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Consumers In Surprising Places Are Borrowing Like Crazy

Consumers In Surprising Places Are Borrowing Like Crazy

The Money Bubble is inflating at different speeds in different places. But apparently no culture is immune:

Household Debt Sees Quiet Boom Across the Globe

(Wall Street Journal) – A decade after the global financial crisis, household debts are considered by many to be a problem of the past after having come down in the U.S., U.K. and many parts of the euro area.But in some corners of the globe—including Switzerland, Australia, Norway and Canada—large and rising household debt is percolating as an economic problem. Each of those four nations has more household debt—including mortgages, credit cards and car loans—today than the U.S. did at the height of last decade’s housing bubble.

At the top of the heap is Switzerland, where household debt has climbed to 127.5% of gross domestic product, according to data from Oxford Economics and the Bank for International Settlements. The International Monetary Fund has identified a 65% household debt-to-GDP ratio as a warning sign.

In all, 10 economies have debts above that threshold and rising fast, with the others including New Zealand, South Korea, Sweden, Thailand, Hong Kong and Finland.

In Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, the household debt-to-GDP ratio has risen between five and 10 percentage points over the past three years, paces comparable to the U.S. in the run-up to the housing bubble. In Norway and South Korea they’re rising even faster.

The IMF says a five percentage-point increase in household debt over a three-year period is associated with a hit to GDP growth of 1.25 percentage points three years down the road. The historical record suggests that large debts lead to a short-term economic boost but long-term struggles, as a greater share of the economy’s resources go to servicing the spending binge associated with high debts. The IMF also finds rising household debts are associated with greater risks of banking crashes and financial crisis.

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