. They might even be turning net sellers, said Fishwick. (that would be frightful)
- That unfortunately means that the vast amount of Treasurys that need to be floated to fund the [fiscal] deficit are going to be absorbed by people who do make an investment decision on the attractiveness of holding these debt instruments, said Fishwick. That to me means only one thing -- that yields are going to increase.
- Furthermore, the global savings rate could also be impacted, as China accounts for about a third of the world's savings surplus. As China's savings rate dwindles, it means to me that ... that price of capital will rise, Fishwick said.
I know people believe we just came out of one of the most surreal, once in a lifetime, Black Swan periods of a lifetime. But with everything I am seeing for the future - it appears from this perch to only be the warm up act. Strap it in; the next 10-20 years have the potential to make what we just went through look cute. Green shoots!