Yet there are still two reasons to worry. First, the outlook for China is a puzzle. The country holds $1.2 trillion in Treasury bills, many of which are sitting in its sovereign-wealth fund. When the dollar rises, the fund gets richer. But even in a dollar-rich country, there can be pockets of pain. China’s firms have built up a nasty currency mismatch. Almost 25% of corporate debt is dollar-denominated, but only 8.5% of corporate earnings are. Worse, this debt is concentrated, according to Morgan Stanley, with 5% of firms holding 50% of it.When the post mortem on this next cycle is done, it will look a lot more like one long cycle than it does now.
Chinese property developers are the most obviously vulnerable. Companies like Evergrande, China Vanke and Wanda build and sell offices and houses, so most of their earnings are in yuan. Banned from borrowing directly from banks, they have been active issuers of dollar bonds. They have also borrowed from trust companies, according to Fitch, a rating agency. The trusts are themselves highly leveraged and have borrowed dollars via subsidiaries in Hong Kong. This arrangement will amplify the economic pain if property prices in China continue to decline, as they have been doing for several months.
Sunday, March 29, 2015