NEW YORK ( ETF Expert) -- Governments around the globe are struggling to get their spending in check. Annual deficits in the developed world are, in many cases, devastatingly obscene.
Yet, if an industrialized country (e.g., Germany, Japan, United States, Great Britain, etc.) has enough cache with global borrowers, that nation may presently borrow-n-spend with impunity.
Treasuries, gilts, JGBs, German "bunds" -- the rich sovereigns have been racking up enormous "credit card" debts at ridiculously low rates. (Of course, that only works for so long... just ask Italy or Spain!)
On the flip side, large multi-national corporations, have also been able to take enormous advantage of cheap borrowing. Consider a late July move by
International Business Machines
where it raised millions of 10-year money at a paltry 1.88%. That's less than the cost of historical inflation. In fact, it is less than the cost of our so-called deflationary environment where inflation has averaged 2.25% over the past three years.
In other words, IBM is effectively earning an inflation-adjusted gain -- increasing its purchasing power - by paying back its loan over the next decade.
At first glance, one might suggest that governments are doing the same thing. With the power to print money, the investor doesn't have to worry about a big country going belly-up. The problem with that thinking is that we all know a country can indeed lose its access to easy credit as well as find itself unable to pay its current obligations when it dramatically overspends.
On the other hand, the IBMs of the worldwide community have used the easy money/cheap borrowing to strengthen their balance sheets since 2008. The multi-nationals are sitting on piles of cash to continue funding their operations, where profits and revenue themselves are not dependent on a single country's GDP.
Indeed, multinationals are equipped to muddle through a global growth slowdown; that is, the micro-economic environment will expand over time with less trauma than we witnessed in 2008. In contrast, governments running unsustainable deficits are barely able to support their respective macro-economies; if there are going to be dramatic shocks going forward, they'll hit macro-economic GDP/employment more than micro-economic earnings/revenues.