Chilling Davos: A Bleak Warning on Global Division and Debt

Red Flag Warning.png

By Andrew Ross Sorkin

  • Jan. 22, 2019

The letter, written by Seth A. Klarman, a billionaire investor known for his sober and meticulous analysis of the investing world, is a huge red flag…

Mr. Klarman, a 61-year-old value investor, runs Baupost Group, which manages about $27 billion. 

For one thing, he details the way virtually every developed country has taken on mounting debt since the financial crisis in 2008, a trend that he says could lead to a financial panic. He cites the increasing ratio of government debt to gross domestic product from 2008 to 2017, to a point exceeding 100 percent in the United States and nearing that figure in France, Canada, Britain and Spain.

“The seeds of the next major financial crisis (or the one after that) may well be found in today’s sovereign debt levels,” he said.

Mr. Klarman is especially worried about debt load in the United States, what it could mean to the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency and how it could ultimately affect the country’s economy.

“There is no way to know how much debt is too much, but America will inevitably reach an inflection point whereupon a suddenly more skeptical debt market will refuse to continue to lend to us at rates we can afford,” he wrote. “By the time such a crisis hits, it will likely be too late to get our house in order.”

Mr. Klarman believes that the public, almost irrationally, has become too blasé about all these risks and that investors have been lulled into taking on even more risk.