"Investors should (and most don't) realize China is a credit bubble of epic proportions," warns an anxious Marc Faber during a brief Bloomberg TV interview. "China is not just a country, it's an empire," Faber adds, and warns that while some sectors may have growth ("just ask Yum Brands" he jokes), "but other very important sectors like industrial production aren't growing at the present time." In fact, Faber warns "I don't think China's economy is growing at all," and while policy-makers may be able to "cushion the downturn somewhat," he warns that achieving any soft-landing will be "very difficult," even as he expects China to continue devaluing the Yuan.
Faber speaks to Bloomberg TV's Stephanie Ruhle,
Some key excerpts...
On the mythical soft-landing...
FABER: I think it's very difficult if you had the kind of bubble like you had in China, and the credit bubble, to then engineer a soft landing. You could maybe cushion the downturn somewhat, but the fact is I don't believe that the economy isn't growing at all, but I think that I have argued and this for the last 18 months that the economy was slowing down meaningfully, and that growth would be roughly at three to four percent, which it is at the present time, I would imagine.
Is China an accident waiting to happen?
FABER: Well it depends what an accident is in terms of definition, but I would say this. We have had very heavy capital flight over the last eight, nine months coming out of China. And if I had to bet on someone, the local knowledge or some economy somewhere in the world talking up China and how great it is, I would bet on the locals, who are shifting money out of China at the record level at the present time.
Secondly, the growth figures that the government are publishing do not match the reality, say exports are down, imports are down. Industrial production is down. Car sales were down. Maybe they stabilized for a while, but a lot of indicators are very negative. Railway freight traffic is down 17 percent year-on-year. You want to tell me that the economy is growing at 6.9 percent. It doesn't rhyme.
On China's gigantic scale and credit bubble...
FABER: I think many people don't understand that China has a population twice as large as the U.S. and Europe combined. It's not just a country. It's an entire empire. And you can have growth in some sectors of the economy. I have no doubt that some service sectors are growing, but other very important sectors like industrial production isn't growing at the present time.
If you really want to have a good view of the service sector and how well it's doing in China, ask Yum!, the fast-food chain in the U.S. They will tell you about their Chinese sales.
And the way the U.S. had sometimes a recession in California like in the early 1990s, and other states were growing, you can have in China some provinces growing and others contracting. And so and to measure economic growth in a country this large with that many people is very difficult. But say the evidence shows that it's nowhere growing at the same pace it was growing say between 2000 and 2007.
And what we have had in China, and this investors should realize, is a credit bubble of epic proportions. I have read economic history. I've never seen credit as a percent of the economy growing as fast as in China in the last seven years.
On whether Central Planning can 'fix' what ails the Chinese economy...
FABER: No, I don't think that it's very helpful, although I have to say if you look at China 40 years ago, 30 years ago and today, of course there has been huge economic development, partly because the government has relatively efficient at say moving people, and building roads and building the infrastructure up and so forth. So it's a mixed economy. On the one hand, you have very free capitalism. On the other hand, you have heavy government interventions
And in my view, the recent interest rate cuts will not be particularly helpful for the economy because we have had a meaningful slowdown already at the time they cut interest rates six times since last November.
On China's currency devaluation...
FABER: But coming to the currency, I think we live in a world where there is coordinated action by central banks to print money in the U.S., in the EU, in Japan, and of course also the Bank of England. They coordinate monetary policies, and as you know, the yen has depreciated very strongly against the U.S. dollar over the last three years. And I think the Chinese will adjust their currency down somewhat.