Risks, whether global coming from a global crisis, such as the Covid pandemic and high inflation, or local, such as a controversial presidential election, can be reflected in the level of Credit Default Swaps (CDS) on government debt. The CDS reflects the perception of sovereign default risk but also can reflect economic and geopolitical risks which can in turn affect equity markets. The Covid pandemic, high inflation, a global slowdown, the war in Ukraine, build-up of global debt, and the recent rise in oil prices are some of the recent global risks. In March 2023, during the lead up to the U.S. debt ceiling crisis, we gave an analysis of 5-year CDS spreads around the world. Looking at the CDS markets currently, what are they telling us about risks of the global markets?
Most noticeably, U.S.CDS started to rise in April 2022 connected to the debt ceiling crisis and the banking sector stress and reached a local peak in March 2023. It is currently rising again with the possible government shutdown.
Italian CDS tends to be an outlier. It rose dramatically during the early days of the Covid crisis in 2020 and rose again in July 2022 with the resignation of Prime Minister Draghi and the subsequent September 2022 election of Meloni. German and French CDS tend to be low and steady, rising modestly during the early days of the Covid.
U.K. CDS rose dramatically in September 2022 connected to Liz Truss’s budget proposal. U.K. CDS has subsequently declined but stabilized.
Japanese CDS are low and steady, rising modestly during the early days of the Covid pandemic. Indian CDS tend to be higher than those in China, Korea, and Japan. They spiked during the early days of the Covid pandemic. Chinese, Indian, and Korean CDS spreads started to rise again in the Spring of 2022 with first the possible default on U.S. debt and stayed elevated in the Fall of 2022 with rising global interest rates and risk of a U.S. recession. Subsequently they have declined.
In general, Latin American CDS spreads tend to be higher than for Asian emerging markets. Over the period looked at, Brazil’s CDS spreads tend to be higher than most other markets causing our scaling for CDS to be increased on this graph. All three Latin American CDS rose during the early part of the Covid pandemic and also, like Asian CDS, rose during the Spring/Fall of 2022 with the possible default on U.S. debt, rising global interest rates, and risk of a U.S. recession. Like Asian CDS, spreads have declined since the Fall of 2022.
Turkish CDS is perennial outlier causing the scaling of the graph to be increased even beyond Latin America. Turkish CDS rose during the Covid crisis in 2020 and again considerably in the Spring 2022 with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. They rose again during the Turkish Presidential election in Spring 2023 but have fallen since then. Hungarian and Polish CDS rose in the Fall of 2022 most likely with the increase in inflation and proximity to the war in Ukraine. Czech Republic CDS have been narrow and steady.
Globally CDS spreads are currently tending to narrow, except for a modest increase in two important markets - U.S. and China. The modest widening for the U.S. is possibly explained by the looming government shutdown. For China, it can perhaps be explained by the Chinese economic slowdown and real estate crisis. We are hoping that the risks in both these markets can be contained.
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