Show an ad over header. AMP

The zombies are coming: Coronavirus protections could be delaying a bankruptcy crisis

Data: IIF; Chart: Axios Visuals

The number of business bankruptcies and insolvencies in most countries has declined this year through the coronavirus pandemic as the world is seeing far fewer bankruptcies than it did in 2019.

Yes, but: That is largely thanks to assistance from central banks and government measures restricting things like foreclosures.


Why it matters: When the smoke clears the world is likely to be looking at a sizable increase in the number of zombie companies — firms that owe more on debt than they generate in profits but are kept alive by relentless borrowing.

  • "Zombie firms are smaller, less productive, more leveraged and invest less in physical and intangible capital," the Bank for International Settlements concluded in a report last month.
  • "Their performance deteriorates several years before zombification and remains significantly poorer than that of non-zombie firms in subsequent years."

The bottom line: More zombies will lead to a slower, less efficient and less productive global economy.

Background: The number of zombies globally increased in 2019 for the third straight year and was on pace to reach one in five S&P 500 companies in the U.S. this year before the pandemic.

  • The BIS report also noted that among publicly traded small and midsized companies, "the share of assets, capital and debt sunk in zombie firms is as high as 30%-40%."

By the numbers: Much has been made of the fact that the U.S. national debt now exceeds the country's GDP, but U.S. companies have increased their debt load to 90% of the country's GDP, up from 75% in the fourth quarter of 2019, economists at the Institute of International Finance note in a recent report.

  • In the first half of the year, non-financial corporates piled up some $1.4 trillion of new debt, bringing the total debt load to a record high of $17.6 trillion.
  • Outstanding bank loans to small and midsized companies rose to more than $400 billion and now is more than $6.5 trillion, or 34% of GDP.

The norms around science and politics are cracking

Crafting successful public health measures depends on the ability of top scientists to gather data and report their findings unrestricted to policymakers.

State of play: But concern has spiked among health experts and physicians over what they see as an assault on key science protections, particularly during a raging pandemic. And a move last week by President Trump, via an executive order, is triggering even more worries.

Keep reading... Show less

Apple sets September quarter sales record despite pandemic

Apple on Thursday reported quarterly sales and earnings that narrowly exceeded analysts estimates as the iPhone maker continued to see strong demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

What they's saying: The company said response to new products, including the iPhone 12 has been "tremendously positive" but did not give a specific forecast for the current quarter.

Keep reading... Show less

Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism

The coronavirus pandemic is worsening, both in the U.S. and abroad, with cases, hospitalizations and deaths all rising.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the state of global vaccine development — including why the U.S. and China seem to going at it alone — with medicinal chemist and biotech blogger Derek Lowe.

How central banks can save the world

The trillion-dollar gap between actual GDP and potential GDP is a gap made up of misery, unemployment, and unfulfilled promise. It's also a gap that can be eradicated — if central banks embrace unconventional monetary policy.

  • That's the message from Eric Lonergan and Megan Greene, two economists who reject the idea that central banks have hit a "lower bound" on interest rates. In fact, they reject the idea that "interest rates" are a singular thing at all, and they fullthroatedly reject the idea — most recently put forward by New York Fed president Bill Dudley — that the Fed is "out of firepower."

Why it matters: If Lonergan and Greene are right, then central banks have effectively unlimited ammunition in their fight to increase inflation and employment. They are limited only by political will.

Keep reading... Show less

Leon Black says he "made a terrible mistake" doing business with Jeffrey Epstein

Apollo Global Management CEO Leon Black on Wednesday said during an earnings call that he made a "terrible mistake" by employing Jeffrey Epstein to work on personal financial and philanthropic services.

Why it matters: Apollo is one of the world's largest private equity firms, and already has lost at least one major client over Black's involvement with Epstein.

Keep reading... Show less

Jeremy Corbyn suspended by U.K. Labour Party over anti-Semitism report

The U.K. Labour Party has suspended its former leader, Jeremy Corbyn, after a watchdog report found that the party failed to properly take action against allegations of anti-Semitism during his time in charge.

Why it matters: It represents a strong break by Keir Starmer, Labour's current leader, from the Corbyn era and one of the party's most persistent scandals.

Keep reading... Show less

U.S. economy sees record growth in third quarter

The U.S. economy grew at a 33.1% annualized pace in the third quarter, the Commerce Department said on Thursday.

The state of play: The record growth follows easing of the coronavirus-driven lockdowns that pushed the economy to the worst-ever contraction — but GDP still remains well below its pre-pandemic level.

Keep reading... Show less

Investors have nowhere to hide

The massive losses in oil prices and U.S. and European equities were not countered by gains in traditional safe-haven assets on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The unusual movement in typical hedging tools like bonds, precious metals and currencies means they are not providing investors an asset that will appreciate in the event of a major equity selloff.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories