“It Is Frankly Scary” – Bill White Warns Global Financial System Faces “Perfect Storm”

Thursday, January 25, 2018
By Paul Martin

by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard via The Brisbane Times,
ZeroHedge.com
Thu, 01/25/2018

The world financial system is as dangerously stretched today as it was at the peak of the last bubble but this time the authorities are caught in a “policy trap” with few defences left, a veteran central banker has warned.

Nine years of emergency money has had a string of perverse effects and lured emerging markets into debt dependency, without addressing the structural causes of the global disorder.

“All the market indicators right now look very similar to what we saw before the Lehman crisis, but the lesson has somehow been forgotten,” said William White, the Swiss-based head of the OECD’s review board and ex-chief economist for the Bank for International Settlements.

Professor White said disturbing evidence of credit degradation is emerging almost daily. The latest is the disclosure that distressed UK construction group Carillion quietly raised £112 million ($195 million) through German Schuldschein bonds. South African retailer Steinhoff also tapped this obscure market, borrowing €730 million ($1.11 billion).

Schuldschein loans were once a feature of rock-solid lending to family Mittelstand companies in Germany. The transformation of this corner of the market into a form of high-risk shadow banking shows how the lending system has been distorted by quantitative easing (QE) and negative interest rates. Professor White said there was an intoxicating optimism at the top of every unstable boom when people convince themselves that risk is fading, but that is when the worst mistakes are made. Stress indicators were equally depressed in 2007 just before the storm broke.

This time central banks are holding a particularly ferocious tiger by the tail. Global debt ratios have surged by a further 51 percentage points of GDP since the Lehman crisis, reaching a record 327 per cent (IIF data).

This is a new phenomenon in economic history and can be tracked to QE liquidity leakage from the West, which flooded East Asia, Latin America, and other emerging markets, with a huge push from China pursuing its own venture. “Central banks have been pouring more fuel on the fire,” he told The Telegraph, speaking before the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“Should regulators really be congratulating themselves that the system is now safer? Nobody knows what is going to happen when they unwind QE. The markets had better be very careful because there are a lot of fracture points out there,” he said.

“Pharmaceutical companies are subject to laws forcing them to test for unintended consequences before they launch a drug, but central banks launched the huge social experiment of QE with carelessly little thought about the side-effects,” he said.

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