Financial Armageddon: Is it time to stock up on emergency supplies?

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Get your cash and stuff it under the nearest mattress. Stock up on water and tinned food, head to your local (assuming it’s not already boarded up) and wait for all this to blow over.

That’s what we should be doing in the wake of the financial crash in China, at least according to Gordon Brown’s ex advisor and former Head of Communications at The Treasury, Damian McBride.

As Black Monday rocked China yesterday, McBride posted a series of alarming tweets:

Comparing the crash to what happened in 2008, McBride’s doom filled outlook rests on the fact that the conditions that saved the day in 2008 are no longer there, as interest rates are still at the very lowest they can be, and debts and deficits are too high to allow for big spending measures.

So what exactly is happening?

The Shanghai Composite Index fell by a terrifying 8.5% yesterday. This morning, stocks have fallen again by around 6% (and counting). If you have been following the Chinese markets, you may say that this was not too much of a surprise, as economic growth has been faltering for a while – industrial activity is slowing, and value of the Yuan has been slashed in a surprise move. Something had to give, and now stocks around the globe are being sold fast. What has shocked many people is the fact that something like this has happened so quickly.

Why is the market crashing?

China is coming to the end of a massive credit cycle. An increased number of Chinese people have been borrowing money to invest in stocks. Broker accounts held have increased in number from 45 million to around 90 million. The government also ordered the banks to extend credit to property companies in order to prop up domestic growth rates.

Margin calls have caused investors to sell good assets to pay for what they’ve borrowed, and are essentially replacing good with bad stock. As Irish economist David McWilliams theorises, the psychology of investors is shifting, going from “greed to a state of panic”, triggering even more waves on China’s other emerging markets.

Is it really time for the UK and Ireland to prepare for financial Armageddon?

As The Economist writes, what McBride fails to take into account is that overall, the banking system is stronger than it was on the eve of the 2008 crisis, making a meltdown on this scale unlikely. So far, the reverberations don’t seem to be as catastrophic for the European markets as initially feared. The FTSE took a battering on Monday but confidence in long term UK economic growth is largely unchanged. Long term implications depend on the Federal Reserve response to the crash, and what shape the stock market will be once the many traders that are currently on holiday return.

Some say China could be heading for a Japanese style stagnation, and the extended boom period for emerging economies could be drawing to an end. We could be heading for a long term global slowdown, which is worrying for European countries that have remained weak since 2008’s crisis. While we won’t be watching from our bunkers just yet, the world will be keeping a cautious eye on developments in the coming days.

Kayleigh Ziolo is a freelance journalist and writer based in Ireland.

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