May 17, 2019

One nation, drowning in debt

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Mounting U.S. debt, and rising credit-card delinquencies, are creating what one big bond investor describes as a "cocktail of economic risk."

Why it matters: These realities run contrary to the overall narrative of a strong U.S. economy.

What's happening: The Federal Reserve warned that corporate America is taking on too much debt, Axios' Dan Primack writes.

  • Rising consumer debt is also a worry. U.S. banks are tightening their lending standards and raising rates on commercial loans and credit cards, according to Axios' Dion Rabouin and Courtenay Brown.
  • Credit card delinquency rates in Q1 hit the highest level since 2012, driven partly by a spike in overdue payments by people ages 18–29, according to the New York Federal Reserve.
  • U.S. national debt is $1 trillion higher than the previous record.

What they’re saying: "Junk bonds are flying out the door once again. Deeply indebted companies are borrowing even more to pay equity holders." (Bloomberg)

  • On the consumer front: "Borrowers think life is good and income is rising, and ... they overextend themselves," said James Chessen, chief economist at the American Bankers Association. "You tend to see more of that behavior" toward the end of an economic cycle.

What to watch: As companies struggle under their enormous debt loads, expect them to start looking to the high-flying stock market for rescue.

  • First up: Chewy, being spun out by its highly-leveraged parent, PetSmart, for much-needed cash.

Go deeper ... Warning: Signs of credit crisis grow

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8 p.m. ET: 1,426,096 — Total deaths: 81,865 — Total recoveries: 300,054Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8 p.m. ET: 396,223 — Total deaths: 12,722 — Total recoveries: 21,763Map.
  3. Federal government latest: Acting Navy secretary resigns over handling of virus-infected ship — Trump removes watchdog overseeing rollout of $2 trillion coronavirus bill.
  4. Business latest: America's food heroes in times of the coronavirus crisis. Even when the economy comes back to life, huge questions for airlines will remain.
  5. World latest: China reopens Wuhan after 10-week coronavirus lockdown.
  6. Wisconsin primary in photos: Thousands gathered to cast ballots in-person during the height of the coronavirus crisis in the U.S.
  7. 1 Olympics thing: About 6,500 athletes who qualified for the Tokyo Games will keep their spots in 2021.
  8. What should I do? Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Airline industry braces for a forever-changed world

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The airline industry got a $58 billion lifeline in the coronavirus federal aid package. But the path is unclear for these companies, whose operations and prospects will be forever changed by the global pandemic.

Why it matters: People may want to minimize travel for the foreseeable future. Investors, analysts and industry watchers are trying to determine how much airlines will need to spend — and how much more in lost revenue they'll see — while they adapt to the new reality.

Trump denies seeing Navarro memos warning about toll of coronavirus

President Trump said at a press briefing Tuesday that he "didn't see" memos from his trade adviser Peter Navarro warning in January and February that the coronavirus crisis could kill more than half a million Americans and cost close to $6 trillion.

Why it matters: Trump insisted that despite not seeing the memos, he did "more or less" what Navarro suggested by banning non-U.S. citizens from traveling from China effective Feb. 2.