Covid-19 and Global Debt

Below is an informative video by CNBC which covers the history of debt waves and brings us up to date with regard to government spending and Covid-19. The have been 3 previous debt waves since the 1970’s

  1. 1970s and 1980s, with borrowing by governments in Latin America and in low-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa. This wave saw a series of financial crises in the early 1980s. 
  2. Ran from 1990 until the early 2000s as banks and corporations in East Asia and the Pacific and governments in Europe and Central Asia borrowed heavily, and ended with a series of crises in these regions in 1997-2001. 
  3. Private sector borrowing in Europe and Central Asia, which ended when the global financial crisis disrupted bank financing in 2007-09 and tipped several economies into sharp recessions.

Today
The latest wave of debt accumulation began in 2010 and has already seen the largest, fastest, and most broad-based increase in debt. Add in Covid-19 and these are very worrying times for government budgets. Global debt has topped $US250 trillion, or 322% of global GDP – a record level. But more debt has been used to acquire expensive assets, rather than on developing productive capacity with capital investment. Lower interest rates, have also made it possible to borrow more, leading to more debt and less equity being deployed to buy these assets. Furtermore Covid-19 will only increase this debt by a significant amount.

Covid-19 hits oil prices hard

With the demand for oil dropping over covid-19 and the over supply in the market, oil prices have collapsed. Brent crude fell by more than half in March to below $23 per barrel. For many years OPEC – Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries – has manipulated supply to maintain higher prices. Since 2017 both Saudi Arabia and Russia have been working together to prop up oil prices but have had a falling out over Saudi Arabia’s insistence on cutting oil supplies by 1.5 million barrels per day.

The Economist – 26th March 2020

Cost of extraction v Price of a barrel

Like any business you need to consider costs relative to the price of your good or service. Some shale oil wells in the US may have a break-even point of $40 a barrel despite the high fracking costs. However some sources say that it is above $60 a barrel with the higher-cost wells coming in at over $90 a barrel. These industries cannot survive in this environment of such low oil prices. Also the Canadian tar sands are another costly method of extracting oil and this could lead to a shut down of production.

By contrast in Saudi Arabia the extraction cost is around $9/barrel with Russia coming slightly higher at $15/barrel. The Middle East and North Africa are also very efficient, producing oil as cheaply as $20 per barrel. Worldwide, conventional oil production typically costs between $30 to $40 a barrel.

Nevertheless countries like Venezuela and Nigeria depend hugely on oil revenue for their spending. Although Russia and Saudi Arabia have significant foreign reserves the more the virus persists and demand keeps falling the greater the damage. Useful video from Al Jazeera below.

Game Theory and why we go to a coronavirus lockdown

Michael Cameron posted a nice piece on his blog about this – Sex, Drugs and Economics.

Game theory refers to the decision that a firm/individual makes depends on its assumptions about other firms/individuals. Ultimately this means that individuals will try and calculate the best course of action depending on how others behave. When we were in a Level 2 situation the advise was no mass gatherings, physical distance on public transport, limit non-essential travel etc. Although the announcements of the four levels were made clear on the Saturday it was inevitable that we would be moving to Level 4 very quickly – Wednesday. Being able to police Level 2 would have been near impossible and the risk of community transmission meant that complete lockdown was needed.

In a Level 2 situation, which was somewhat voluntary, people had two choices – Stay home (cooperate) or Act Normally (defect). The table below looks at the payoffs if you don’t lockdown early and already have community transmission.

As Cameron points out: For most people, acting normally is a dominant strategy, at least in the early stages of the coronavirus spreading. They are better off acting normally if everyone else stays home (because they mostly get to go on with their lives as normal, and have low risk of catching the coronavirus; whereas staying home they would be giving up on things they like to do), and they are better off acting normally if everyone else is acting normally (because life goes on as normal, rather than giving up on things they like to do). So, individually people are better off acting normally.

Any voluntary measure is subject to the prisoners’ dilemma which is why we went to an early full lockdown. As we are in lockdown repeated games requires trust and the correct behaviour outlined by the government – this is essential to eliminate the virus. Therefore the dominant strategy of ‘Act Normally’ is no longer an option. Cameron quoted Robert Frank whom I have blogged on here

‘smart for one, dumb for all’.

Stay safe everyone

Market Economy – Mindmap

In lockdown here in NZ but still teaching classes online. Looked at types of economies over the last few days and put together this mindmap. I found it useful to talk through different parts of the mindmap on the computer screen – using Cisco Webex for the online learning.

Adapted from – CIE Economics Revision Guide by Susan Grant

RBNZ announce QE

Below is a link to a very good interview with RBNZ Governor Adrian Orr on Radio NZ ‘Morning Report’ programme. Loads of good material on monetary policy – useful for discussion purposes with my A2 class today – online.

Radio New Zealand – Adrian Orr interview

The Monetary Policy Committee decided to implement a Large Scale Asset Purchase programme (LSAP) of New Zealand government bonds. The programme will purchase $30 billion of New Zealand government bonds, across a range of maturities, in the secondary market over the next 12 months. The programme aims to provide further support to the economy, build confidence, and keep interest rates on government bonds low. The low OCR – 0.25%, lower long-term interest rates, and the fiscal stimulus recently announced together provide considerable support to the economy through this challenging period.

This Time it is Different

I have mentioned in previous posts the work of Ken Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart – co-authors of “This Time is Different” – 2009. Below is a summary from Amazon

Throughout history, rich and poor countries alike have been lending, borrowing, crashing–and recovering–their way through an extraordinary range of financial crises. Each time, the experts have chimed, “this time is different”–claiming that the old rules of valuation no longer apply and that the new situation bears little similarity to past disasters. With this breakthrough study, leading economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff definitively prove them wrong.

However the rise of the coronavirus and the impact it is having on the global economy is not the same as previous recessions/ depressions in history. Ken Rogoff found it hard to think of a historical parallel and came up with the Spanish flu epidemic which killed millions of people worldwide. Rogoff talks to Paul Solmon of PBS about the impact of the coronavirus.

Keynes v Monetarist – Powerpoint download

Currently covering Keynes vs Monetarist in the A2 course. Here is a powerpoint on the theory that I use for revision purposes. I have found that the graphs are particularly useful in explaining the theory. The powerpoint includes explanations of:

– C+I+G+(X-M)
– 45˚line
– Circular Flow and the Multiplier
– Diagrammatic Representation of Multiplier and Accelerator
– Quantity Theory of Money
– Demand for Money – Liquidity Preference
– Defaltionary and Inflationary Gap
– Extreme Monetarist and Extreme Keynesian
– Summary Table of “Keynesian and Monetarist”
– Essay Questions with suggested answers.

Hope it is of use – 45˚line shown. Click the link below to download the file.
Keynes v Monetarist Keynote

Saudi Arabia and Russia – oil price war

Below is a very good video from the FT outlining the latest disagreement between the USA and Saudi Arabia. Since 2017 both Saudi Arabia and Russia have been working together to prop up oil prices but have had a falling out over Saudi Arabia’s insistence on cutting oil supplies by 1.5 million barrels per day.

China the biggest importer of oil has cut back on oil consumption because of the coronavirus outbreak was bringing the economy to a standstill. Oil prices had their biggest one-day fall since the 1991 Gulf Crisis – some are expecting prices to go to $20 a barrel. What is at the heart of the fallout? Russia’s anger over sanctions targeted at its oil giant, Rosneft Trading. Washington imposed the sanctions last month over its continued support in selling Venezuela’s oil. Moscow was hoping to get Riyadh on its side to inflict economic pain on US shale producers, who Moscow feels have been getting a free ride on the back of OPEC+ production cuts. Shale production has pushed the United States into the number one spot as the world’s biggest producer of oil. Moscow hopes it could lead to the collapse of some of those businesses, if oil prices remain below $40 a barrel.

Source: Al Jazerra- Counting the Cost.