With the ECB now unabashedly unleashing a bond bubble in Europe of which it has promised to be a buyer of last resort with the stronly implied hint that European IG companies should issue bonds and buy back shares, and promptly leading to the biggest junk bond issue in history courtesy of Numericable, it will come as no surprise that the world once again has a debt problem.
For the best description of just how bad said problem is we go to SocGen's Andrew Lapthorne, one of last few sane analyzers of actual data, a person who first reveaked the stunning fact that every dollar in incremental debt in the 21st century has gone to fund stock buybacks, and who in a note today asks whether "central bank policies going to bankrupt corporate America?"
His answer is, unless something changes, a resounding yes.
Here are the key excerpts:
Sensationalist headlines such as the one above are there to grab the reader’s attention, but the question is nonetheless a serious one. Aggressive monetary policy in the form of QE and zero or negative interest rates is all about encouraging (forcing?) borrowers to take on more and more debt in an attempt to boost economic activity, effectively mortgaging future growth to compensate for the lack of demand today. These central bank policies are having some serious unintended consequences, particular on mid cap and smaller cap stocks.
Aggressive central bank monetary policies have created artificial demand for corporate debt which we think companies are exploiting by issuing debt they do not actually need. The proceeds of this debt raising are then largely reinvested back into the equity market via M&A or share buybacks in an attempt to boost share prices in the absence of actual demand. The effect on US non-financial balance sheets is now starting to look devastating. We’re not the only ones to be worried. The Office of Financial Research (OFR), a body whose function is to assess financial stability for the US Treasury, highlights corporate debt issuance as their primary threat to financial stability going forward.
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