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Navigating the debt legacy of the pandemic

COVID-19 has left a legacy of record-high debt and shifted the trade-offs between benefits and costs of accumulating government debt. How do these trade-offs…



This article was originally published by Brookings

By M. Ayhan Kose, Franziska Ohnsorge, Naotaka Sugawara

COVID-19 has left a legacy of record-high debt and shifted the trade-offs between benefits and costs of accumulating government debt. How do these trade-offs manifest themselves? And how does the current debt boom compare with previous episodes? We argue that the debt legacy of the pandemic is exceptional by historical standards in a way that warrants prompt policy action.

 The pandemic’s debt legacy

 The recent fiscal deterioration in advanced economies and emerging market and developing economies (EMDEs) stands apart over the past half-century. Output collapses and government spending to keep economies afloat triggered a massive increase in global debt levels. In 2020, global government debt increased by 13 percentage points of GDP to a new record of 97 percent of GDP. In advanced economies, it was up by 16 percentage points to 120 percent of GDP and, in EMDEs, by 9 percentage points to 63 percent of GDP.

Even before the pandemic, the global economy experienced an unprecedented wave of debt accumulation that started in 2010—the largest, fastest, and most broad-based of four global debt waves since 1970. In EMDEs, the accompanying widening of fiscal deficits and the speed at which both government and private debt rose far exceeded changes in previous waves of debt.

This rapid increase in debt is a major cause for concern because of the risks associated with high debt. Previous waves of debt ended in widespread financial crises, such as the Latin American debt crises in the 1980s and the East Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s.

Trade-offs of debt accumulation

The pandemic has vividly illustrated the benefits of accumulating debt in the role of large fiscal support programs during the 2020 global recession. They were a critical policy response to avoid worse economic outcomes. They supported household incomes, kept businesses afloat, and helped stabilize financial markets.

However, as the initial recovery from the pandemic gives way to a new normal, the balance of benefits and costs of debt accumulation is increasingly tilting toward costs. The costs of debt include interest payments, the possibility of debt distress, constraints that debt may impose on policy space and effectiveness, and the possible crowding out of private sector investment (Figure 1).

As the global economy strengthens, financial conditions are likely to tighten, whether because central banks begin to normalize monetary policy or because investors expect higher inflation. In EMDEs, this may be accompanied by depreciations that put pressure on debt sustainability in those countries with a large share of foreign currency-denominated debt. Even where foreign currency-denominated debt is limited, rising borrowing cost may erode debt sustainability, especially if growth fails to rebound strongly. Record-high EMDE debt makes countries vulnerable to financial market stress. Meanwhile, a recovery in domestic demand and closing output gaps may make additional fiscal stimulus unhelpful.

Ongoing debt booms

And many EMDEs are now particularly vulnerable to financial stress. More than two-thirds of EMDEs are currently experiencing debt booms. Their median government debt boom currently underway is similar in magnitude to, but has already lasted three years longer than, the median past debt boom (Figure 2). Current booms have been accompanied by a considerably larger fiscal deterioration than past booms (Figure 3). And booms currently underway have also been associated with slower output, investment, and consumption growth than in previous episodes.

Duration of debt booms in EMDEs

Change in fiscal positions during current and past debt booms in EMDEs

Historically, about half of such booms in EMDEs were associated with financial crises either during the boom itself or in the two years after the end of the boom. Government debt booms associated with financial crises featured significantly weaker macroeconomic outcomes than booms without crises.

Low-income countries (LICs) are particularly at risk of debt distress, both because of high debt levels and because of a fragile composition of debt. In LICs, government debt rose by 7 percentage points, to 66 percent of GDP, in 2020. The composition of LIC debt has become increasingly non-concessional over the past decade as they have accessed capital markets and borrowed from non-Paris Club creditors. Since the end of April 2021, about one-half of LICs have been classified as being at high risk of debt distress or already in debt distress.

What to do?

National policymakers, as well as the global community, need to act urgently to address debt-related risks. Unfortunately, there is no easy policy fix that EMDE policymakers can implement to overcome these risks. For these economies, containing the potential risks associated with accumulating debt may mean resorting to alternatives for borrowing, including better spending and revenue policies, in an improved institutional environment. Spending can be shifted toward areas that lay the foundation for future growth, including education and health spending as well as climate-smart investment to strengthen economic resilience. Government revenue bases can be broadened by removing special exemptions and strengthening tax administrations. Business climates and institutions can be strengthened to support vibrant private sector growth that can yield productivity gains and expand the revenue base.

The global community can play a significant role in supporting a return to fiscal sustainability in EMDEs. In the near term, this includes supporting the vaccine rollout in these economies, where it has lagged and has weighed on the recovery. In the medium term, this includes fostering an open and rules-based trade and investment climate that has been a critical growth engine for many economies in the past. For some EMDEs, and LICs in particular, additional support may be needed to return debt to manageable levels, including debt relief.


Cannabis analytics startup Headset, led by Leafly founders, raises more cash

The news: Cannabis analytics company Headset on Tuesday announced that it raised $8.6 million in funding. That includes $3 million of venture capital from…

Headset co-founders, left to right: CEO Cy Scott, Chief Technology Officer Scott Vickers, and Chief Design Officer Brian Wansolich. (Headset Photos)

The news: Cannabis analytics company Headset on Tuesday announced that it raised $8.6 million in funding. That includes $3 million of venture capital from a round led by Althea, as well as the conversion of $5.6 million of bridge notes issued in August 2020 and this past April.

The Seattle-based company reports having more than 300 customers and 50 employees.

Headset has raised about $23 million, according to GeekWire reporting.

The tech: Headset provides data analytics for the cannabis industry on growers and product manufacturers; retail sales; food, health and beauty products; financial services; and hardware.

The company gathers information on market trends, top selling cannabis strains, market projections for states where recreational marijuana is newly legalized, ruminations on the impacts of inflation, and favored product brands in different regions.

The new funding will help Headset expand its analysis into new legal markets and launch additional services.

(Bigstock Photo)

The founders: Headset was founded in 2015 by CEO Cy Scott, Chief Design Officer Brian Wansolich and CTO Scott Vickers, who all previously co-founded Leafly, an online cannabis marketplace that is going public via a SPAC merger.

The tailwinds: While Washington and Colorado were the first states to legalize recreational marijuana use back in 2012, an additional 16 states plus Washington, D.C. have followed suit. More than a dozen others have approved cannabis for medical use.

When the pandemic forced businesses to close in order slow COVID-19’s spread, marijuana dispensaries in many states were deemed “essential” and allowed to remain open. The New York Times called it “official recognition that for some Americans, cannabis is as necessary as milk and bread.”

The sector: Competition in the cannabis analytics space include BDSA, which according to PitchBook has raised $16.2 million, and Cannabis Big Data. Both are based in Colorado.

There are big dollars flowing into online sales of cannabis. Oregon’s Dutchie has raised more than $600 million while Leafly is valued at nearly $400 million.

There is also continued momentum in delivery. Uber entered the cannabis market just last week, announcing plans to launch a delivery service in Ontario.

The investors: In addition to the private equity investment firm Althea, the VC round included two investors focused on the cannabis sector: Poseidon Investment Management and WGD Capital.

Track all of GeekWire’s in-depth startup coverage: Sign up for the weekly startup email newsletter; check out the GeekWire funding tracker and venture capital directory; and follow our startup news headlines.

Author: Lisa Stiffler

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WTI Extends Losses After Smaller Than Expected Crude Draw

WTI Extends Losses After Smaller Than Expected Crude Draw

Crude prices puked over 5% today as demand fears over Omicron (jet fuel demand)…

WTI Extends Losses After Smaller Than Expected Crude Draw

Crude prices puked over 5% today as demand fears over Omicron (jet fuel demand) and European case count continued acceleration combined with Fed Chair Powell’s taper tantrum. While tighter monetary policy can be a sign of economic strength, it’s typically bearish for commodities. WTI briefly dropped below $65 a barrel for the first time since August during the session, while the global benchmark Brent also tumbled.

“That ties back to crude oil because if you start to pump the brakes on economic growth, you start to see impact on demand,” said Rebecca Babin, senior energy trader at CIBC Private Wealth Management.

Oil traders are also tracking talks this week aimed at reviving Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Success at the negotiations in Vienna could lift sanctions on Iran’s economy, leading to a resumption in official oil flows. The exchanges began positively on Monday, according to a top European diplomat.

However, the next leg one way or the other will likely be decided by this week’s inventory data…


  • Crude -747k (-1.66mm exp)

  • Cushing (+1.00mm exp)

  • Gasoline

  • Distillates

Crude stocks fell 747k barrels last week, less than expected…

Source: Bloomberg

After the biggest monthly drop since March 2020, WTI was hovering around $66.75 ahead of the API print and dipped after despite the small crude draw…

Are we about to see gas prices at the pump plunge?

As Bloomberg notes, the oil market is also continuing to weigh the impact of the omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus on demand and what OPEC+ may decide to do in response when the producer group meets later this week. New travel restrictions threaten the rebound in global crude consumption that has underpinned this year’s price rally.

Tyler Durden
Tue, 11/30/2021 – 16:37

Author: Tyler Durden

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4 Top Stock Trades for Wednesday: Ethereum, XPEV, DLTR, BABA

Stocks were creamed on Friday due to worries over the new Covid variant Omicron. We bounced nicely on Monday, but stocks are back under pressure on Tuesday….

Stocks were creamed on Friday due to worries over the new Covid variant Omicron. We bounced nicely on Monday, but stocks are back under pressure on Tuesday. With that in mind, let’s look at a few top stock trades.

Top Stock Trades for Tomorrow No. 1: Ethereum (ETH-USD)

Click to Enlarge
Source: Chart courtesy of TrendSpider

While Bitcoin (CCC:BTC-USD) isn’t seeing the same kind of rotation today, Ethereum (CCC:ETH-USD) sure is.

In fact, Ethereum is going weekly-up over $4,555. From here, that puts the 161.8% extension and the all-time high in play up near $4,875 to $4,900.

If that does indeed come to fruition, bulls will inevitably turn their attention to the $5,000 level. A breakout over $5,000 puts the $5,500 area in play next, followed by $6,000 to $6,250 zone — where another set of upside extensions sit.

Back below $4,555, and investors will be watching the 10-day and 21-day moving averages.

Below $4,380 has the 50-day and 10-week moving averages on deck, followed by around $4,000.

Top Stock Trades for Tomorrow No. 2: Xpeng (XPEV)

Daily chart of XPEV
Click to Enlarge
Source: Chart courtesy of TrendSpider

Xpeng (NYSE:XPEV) continues to trade incredibly well. And if we look at just this chart, there’s no indication that the market is experiencing any volatility.

The stock is doing a terrific job holding up over the breakout level (blue line) and the 10-day moving average. Now trying for a weekly-up rotation and a move over the 61.8% retracement, bulls are hoping to see Xpeng gain steam over $55.

If it does, that could open the door to the current 2021 high up near $60, then the 78.6% retracement at $63.41.

However, a move below the breakout level and the 10-day moving average could force XPEV stock to rest a bit.

Top Stock Trades for Tomorrow No. 3: Dollar Tree (DLTR)

Top stock trades for DLTRf
Click to Enlarge
Source: Chart courtesy of TrendSpider

Dollar Tree (NASDAQ:DLTR) was a stock I had on my radar early this morning, as the stock was under pressure from a downgrade following a fantastic earnings reaction.

Shares are checking back to the 10-day moving average after its massive run, opening the door for aggressive dip-buyers to get long.

If we get a bounce going, $140 would be the first upside target. Above that, and $143.50 to $145 could be next, followed by the highs near $148.

On the downside, though, failure to find support could put $130 in play, followed by the 21-day moving average.

Top Trades for Tomorrow No. 4: Alibaba (BABA)

Top stock trades for BABA
Click to Enlarge
Source: Chart courtesy of TrendSpider

Last but not least, we have Alibaba (NYSE:BABA), which has been an abysmal performer. 

The stock is working on its fourth quarterly decline in the past five quarters, and the one quarterly gain in that stretch was a paltry 0.02% — and no, that’s not a typo!

Shares have declined in nine of the past 13 months and in the most recent month (November), we’ve seen a 22% haircut to the share price. Alibaba ended November in a monthly-down rotation, taking out the October low.

Amid the recent decline, BABA stock is now below its 2018 low at $138-and-change. If we reclaim it, it could put a reversal in play.

However, a further decline could put the $120 level on deck. With some divergence on the chart, that could set Alibaba stock up for a bounce if we get there. While it won’t always remain the case, bears remain in control at the moment.

On the date of publication, Bret Kenwell did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the Publishing Guidelines.

Bret Kenwell is the manager and author of Future Blue Chips and is on Twitter @BretKenwell.

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Author: Bret Kenwell

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