The Trouble with Debt-to-GDP Ratios

From a Morgan Stanley report, summarized on Bloomberg, on the trouble with debt-to-GDP ratios, and the likelihood of sovereign default.

Mares said debt as a percentage of gross domestic product is a false indicator of an economy’s health given it doesn’t reflect governments’ available revenue and is “backward- looking.” While the U.S. government’s debt is 53 percent of GDP, one of the lowest ratios among developed nations, its debt as a percentage of revenue is 358 percent, one of the highest, the report said. Conversely, Italy has one of the highest debt- to-GDP ratios, at 116 percent, yet has a debt-to-revenue ratio of 188, Mares said.

“Outright sovereign default in large advanced economies remains an extremely unlikely outcome, in our view,” the report said. “But current yields and break-even inflation rates provide very little protection against the credible threat of financial oppression in any form it might take.”

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