At the end of February we first highlighted something extremely troubling for the global "recovery" narrative: according to UBS the global credit impulse - the second derivative of credit growth and arguably the biggest driver behind economic growth and world GDP - had abruptly stalled, as a result of a sudden and unexpected collapse in said impulse.
As UBS' analyst Arend Kapteyn wrote then, the "global credit impulse (covering 77% of global GDP) has suddenly collapsed" and added that "as the chart below shows the 'global' credit impulse over the last 18 months is essentially mainly China (the green shaded bit), which even now is still creating new credit at an annualized rate of around 30pp of (Chinese) GDP. But the credit impulse is the 'change in the change' in credit and even the Chinese banks could not sustain the recent extraordinary pace of credit acceleration. As a result: whereas back in Jan '16 the global credit impulse was positive to the tune of 3.8% of global GDP (of which China comprised 3.5% of global GDP) it has now fallen back to -0.1% of global GDP (China's contribution is -0.3% of global GDP)."
As we concluded then, "absent a new, and even more gargantuan credit expansion by Beijing - which is not likely to happen at a time when every single day China warns about cutting back on shadow banking and loan growth - the so-called recovery is now assured of fading. It is just a matter of time."
Four months later, the so-called "global coordinated recovery" is on its last, shaky legs, because not only has soft data in the form of PMIs, ISMs and various other sentiment surveys peaked and is now declining, as has consumer confidence, but those all important CPI readings from around the world have posted several consecutive months of disappointing prints, and according to some are jeopardizing the Fed's rate hike intentions (especially if Wednesday's inflation print is a big dud). US GDP is likewise in "stall" territory.
In short, February's collapse in the credit impulse, duly noted here, top-ticked the recent peak of the world economy.
So, fast forwarding just over three months later, where are we now? To answer that question, overnight UBS released its much anticipated update on the current state of the global credit impulse, and it's nothing short of a disaster.
As Kapteyn writes in what may have been the most eagerly awaited report in recent UBS history, "we have been inundated with questions about the chart below, first published in March. Yes, the global credit impulse is still falling. And yes, it matters because the correlation of this global credit impulse with global domestic demand is 0.61."
But it's what follows next that should send shivers down the spine of anyone still clutching to the failed "recovery" narrative:
From peak to trough the deceleration in global credit growth is now approaching that during the global financial crisis (-6% of global GDP), even if the dispersion of the decline is much narrower. Currently 55% of the countries in our sample have experienced a -0.3 standard deviation deterioration in their credit impulse (median over 12 months) compared to 77% of countries in Dec '09 when the median decline was -1.4 stdev."
Here is what the stunning collapse in the credit impulse looks like as of today:
While we urge all readers to get in touch with their friendly UBS sales coverage for the full report, here is a quick primer from UBS on what the current data is telling us, not so much about China where the credit impulse slowdown was discussed previously, but about the world's biggest economy. From UBS:
The credit impulse in the US has also turned down, seemingly on the back of a sharp drop in demand for C&I loans. The slowdown is more visible in the bank loan data than the Flow of Funds data we are using to calculate the credit impulse (the FoF is 3x as broad and includes non-bank credit as well). But the slowdown is nonetheless at odds with confidence being expressed about investment and future borrowing plans. The US credit impulse was running at 0.7% GDP back in September 2016 and by March had fallen to -0.53% GDP (recovering somewhat in April based on bank loan data).
Why does this matter? Because as UBS shows in the chart below, in the US the correlation between activity and the impulse is very strong, and the lack of credit growth could constrain an acceleration in GDP from weak Q1 levels (the credit impulse suggests domestic demand growth should be close to 1% rather than the 2+% which consensus is currently tracking).
UBS' parting words - despite the spun attempt to deliver the gloomy news as painlessly as possible - are very concerning:
Over the last 6 months, the culprits are the US and China (given large GDP weights) but the size of the declines in, Germany, Italy, and Mexico are notable. And the message from the impulse response functions is basically that global IP and import volume growth have peaked.
That is polite way of saying the credit dynamo behind global growth has not only stopped, but is now fully in reverse mode. And, as a reminder, as UBS admitted earlier, "from peak to trough the deceleration in global credit growth is now approaching that during the global financial crisis." Only this time there is no global financial crisis.
More importantly, back in 2009, not only China, but the Fed and other central banks unleashed the biggest injection of credit, i.e. liquidity, the world has ever seen resulting in the biggest asset bubble the world has ever seen. And, this time around, the Fed is set to hike for the third time in the past year, even as the ECB and BOJ are forced to soon taper as they run out of eligible bonds to monetize. All this comes at a time when US loan growth is weeks away from turning negative.
As such, what "kickstarts" the next spike in the credit impulse is unclear. What is clear is that if the traditional 3-6 month lag between credit inflection points, i.e. impulse, and economic growth is maintained, the global economy is set for a dramatic collapse some time in the second half.