Jul 15, 2019

Emerging market debt hits record high

Debt in smaller emerging market countries, which are now providing the majority of the world's growth, rose to a record high of $69 trillion in the first quarter, IIF reported.

Why it matters: EM debt has been growing at a breakneck pace so far this year, as global investors search for yield with developed market interest rates at or near all-time lows.

  • The lower rates in the U.S., Europe and Japan are pushing increasing demand for higher-yielding EM bonds, with yields on the U.S. benchmark 10-year Treasury note at the lowest since 2016, and many European and Japanese government bonds holding negative yields.
  • Increasingly countries with little to no track record and shaky fundamentals have been able to issue larger bond issues for extremely low rates.

What to watch: Net borrowing in so-called frontier markets — countries too small or underdeveloped to be labeled emerging, such as Zambia, Bangladesh and Tunisia — reached over $250 billion in 2018, bringing the total stock of FM debt to more than $3.2 trillion, according to IIF data. That was equal to 117% of frontier countries' GDP.

The big picture: This could become a problem for both the investors buying the bonds and the countries issuing them. The IMF and IIF both highlighted growing concerns about debt sustainability earlier this year, prompting calls for policy remedies including more transparency in lending to vulnerable countries.

Go deeper: The global debt binge begins anew

Go deeper

The global debt binge begins anew

Reproduced from Institute of International Finance; Chart: Axios Visuals

The world's debt rose by $3 trillion in the first quarter of 2019 — an almost unprecedented borrowing binge that brought total global debt to $246.5 trillion.

Why it matters: High levels of debt put countries in a vulnerable position in the event of a downturn and could endanger the world's economic recovery, said economists from the Institute of International Finance, which released the study today.

Go deeperArrowJul 15, 2019

A great day for safe-haven assets

Photo: artpartner-images/Getty Images

The stock market rebounded Wednesday, with major U.S. indexes finishing the day slightly higher or little moved from where they opened, but prices on safe-haven assets like gold, the Japanese yen and U.S. government debt continued to rise.

What happened: Gold prices rose to a 6-year high, above $1,500 per troy ounce, while the yen broke through 106 per dollar, nearing a 5-month high, and U.S. Treasury prices rose, taking down yields on the benchmark 10-year note below 1.6% in early trading.

Go deeperArrowAug 8, 2019

Car loans mean banks don't need high interest rates to rake in cash

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Ally Financial was the latest bank to declare a major profit windfall in its second quarter earnings report, as the U.S. banking industry's largest auto lender reported a profit increase of 67%.

Why it matters: Americans are borrowing record sums to buy new vehicles — and used ones — and they continue to pay relatively high interest rates. Banks are seeing big profits as a result.

Go deeperArrowJul 19, 2019