Posts Tagged ‘mal-investment’

What will be first sign of an impending Chinese economic correction?

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

In our previous article, Can China really ?de-couple? from a US recession?, we mentioned our theory that China’s economy

may be an epic boom waiting to be a bust.

In that article, there are three major reasons why we have reservations (which may turn out to be unfounded, hopefully) on China’s economy:

  1. “A severe recession in the US economy will crimp US consumption significantly. This will translate into a disproportionate contraction in the higher stages of production, which is China?s job. This in turn will result in yet another disproportionate contraction in yet another higher stage of production- for example, Australian resource production.”
  2. “Does China have enough capital goods, labour and raw materials to continue the current trajectory of capital investment growth in China?”
  3. “To re-tool and re-configure the Chinese economy towards its domestic needs [and away from declining export market] requires a period of adjustment in which capitals are destroyed and built.”

Indeed, Marc Faber did wrote that

Let us assume that the unthinkable happens: China?s economy slows down sharply, or even contracts – and there are reasons why it could.

So, if this unthinkable happens, what will be the warning signs?  Today, we will attempt to answer this question.

Let’s take the above-mentioned reason (2) as an example. Suppose the Chinese economy cannot be supplied with enough raw materials and skilled labour fast enough to maintain the trajectory of economic growth. How will this situation be manifested in real life? Rising and persistent price inflation is a sign that the Chinese economy is running low on ‘fuel’ to keep the economy running at the current speed. During inflationary times, input cost of production rises. For producers of consumer goods, this may mean that their profit margins get squeezed. Some may even go out of business. For major capital projects, rising costs may render them into mal-investments. For example, for the builder of a skyscraper, cost overruns may result in the project being unprofitable. Banks may not be willing to extend further credit for such projects.

For reasons (1) and (3), it is obvious that a lot of businesses will fail.

So, imagine what will happen if all these business and project failures happen en masse? A lot of bad debts will build up in the economy. If there are enough of them, the banking system will be severely threatened. Then the economy will go into a slump.

Therefore, rising levels of bad debts will precede an impending Chinese economic correction. This does not mean that such a correction is imminent. It may possible take a while for that stage to arrive, but we believe that if such breakneck economic growth continues, it is only a matter of time for a bust to arrive.

Can Australia’s resource boom end sooner than expected?

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

Our long time readers will be very familiar with our frequent warnings not to take Australia’s resource boom for granted. Today, we will repeat this warning again, albeit briefly.

Back in September last year, in this news article, Post-Olympics hangover may be risky business, it said

A LEADING global manufacturing expert has warned that China could be heading for a post-Olympics hangover with the potential to disrupt the resources boom on which Australia depends.

In particular, domestic consumption in China still accounts for a relatively small 39 per cent of the economy, with the remaining 61 per cent soaked up by infrastructure investment and net exports.

“Over time, this will shift and domestic consumption is going to become a bigger and bigger piece of the economy,” Mr Gromley told BusinessDay. “But, while that transition happens, there is a risk that over-investment in infrastructure will cause a bubble effect, particularly after the Beijing Olympics.”

What Mr Gromley calls over-investment is what we call mal-investment (see our guide, What causes economic booms and busts? for the concept of mal-investments).

In January this year, we wrote about our scepticism about the Chinese de-coupling theory at Can China really ?de-couple? from a US recession?. If our theory is right, this will have grave implication for Australia’s resource boom. If this boom peters out, Australia, with such high debt levels, will fall into severe recession (if not already in recession) led by debt deflation. When that day comes, a lot of ‘rich’ people will suddenly find the value of their asset worth far less than their expectation (see Aussie household debt not as bad as it seems?).