People have been talking about a “debt bubble” for some years now. They’ve been right, of course, based on the combination of surging borrowing and plunging rates. But the bubble hasn’t stopped inflating, and recently it entered what certainsly looks like a terminal blow-off stage. Some highlights:
Though July, China’s total debt rose by $2 trillion, a year-over-year increase of 26%. And this month the Chinese government cut bank reserve requirements in an attempt to further rev up lending.
In Japan, the junk bond market is being constrained by banks so desperate for yield that they’re lending directly to companies previously considered too risky. See Japan Junk Bond Market Hopes Crushed by Banks Hungry to Lend.
A recent week of corporate bond issuance was “the biggest weekly volume to hit global markets on record,” according to Dealogic. US investment-grade companies raised $72 billion across 45 deals, equaling the total issued in all of August.
Numerous companies issued 30-year bonds with yields below 3%, which used to be the province of safe haven governments. Even Apple, which is sitting on an epic pile of cash, borrowed money.
At the other end of the spectrum, junk bond issuer Restaurant Brands, which owns the Popeyes and Burger King chains, sold 8.5-year bonds with a coupon under 4%, a record low yield for a US junk issuer.
In Europe sales of new bonds hit $1 trillion earlier than in any previous year. Fully a third of European investment-grade bonds (and some junk bonds) now trade with negative yields. And the ECB is expected to cut rates further at its upcoming meeting.
Why is all this happening? Three reasons:
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