😎 Hey there. Great to see you! Matt here, and yes, I'm still enjoying the post-vacation mellow after two straight weeks off. Hope you got some time away, too.

On to the news. Today's newsletter is 859 words, 3.5 minutes.

1 big thing: Maybe strongmen aren't great at running economies

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

In the battle between strongmen and democracies, elected governments are pulling ahead — at least economically, Matt writes.

Why it matters: After the financial crisis of 2008 hobbled the U.S. and much of the West, China's strong economy prompted a flurry of commentary about the benefits of its style of state-led capitalism, which eliminated the inefficiencies that always accompany democracy.

Reality check: More than a decade later, the economic downside of unelected, unaccountable strongmen is on full display.

The latest: Russia's ruble dove again yesterday and its central bank sharply raised rates in an emergency meeting today, as the currency hit the lowest level since the immediate aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

  • Separately, China's financial system also wobbled yesterday, as a major financial entity with ties to the country's troubled housing industry appeared to miss payments to investors, triggering worries of growing financial contagion. China's central bank cut rates in a surprise move today.
  • Turkey's strongman leader, meanwhile, acknowledged in an official statement the crushing burden of inflation in his country, brought on by a 70% collapse in the value of Turkey's lira against the dollar over the last three years.

Between the lines: While all countries go through economic ups and downs, the troubles of Russia, China and Turkey, in particular, appear inseparable from catastrophic decisions made by the strongmen in charge.

The bottom line: The U.S. economy isn't perfect. Neither is democracy. But compared to the other systems on offer, having the ability to vote out erratic and ineffective leaders seems to be serving us pretty well.

2. Charted: Ruble rout

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

No matter how you slice it, the ruble isn't looking great.

  • It's fallen 37% over the last year. Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, it's about 20% lower, though at times it's been down by roughly 50%.

3. Catch up quick

🇯🇵 Japan's economy grew at an annualized 6% rate in Q2, nearly double what the market expected. (CNBC)

⚠️ Argentina devalued its currency and hiked interest rates, sending stock and bond markets plunging. (Bloomberg)

🔎 Hawaiian Electric shares plunged after lawsuits alleged the power company's equipment was involved in the Maui wildfires. (Reuters)

💸 UBS agreed to pay $1.4 billion in a settlement tied to financial crisis-era mortgage-backed securities fraud. (CNBC)

4. Card delinquencies are back up

Data: New York Fed Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax; Chart: Axios Visuals

More Americans are falling behind on their credit card payments, Emily writes.

Driving the news: The rate of new credit card delinquencies has surpassed its pre-COVID level, clocking in at 7.2% in the second quarter, per a report out this month from the New York Fed.

  • Auto loan delinquencies were at 7.3% in Q2, also higher than pre-pandemic levels.
  • Meanwhile, mortgage delinquencies remain very low.

Why it matters: Even as inflation declines, Americans are increasingly relying on credit cards to make their budgets work — or maintain their "levels of consumption," as Moody's Investors Service put it in a note out last week.

  • And higher interest rates on credit cards push balances up higher.

Stunning stat: Credit card balances rose by $45 billion in the second quarter, rising past $1 trillion for the first time in the NY Fed survey's history.

Zoom out: Returning to pre-COVID delinquency levels isn't something to stress over at the moment  delinquency rates on credit cards before 2020 were relatively low thanks to the strong job market.

What to watch: Millions of Americans will soon have to start making student loan payments again, and undoubtedly some will rely more on credit cards to maintain their spending levels. That could potentially drive these delinquency rates higher.

5. Nearshoring is all the rage

Data: McKinsey; Chart: Axios Visuals

The share of companies making moves to nearshore their production nearly tripled this year, according to McKinsey's annual survey of supply chain leaders, out this morning, Axios' Kate Marino writes.

Why it matters: Supply chain resiliency is still a buzzword in corporate boardrooms — it didn't fall away as COVID-related snarls dissipated.

  • Nearshoring, or moving production closer to the end consumer, is now a bigger priority as many executives try to be more prepared for the unexpected — and as geopolitical tensions rise, Enno de Boer, senior partner at McKinsey, tells Axios.

Zoom out: Over the last decade, supply chains have become too complicated — zipping goods back and forth across the globe before they're consumer-ready, says de Boer.

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Today's Axios Markets was edited by Kate Marino and copy edited by Mickey Meece.