All the signs are there for another credit crunch

the threads of forbearance and liquidity holding up the balance sheets of the private banking system are growing perilously thin, writes Ann Pettifor.

 

Ann Pettifor is the director of PRIME – Policy Research in MacroEconomics

As I have emphasised before (to no avail it seems) Britain’s crisis is one of a vast bubble of private sector debt.

These private debts eclipse – by a huge margin – our public sector debt as a share of the national cake. They help explain why the economy struggles to recover from the shocks of 2007-9, and why the banks still pose a grave systemic threat.

The fact is Britain’s household, corporate and financial sector debts are vast, and may well never be repaid. As the McKinsey Global Institute points out, British banks, corporates and households are only beginning to ‘de-leverage’ these debts – pay them down, or write them off.

The more is paid down, the less is available for spending. The more are written off, the greater the losses for banks.

Yet our government has skilfully led public opinion to believe that the crisis in the private finance sector is over (bar the odd spat over bonuses), and now centres on public sector debt – a point of view endorsed, according to Twitter, by Angela Knight of the British Banking Association last week.

Labour, spurred on by the “In the Black Labour” group, help reinforce this flawed, and dangerous framing of the economic debate.

Of course, this is not accidental. The private sector – in particular the private financial sector – is happy to be kept out of the frame by obliging politicians. And anyway bankers are actively being shielded by this, and other governments, from facing the reality of their own insolvency.

It is possible that this shielding of the finance sector could be sustained until eventually central bank liquidity injections help banks and other sectors get their balance sheets in order. But as we all know from personal experience, short bursts of cash may delay, but do little to avoid, bankruptcy.

But the banks’ cover is most unlikely to be sustained if, while trying to fix their balance sheets governments are deliberately contracting economic activity: in other words, cutting the incomes of their customers.

The fact is that for every firm that loses a government contract, and for every person made unemployed, there will likely be a defaulter on a loan; for every weakening firm and unemployed person, there will be one more customer cancelling an order or snapping their purse shut.

For every default, and for every lost customer, there are weakening balance sheets – for both firms and banks – making it harder for the financial and corporate sectors to recover from the crisis, and deal with their huge debts. Indeed austerity makes their predicament much, much worse.

Governments have tried to keep the show going, by injecting ‘liquidity’ (cheap money) into private banks. Banks have tried to keep things going by showing ‘forbearance’ – that is, refusing to write off a debtor’s debt, and hoping against hope that they will start repaying again.

But the threads of forbearance and liquidity holding up the balance sheets of the private banking system are growing perilously thin. There are signs of another credit crunch – the most significant evidence was revealed after the ECB’s Long Term Refinancing Operation on Thursday last week.

It appears banks are no longer lending to each other. Just as the credit crunch of August 2007 was heralded by a freezing up of inter-bank lending, so history is repeating itself. According to the FT (£), banks deposited a record €777bn overnight with a state-backed bank, the European Central Bank last week, up nearly two thirds from the previous day.

Banks borrowed from the ECB at 0.5% on one day, and then the next, re-deposited funds with the ECB for less – 0.25%. This would normally be odd behaviour, because banks could earn a great deal more by parking the money with other banks in the inter-bank market. However, because they know the truth of the solvency of other banks, that market scares the hell out of them. Which is why they are parking their (our) money with a bank that cannot go bust: the taxpayer-backed ECB.

Given that our politicians have deliberately turned a blind eye to the crisis in the private finance sector, this should worry us too.

See also:

Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley: Labour’s gift that keeps on giving?Cormac Hollingsworth, March 2nd 2012

The Bank of England is like a lifeguard who’s afraid of rubber ringsCormac Hollingsworth, March 1st 2012

ECB bailing out British banks exposes coalition’s finance failureCormac Hollingsworth, February 27th 2012

The next credit crisis will hit consumers, not banksCarl Packman, February 26th 2012

What works in encouraging saving?Giselle Cory, February 23rd 2012

40 Responses to “All the signs are there for another credit crunch”

  1. Tim

    RT @leftfootfwd: All the signs are there for another credit crunch //t.co/IHtUr6Zh

  2. Emanuel Stoakes

    All the signs are there for another credit crunch, writes @AnnPettifor: //t.co/aA6rcUqC #banking #economy

  3. StephenH

    All the signs are there for another credit crunch, writes @AnnPettifor: //t.co/aA6rcUqC #banking #economy

  4. seuss

    All the signs are there for another credit crunch, writes @AnnPettifor: //t.co/aA6rcUqC #banking #economy

  5. Political Planet

    All the signs are there for another credit crunch: the threads of forbearance and liquidity holding up the balan… //t.co/inLuo0Kn

  6. Pulp Ark

    All the signs are there for another credit crunch //t.co/B7B2Z2Hd #Sustainable_Economy #austerity #banks #muslim #tcot #sioa

  7. Michael

    All the signs are there for another credit crunch //t.co/zExSbsyO

  8. Stephen Henderson

    I think there is too little scrutiny by the media of what exactly is in Lloyds and RBS ‘bad banks’. When you start looking through their useless loans it’s all property speculation, leveraged buyouts and private equity – and none of the directors or investors having lost anything.
    At least in Ireland their property tycoons have been publicly shamed- here the people behind the crunch are still quids in and anonymous.

  9. RecessionInfo 4 All

    All the signs are there for another credit crunch: As I have emphasised before (to no avail it seems) Britain's … //t.co/83in9Qeu

  10. Patron Press - #P2

    #UK : All the signs are there for another credit crunch //t.co/HLNyr2QJ

  11. BevR

    All the signs are there for another credit crunch //t.co/zExSbsyO

  12. Hitchin England

    RT @leftfootfwd: All the signs are there for another credit crunch, writes @AnnPettifor: //t.co/Yl4JA69v #banking #economy #NewsClub

  13. leftlinks

    Left Foot Forward – All the signs are there for another credit crunch //t.co/pUKHrfPG

  14. BevR

    All the signs are there for another credit crunch //t.co/jBbqoeAW #wrb #spartacusreport #boycottworkfare #nhssavedmylife #democracy

  15. Thomas Hemingford

    All the signs are there for another credit crunch //t.co/jBbqoeAW #wrb #spartacusreport #boycottworkfare #nhssavedmylife #democracy

  16. Alex Braithwaite

    RT @leftfootfwd: All the signs are there for another credit crunch //t.co/pNV0DaK8

  17. Martin Steel

    All the signs are there for another credit crunch, writes @AnnPettifor: //t.co/aA6rcUqC #banking #economy

  18. wallwhizkarty

    All the signs are there for another credit crunch, writes @AnnPettifor: //t.co/oxBS7P7P #banking #economy /via @leftfootfwd

  19. arthur jordan

    All the signs are there for another credit crunch | Left Foot Forward //t.co/4kPmRKjY via @addthis

  20. Elaine Lothian

    All the signs are there for another credit crunch //t.co/JuONFrcG

  21. Hardison Manluctao

    RT @leftfootfwd: All the signs are there for another credit crunch //t.co/269HLhjS

  22. Prime Economics

    All the signs are there for another credit crunch. Yours cheerfully…. //t.co/xFenNARV #banking #economy /via @leftfootfwd

  23. Ann Pettifor

    All the signs are there for another credit crunch. Yours cheerfully…. //t.co/hPkRVgcA #banking #economy /via @leftfootfwd

  24. Annette Strauch

    All the signs are there for another credit crunch. Yours cheerfully…. //t.co/hPkRVgcA #banking #economy /via @leftfootfwd

  25. Anne Hesnan

    All the signs are there for another credit crunch. Yours cheerfully…. //t.co/hPkRVgcA #banking #economy /via @leftfootfwd

  26. Iain Anderson

    "private debts eclipse – by a huge margin – our public sector debt as a share of the national cake." @annpettifor //t.co/HBr7Ljhr

  27. Joy Johnson

    RT @AnnPettifor: All the signs are there for another credit crunch. Yours cheerfully…. //t.co/TUKxEVls//t.co/vhChZOkP

  28. Mark Martin

    All the signs are there for another credit crunch. Yours cheerfully…. //t.co/hPkRVgcA #banking #economy /via @leftfootfwd

  29. Inna Mood

    RT @AnnPettifor: All the signs are there for another credit crunch. Yours cheerfully.. //t.co/6kLvNphy #banking #economy v @leftfootfwd

  30. Kate Willis

    All the signs are there for another credit crunch. Yours cheerfully…. //t.co/hPkRVgcA #banking #economy /via @leftfootfwd

  31. Ian Wright

    All the signs are there for another credit crunch. Yours cheerfully…. //t.co/hPkRVgcA #banking #economy /via @leftfootfwd

  32. Howard Jackson

    #AnnPettifor is predicting another credit crunch. She was one of the few to predict the last. You have been warned. //t.co/0FZ4dur6

  33. Martin McGrath

    Public debt (almost) irrelevant. Austerity makes things worse. New credit crunch looms. //t.co/vcdDEJNM @leftfootfwd <- Ruining Tuesday

  34. H. O.

    RT @leftfootfwd: All the signs are there for another credit crunch //t.co/1JlnyPSX

  35. Elaine Lothian

    All the signs are there for another credit crunch | Left Foot Forward //t.co/bA3CfhFy

  36. Anthony Painter

    Boo to that #intheblacklabour 'group'… hoodwinking Labour into acknowledging the deficit. //t.co/SxxCzlAd

  37. Lou Carroll

    @AnnPettifor: All the signs are there for another credit crunch. Yours cheerfully…. //t.co/4Rt1nNcH #banking #economy #leftfootfwd

  38. paulgriffithsuk

    @andybower I agree with Allister Heath. I recently read this //t.co/1GzgpWim which draws a similar conclusion albeit different remedy

  39. Tim Coldwell

    RT @leftfootfwd: All the signs are there for another credit crunch | Ann Pettifor //t.co/1fZevhPR #gfc2 #browsings @rszbt #ukfi

  40. Knut Cayce

    RT @leftfootfwd: All the signs are there for another #credit #crunch //t.co/776JYIgj

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