7 Apr 2013

The scale of Eurozone debt and the money supply

I've been trying to understand the scale of debt in the Eurozone and its relation to the money supply and come across something that doesn't seem to make sense.

I was happy to find a set of numbers on the Banque de France website that gives the size of Eurozone M3 for every month since 1970. Impressive! It's even right up to date, because you can even find a value for Feburary 2013. You can find the full figures here, but I've plotted them in the following graph.

As you can see, the increase has been spectacular, increasing 30-fold. It actually peaked at €9,805 billion at the end of December 2012, and has dropped back a bit to €9,761 billion in the following two months.

The other thing that I have been doing is combining the figures for Eurozone Private Debt from the recently published BIS dataset with the ECB figures for Government debt. The BIS Private sector debt distinghishes between borrowing by "Households and NPISHs (Non-profit institutions serving households)" and "Non-financial corporations" (which I take to mean businesses). Here's the graph for the period from the beginning of 1999 to the end of 2011.

The puzzling thing is that if you add the three components together, you get a total level of debt within the Eurozone at the end of 2011 of €23,784 billion (nearly €24 trillion).  And the problem is that number is 2.5 larger than the M3 Money supply at the same  point in time (€9,538 billion).  In other words, there is a lot more debt in the Eurozone than there is money.

It is at this point that I realize that maybe my economics skills are lacking. I suppose that it is possible that the difference is due to money that is owed to actors outside the Eurozone. Maybe we owe over €14 trillion to the Chinese, or the Saudis? Or to Goldman Sachs?

If someone can clear this up for me, please leave a comment. Answers on a postcard please....

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