After meeting with Realtors, investors, developers, and economists on a near daily basis it has come to my attention that while some may have a slight understanding of credit cycles, most truly do not understand them. The credit cycle has been my main thesis in these videos so I hope this will explain things further.
Billionaire Hedge Fund Manger Ray Dalio recently published a free book on credit cycles and debt crises. I Highly recommend you download it here https://www.principles.com/big-debt-crises/
However, here’s a brief summary:
Lending naturally creates self-reinforcing upward movements that eventually reverse to create self-reinforcing downward movements. During the upswings, lending supports spending and investment, which in turn supports incomes and asset prices; increased incomes and asset prices support further borrowing and spending on goods and financial assets. The borrowing essentially lifts spending and incomes above the consistent productivity growth of the economy. Near the peak of the upward cycle, lending is based on the expectation that the above-trend growth will continue indefinitely. But, of course, that can’t happen; eventually income will fall below the cost of the loans.
When money and credit growth are curtailed and/or higher lending standards are imposed, the rates of credit growth and spending slow and more debt service problems emerge. At this point, the top of the upward phase of the debt cycle is at hand. Realizing that credit growth is dangerously fast, the central banks tighten monetary policy to contain it, which often accelerates the decline (though it would have happened anyway, just a bit later). In either case, when the costs of debt service become greater than the amount that can be borrowed to finance spending, the upward cycle reverses. Not only does new lending slow down, but the pressure on debtors to make their payments is increased. The clearer it becomes that debtors are struggling, the less new lending there is. The slowdown in spending and investment that results slows down income growth even further, and asset prices decline.
Economies whose growth is significantly supported by debt-financed building of fixed investments, real estate, and infrastructure are particularly susceptible to large cyclical swings because the fast rates of building those long-lived assets are not sustainable. If you need better housing and you build it, the incremental need to build more housing naturally declines. As spending on housing slows down, so does housing’s impact on growth. Let’s say you have been spending $10 million a year to build an office building (hiring workers, buying steel and concrete, etc.). When the building is finished, the spending will fall to $0 per year, as will the demand for workers and construction materials. From that point forward, growth, income, and the ability to service debt will depend on other demand.
Typically debt crises occur because debt and debt service costs rise faster than the incomes that are needed to service them, causing a deleveraging. While the central bank can alleviate typical debt crises by lowering real and nominal interest rates, severe debt crises (i.e., depressions) occur when this is no longer possible.