Saturday, May 08, 2010

What happens if China stops buying US debt?

Some people who claim to know, are saying that time may be closer than we think:

China May `Crash' in Next 9 to 12 Months, Faber Says
Investor Marc Faber said China’s economy will slow and possibly “crash” within a year as declines in stock and commodity prices signal the nation’s property bubble is set to burst.

The Shanghai Composite Index has failed to regain its 2009 high while industrial commodities and shares of Australian resource exporters are acting “heavy,” Faber said. The opening of the World Expo in Shanghai last week is “not a particularly good omen,” he said, citing a property bust and depression that followed the 1873 World Exhibition in Vienna.

“The market is telling you that something is not quite right,” Faber, the publisher of the Gloom, Boom & Doom report, said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Hong Kong today. “The Chinese economy is going to slow down regardless. It is more likely that we will even have a crash sometime in the next nine to 12 months.”


Faber joins hedge fund manager Jim Chanos and Harvard University’s Kenneth Rogoff in warning of a crash in China.

China is “on a treadmill to hell” because it’s hooked on property development for driving growth, Chanos said in an interview last month. As much as 60 percent of the country’s gross domestic product relies on construction, he said. Rogoff said in February a debt-fueled bubble in China may trigger a regional recession within a decade. [...]

Read the whole thing for the details. It sounds like China is on an unsustainable path. So if China stops buying our debt, what could the response of the US government be? Neal Boortz speculated about this recently:

[...] A story in this week's edition of Human Events details a request by the Obama Administration to the Departments of Labor and Treasury to provide information regarding the "annuitization" of private 401K plans through something the Obama crowd calls "lifetime income options." Yeah ... lifetime income options paid by and controlled by the government. The Republicans are prepared to fight .. but until next year they don't have the numbers.

The second scenario in which the government could seize our 401K or IRA plans isn't really getting all that much attention ... yet. Maybe I just dreamed it up. Here's the scenario: Obama and the Democrats, with no small amount of help from the Republicans, continue to spend America into bankruptcy. The deficit grows and our national debt grows even more hideously. Finally China, facing some economic problems of its own, decides it owns enough U.S. debt. Treasury tries to auction some more debt instruments, and China shows no interest. Suddenly the Imperial Federal Government is faced with a problem ... who is going to buy U.S. Treasuries? Just how much interest are we going to have to pay? Answer? Why, we'll make our own citizens buy them! The next thing you know the Democrats are rushing to pass legislation mandating that all outstanding funds in 401K and IRA plans be immediately used to purchase a special issue of Treasury Bills! If you want to maintain the tax advantages of these retirement instruments you'll have to invest the money in low-yield Treasuries and hold "your fair share" of American debt. Good bye to making your own investment decisions and good bye to any decent rate of return on your retirement savings. [...]

I've sometimes regretted not maintaining a 401k. Now I'm wondering if it's just as well that I didn't.

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