China: Bilanz­rezes­sion ja oder nein?

Auch ich habe an dieser Stelle und in meinem Podcast davon gesprochen, dass China in die Bilanzrezession zu fallen droht bzw. bereits in einer ist. Stichwort: Japan.

In der FINANCIAL TIMES (FT) wurden Pro und Contra – wie ich finde – gut diskutiert: China isn’t deleveraging yet But an end to leveraging up will still hurt“ – was zweifellos stimmt.

  • Classic cases of balance sheet recession, as first articulated by the economist Richard Koo, centre on falling asset prices forcing overleveraged households and businesses to cut debt all at once, crushing demand. But in China, asset prices are not widely falling. Home sales volumes have collapsed, but prices have only turned down some. And measures of aggregate indebtedness don’t suggest broad-based deleveraging. Domestic debt as a share of output is close to flat.” – bto: Also nur eine Assetklasse, kein wirkliches Deleveraging. Also keine Bilanzrezession.
  • Aber es gab dann Widerspruch innerhalb der FT. Martin Wolf schrieb dazu folgendes: Higher ex ante precautionary savings are an extremely plausible element in a balance sheet recession. The essence of such a recession is that economic decision makers are simultaneously poorer and more illiquid than they expected. Higher precautionary savings (due to weaker confidence in the future) are an inevitable consequence, though there are others, as well (weaker investment, for example). In other words, maybe precautionary savings are just part of a larger balance sheet recession picture, rather than evidence against it.“ – bto: Das leuchtet auch ein. Natürlich kann man anfangen zu sparen, weil man es erwartet. Man kann aber auch sparen, weil man es bereits muss. Es ist eine Kombination.
  • Umgekehrt bleibt der Punkt, dass es nur der Immobiliensektor ist: „In Japan’s 1990s balance sheet recession, many companies were overextended amid a broad-based asset bubble; in China, it is largely construction developers that are stretched. And unlike in the US housing crash, China’s real estate bubble is narrowly concentrated in new housing construction…” – bto: Wir haben also nicht, wie in den USA, die Beleihung schon bestehender Immobilien zu immer höheren Werten.
  • Dem hielt Wolf entgegen: „a balance sheet recession in the property sector alone (it was a huge part of the Japanese balance-sheet recession, as in the Spanish and Irish) will surely have a large effect on the economy. (…), in the Chinese context, I would suggest that a move from massive leveraging to flat debt is clearly contractionary. So, I would argue that this is a balance-sheet recession, but so far a weak one or one in very early stages. That is, it is a recession triggered by the end of debt accumulation.“ – bto: Und bereits weniger Schuldenwachstum wirkt dämpfend, kommt es doch auf die Veränderung an.
  • Wolf verbreitert dabei das Konzept von Koo: „My perspective is, admittedly, not really Koo’s, which focuses on asset prices and debt (that is stock adjustments). I am more interested in sectoral balances (that is flow adjustments, which bear directly on aggregate demand). This distinction is important.“ – bto: Bereits eine Veränderung der Flows hat natürlich eine konjunkturelle Wirkung.
  • Does China confront a problem of stocks, or of flows? If what the country faces is rapidly deteriorating stocks of debt and assets, supporting demand is hard. Fiscal policy can help, but ultimately a lot of private sector actors will need to mend their balance sheets. It can take years. This is the classic balance sheet recession story.“ – bto: Das wäre das japanische Szenario.
  • But if what China faces instead is dwindling flows of new debt, the picture is different. Households usually save more than they invest, whereas corporations invest more than they save. In China, cautious households are now saving even more and investing less (most household investment is in property). Unless those higher net savings are redirected into investment through borrowing, aggregate demand will fall. But who can borrow in China right now? Developers cannot access credit. The rest of corporate China is in OK shape, but not so much as to begin a fresh borrowing binge. The only plausible borrower is the state, which is reluctant. This is how a drying up of new debt flows can squash demand.“ – bto: Man könnte natürlich die Exportüberschüsse erhöhen, zumindest in der Theorie.
  • „Happily, traditional Keynesian stimulus, particularly direct transfers to households, can solve this problem of flows, offsetting household savings with government borrowing. Unhappily, Chinese authorities appear uninterested in the ready-made fix. (…) But top leader Xi Jinping has deep-rooted philosophical objections to Western-style consumption-driven growth, people familiar with decision-making in Beijing say. Xi sees such growth as wasteful and at odds with his goal of making China a world-leading industrial and technological powerhouse, they say.“ – bto: Man könnte also die Konjunktur stimulieren, aber man will es nicht.
Xi believes Beijing should stick to fiscal discipline, especially given China’s deep debt.“ – bto: Das klingt recht deutsch.