While the ratio of global debt-to-GDP is at a record high, continuing recovery of global economy will likely prevent a debt crisis any time soon, S&P Global Ratings said.
Global debt to GDP has been rising for many years and the pandemic simply exacerbated the trend. While global debt hit a record 201 trillion dollars at the end of last year — equivalent to 267 per cent of GDP — S&P projects it will ease to 258 per cent by the end of this year before steadying at around 255 to 256 per cent in 2022-23.
“Naturally, the shape of the post-pandemic recovery will factor into how much and how quickly corporates, governments and households can trim debt if at all,” said S&P.
It said the real global GDP growth is forecast at 5 per cent in 2021, 4 per cent in 2022 and 3.6 per cent in 2023. The recovery is predicated on a successful vaccine rollout, availability of credit and adjustments in corporate, government and household spending, and borrowing patterns.
Either way, higher global leverage means elevated default risk. S&P said defaults may hit levels not seen since 2009. Moreover, heavy corporate debt may delay the recovery of credit metrics beyond 2022 for hard-hit sectors like airlines and leisure.
“A normalisation of interest rates owing to a strong Covid recovery is natural,” said S&P Global Ratings Senior Research Fellow Terence Chan. “The speed and volatility of path towards normalisation is more of a concern.”
The recent jump in longer-term US nominal yields has been notable. A gradual rise in real yields can simply reflect improved confidence in economic outlook.
Credit spreads may drift higher as real yields rise, but again this could simply mean more confidence in the future, said S&P.