Doomsday clock for global market crash strikes one minute to midnight as central banks lose control

China currency devaluation signals endgame leaving equity markets free to collapse under the weight of impossible expectations

When the banking crisis crippled global markets seven years ago, central bankers stepped in as lenders of last resort. Profligate private-sector loans were moved on to the public-sector balance sheet and vast money-printing gave the global economy room to heal.

Time is now rapidly running out. From China to Brazil, the central banks have lost control and at the same time the global economy is grinding to a halt. It is only a matter of time before stock markets collapse under the weight of their lofty expectations and record valuations.

The FTSE 100 has now erased its gains for the year, but there are signs things could get a whole lot worse.

1 – China slowdown

China was the great saviour of the world economy in 2008. The launching of an unprecedented stimulus package sparked an infrastructure investment boom. The voracious demand for commodities to fuel its construction boom dragged along oil- and resource-rich emerging markets.

The Chinese economy has now hit a brick wall. Economic growth has dipped below 7pc for the first time in a quarter of a century, according to official data. That probably means the real economy is far weaker.

2 – Commodity collapse

The China slowdown has sent shock waves through commodity markets. The Bloomberg Global Commodity index, which tracks the prices of 22 commodity prices, fell to levels last seen at the beginning of this century.

The oil price is the purest barometer of world growth as it is the fuel that drives nearly all industry and production around the globe.

3 – Resource sector credit crisis

With oil and metals prices having collapsed, many of these projects are now loss-making. The loans raised to back the projects are now under water and investors may never see any returns.

Nowhere has this been felt more acutely than shale oil and gas drilling in the US. Tumbling oil prices have squeezed the finances of US drillers. Two of the biggest issuers of junk bonds in the past five years, Chesapeake and California Resources, have seen the value of their bonds tumble as panic grips capital markets.

As more debt needs refinancing in future years, there is a risk the contagion will spread rapidly.

4 – Dominoes begin to fall

The great props to the world economy are now beginning to fall. China is going into reverse. And the emerging markets that consumed so many of our products are crippled by currency devaluation. The famed Brics of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, to whom the West was supposed to pass on the torch of economic growth, are in varying states of disarray.

The central banks are rapidly losing control. The Chinese stock market has already crashed and disaster was only averted by the government buying billions of shares. Stock markets in Greece are in turmoil as the economy grinds to a halt and the country flirts with ejection from the eurozone.

Earlier this year, investors flocked to the safe-haven currency of the Swiss franc but as a €1.1 trillion quantitative easing programme devalued the euro, the Swiss central bank was forced to abandon its four-year peg to the euro.

8 – Overvalued US market

In the US, Professor Robert Shiller’s cyclically adjusted price earnings ratio – or Shiller CAPE – for the S&P 500 stands at 27.2, some 64pc above its historic average of 16.6. On only three occasions since 1882 has it been higher – in 1929, 2000 and 2007.

Full article: Doomsday clock for global market crash strikes one minute to midnight as central banks lose control (The Telegraph)

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