Danger sign warning

The amount of debt used to fuel China’s economic growth has long been a worry to global investors.

Earlier this year, George Soros said that China’s debt expansion “eerily resembles what happened during the financial crisis in the US in 2007-08, which was similarly fueled by credit growth.”

And the warnings are getting more insistent.

The Bank for International Settlements in Basel, which is a global organisation of central banks, released data showing just how dangerous China’s debt bubble is becoming.

The BIS said that China’s credit-to-GDP gap now stands at 30.1%, the highest for any country since data was collected in 1995. “While it is difficult to quantify ‘excessive credit’ precisely, the credit-to-GDP gap captures this notion in a simple way. Importantly from a policy perspective, large gaps have been found to be a reliable early warning indicator (EWI) of banking crises or severe distress,” BIS said. 

The measure describes how fast credit has been growing in a country, and is an early warning signal for financial crises. It displays the difference between a country’s debt-to-gdp ratio and the long-term trend. The BIS said anything above 10% needs attention. On that basis, Canada is also entering into dangerous territory.

Here is the chart:


And here is the BIS (emphasis ours):

“Despite the slowdown in cross-border credit in late 2015 and early 2016, a number of countries still showed signs of strongly above-average domestic credit growth, which could sow the seeds for potential financial strains.

According to the BIS early warning indicators, which are intended to capture financial overheating and potential financial distress over medium-term horizons, credit growth continues to be unusually high relative to GDP in several Asian economies as well as in Canada.”

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: KRUGMAN: Financial markets aren’t taking a Trump victory very seriously