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One of the World’s Savviest Investors Sees a Debt Default Wave and Recession.

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More and more the warnings of a credit crackup and economic pullback are not coming from the fringes but from the best known and most establishment voices in the financial world.

The latest example is a warning from Scott Minerd described in this article. Minerd is the Chief Investment Officer of Guggenheim Partners, one of the largest and most successful multi-family offices in the investment management business. The specific danger that Minerd sees is the toxic combination of excessive corporate debt and rising interest rates.

A lot of corporate debt incurred in the past five years was used not to build businesses but to do stock buybacks to prop up share prices. The loans were made at floating rates based on LIBOR (the London Inter-bank Offered Rate that big banks use to price loans).

Now these loans are coming due and have to be refinanced. But, rates are higher today than when the loans were first incurred and the corporate ability to service the debt is impaired because loan proceeds were not used in productive ways. All that is left are highly leveraged borrowers and the prospect of huge defaults.

Minerd also expects that short-term rates will continue to rise while long-term rates languish or come down. This will lead to an inverted yield-curve that is a predictable sign of recession.

Let’s hope that corporate defaults and recession are all we have to worry about. If Minerd’s scenario plays out, contagion could set in and his expected defaults and recession could turn into a full-blown liquidity crisis worse than 2008.

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