London-based Kyran Curry, the long-time primary credit analyst for Australia at S&P, is back and the news is getting worse. From the AFR:
“The banks are highly indebted, they’re highly leveraged, they are the main vehicle Australia uses to fund its current account deficit…Australia has, as we see it, got some credit metrics that are right off the scale when it comes to assessing Australia’s external position…It’s got high levels of liabilities, it’s got very weak external liquidity and that basically means the banks are highly indebted compared to their peers…They’re benefiting from a safe haven at the moment – nonetheless investor sentiment can turn very quickly…We just worry that at some point, the people who are funding the Australian banks may decide that enough is enough and may begin to lose confidence in the bank’s ability to roll over their debt…That would come through a weakening in Australia’s major trading partners flowing through to a dramatic weakening in Australia’s fiscal position.”
Curry said this could be a two or three year scenario. But he added:
“Anything that weighs on the ability of Australia to bring forward new energy projects and that weighs on its export growth potential, that’s something that would put pressure on the rating. Australia is looking increasingly like a one-trick pony.”
Regular readers will note that S&P has pretty much captured my entire ‘peak Australia’ thesis. It is simultaneously ripping aside the veil of invisopower that regulators have dispersed around the banks and seeing for it is the singularly backward macroeconomic strategy of embracing Dutch disease. My two great fears.
The last line is the worst. I am of the view that LNG will rationalise – the current set of projects that is – not the fictitious pipeline. That means there is a risk that this is not a two or three scenario at all. Which does offer an answer to the question: why is S&P ramping its warnings now?
Canberra must immediately dispatch to Beijing a high level delegation to demand further stimulus. Perhaps a high-speed rail link from Beijing to the Bush Capital? That way, when they’re ready, the Chinese can relax in comfort on the way down to buy our banks.