Dr. Lorenz Weimann
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In the three previous years, financial assets grew at twice that pace, with an average rate of 9 percent. It is certainly no coincidence that slowing growth has hit Europe, the US and Japan the hard-est. In Western Europe (3.2 percent) and the US (2.4 percent), growth more than halved in 2015. At the other end of the spectrum is Asia (excl. Japan), where financial assets expanded by 14.8 percent. The region's lead over the rest of the world is only getting bigger. This also applies in relation to the world's other two up-and-coming regions, Latin America and Eastern Europe, where average growth was only half that in Asia. The days in which these regions were able to keep up with their counterparts in Asia are long gone. Of the total global financial assets of EUR 155 trillion, the region Asia (excl. Japan) accounted for 18.5 percent in 2015; this not only means that the proportion of assets held by this region has more than trebled since 2000 but also that the region’s share now far outstrips that of the eurozone (14.2 per-cent).
At 4.5 percent, the liabilities of households grew in 2015 at the same rate as they had in 2014. All in all, household debt came to EUR 38.6 trillion at the end of the year, a good quarter higher than the value prior to the outbreak of the major financial crisis. Developments varied considerably from region to region: In Asia (excl. Japan), debt growth picked up and in some countries like South Korea or Malaysia debt ratios, i.e. household liabilities measured as a percentage of nominal economic output, came in at levels seen in the US, Ireland or Spain at the height of the housing boom. On the other hand, in Latin America and Eastern Europe – due to the crises dogging the major economies in these regions – debt growth has dropped significantly. In North America and Western Europe, hardly any change was detected, with liabilities in-creasing at only a very moderate rate – lagging behind the rate of growth in economic output for what is now the sixth year running. So all in all, households – especially in the advanced countries – were still taking a very cautious approach to borrowing; in many countries in Western Europe, liabilities were still being reduced in 2015.