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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
Last year, the world's debt rose to $244 trillion, or 318% of global GDP, the Institute of International Finance (IIF) found.
The two largest contributors to the rise in debt have been emerging market corporate entities and developed market governments.
Why it matters: In times of economic strength countries have traditionally reduced their debt, seeking balanced budgets and a safety net for the future. But over the past few years the world's largest economies have done just the opposite.
However, "after two years of solid expansion the world is growing more slowly than expected and risks are rising," IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said at the World Economic Forum's opening this week.
Making matters worse: Emerging economies also have borrowed at an unprecedented rate and at a time when global interest rates are rising and the dollar has strengthened, meaning the loans will cost more to pay back.
The bottom line: In 2019 the global economy will face stresses it hasn't seen in at least a decade and central bankers and governments globally will be armed with fewer tools to fight them.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
China's year-end economic data dump presented an ambiguous picture of the world's second-largest economy that analysts chose to paint in various ways by cherry picking data points.
What they're saying: Some have been ringing the alarm of an economic slowdown in China, pointing to historically weak readings.
China's government has long been accused of padding the numbers on economic data, and some expect that weak readings like these are proof that the country's real economy is actually growing much more slowly.
Yes, but: Also included in the data dump are a collection of strong data releases that don't fit the falling dragon motif.
When taken as a whole, the data reflects an economy that could be slowing or could be slowly turning from one driven by high-flying export growth to one sustained by a consumer-focused, service sector that Chinese government officials have declared they want.
What to watch: For U.S. businesses, a clearer picture of what's happening could come this week when companies with significant revenue from China — including Starbucks, Wynn Resorts and Ford — report quarterly results.
The big picture: This is the continuation of a long-running theme on Wall Street. Institutional investors, retail investors, high net-worth individuals and even some endowments and pension funds are consistently moving away from asset managers and into low-fee passive strategies.
Truck shipments' year-over-year growth fell in December for the first time since 2016, data from the Cass Freight Index showed.
Why it matters: Truck shipments are thought to be a leading indicator as they're very sensitive to market fears. When things are good, suppliers load up, but in hard times the oversupply of trucks and weak demand from shippers can lead to quickly declining rates and a prolonged downturn for the industry, often coupled with more widespread economic malaise.
As the world's gross domestic product increases, the gains are being gobbled up by an ever smaller number of people, a new report from Oxfam finds.
By the numbers: Last year, 43 of the world's wealthiest people held assets — cash and resources like real estate — that totaled as much as half the world's population. This year the number of individuals it took to match the wealth of the poorest 3.8 billion people on the planet fell to 26.
Other findings from the study included:
Oxfam calls for a 1% tax on the world's richest to help close the wealth gap and asserts that it would produce enough money to educate every child not in school and provide health care that would prevent 3 million deaths.
Many of the world's billionaires will be at the World Economic Forum in Davos, which kicks off Tuesday, and private jet provider Air Charter Service predicts there will be close to 1,500 private jet flights over the week.
Important: The estimates do not include helicopter trips.
As the U.S. government shutdown passes the one-month mark, Bloomberg notes, "There are more questions than answers about how and when the delayed data might get released. Even after the data begin getting released, it will easily take a couple of months before the Commerce Department’s release calendar returns to normal."
Flashback: "A 16-day shutdown in October 2013 that affected a larger number of reports (because the Labor Department was closed as well) sparked doubts about the accuracy of some key measures for months afterward. For example, part-time employees weren’t able to go out during the shutdown to collect inflation data for the consumer price index."
Check out my piece on the economic philosophy of Martin Luther King.
Days without a factual error: 7