While the rest of the world is transfixed by the latest pocket change bailout of the Eurozone, China has stealthily conducted an economic rescue bigger than than one and a half TARPs. Dylan Grice's latest note focuses on the key news out of China from last week which oddly received very little media attention, namely the onboarding by the Local Government Financing Vehicles (LGFV) of $463 billion in bad loans made to various infrastructure and development projects as part of the Chinese stimulus package. This is nothing short of a bailout the likes of TARP when Paulson transferred billions of toxic debt to the government's balance sheet. The reason why this is actually a much bigger deal than perceived is that as Grice notes, a "bail-out of $463bn is half the size of the TARP, introduced by Paulson at the nadir of the 2008 crisis, for an economy which is only one-third the size of the US. So adjusted for GDP, China has just announced an emergency bail out of one and a half TARPs!! If we calibrate the magnitude of the economic crisis with the size of the bail-out, one and a half TARPs implies a financial crisis one and half times the order of magnitude of 2008." In other words, China very quietly and stealthily buried a massive bailout with just one passing Reuters mention. And nobody cares... Or more specifically, those who have long held a very bearish view on China, should certainly care, as what happened is that the unwind catalyst, so critical for most China bearish theses, was just pushed back by several years. And since China is full to the gills with excess dollars, all that happened was that the government effectively diverted money that would have been otherwise recycled to purchase US paper, in the form of a government fund to bail out it own. Crisis averted as another centrally planned regime managed to do what the Fed and the ECB have been doing so well for nearly 3 years now.
From SocGen's Dylan Grice:
Last week saw perhaps the starkest example yet of China's "Great Suppression." Reuters reported that China's central government was taking on responsibility for up to $463bn of bad loans made to Local Government Financing Vehicles (LGFV) which had been made to fund various infrastructure and development projects as a part of the stimulus package. It's not clear yet how this will be done, but I suspect the template will be similar to that used during the recapitalisations of Chinese banks in the 1998-2005 period. Asset management companies buy the bad assets, which they pay for with non-tradable government guaranteed bonds which don't show up in the official measures of government debt. Maybe this is why the story didn't get much attention: China's government throws money at a problem - problem goes away - boring story - move on.
But the problem hasn't gone away. Think carefully about what's just happened. A bail-out of $463bn is half the size of the TARP, introduced by Paulson at the nadir of the 2008 crisis, for an economy which is only one-third the size of the US. So adjusted for GDP, China has just announced an emergency bail out of one and a half TARPs!! If we calibrate the magnitude of the economic crisis with the size of the bail-out, one and a half TARPs implies a financial crisis one and half times the order of magnitude of 2008.
"The critical issue in both cases is the artificial suppression of volatility - the ups and downs of life - in the name of stability. It is both misguided and dangerous to push unobserved risks further into the statistical tails of the probability distribution of outcomes and allow these high impact, low-probability "tail risks" to disappear from policymakers fields of observation. What the world is witnessing in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya is simply what happens when highly constrained systems explode."
This is all China has done with its bail-out of local governments. It has upped the ante. While we can't predict where complex systems will go, we know that the longer their volatility is artificially suppressed, the more emphatic will be its release when it does come. It is more likely that China has one and a half times (and counting) the 2008 financial crisis ahead of it.