Is Brazil Fueling the Next Boom, or the Next Credit Crisis?

The boom of the aughts was built on the back of a debt-crazy U.S. consumer. In the bust, Americans have retrenched, spending up their savings and spending down their debt. Meanwhile, the Chinese and Brazilians have done their best to fill the void. In the short term, more spending, more demand, and more trade are all good things. But in the medium/long-term, you have to wonder whether 30 percent credit expansion is a good thing for any country.

In 2009, the year the global recession hit bottom, the aggregate credit-card balances of Chinese consumers rose 17.1% even as those of U.S. consumers fell 8.7%, according to a study by financial consultancy Lafferty Group. Brazilians increased their balances by 28.9%, part of a 9.2% rise throughout Latin America.

More people going into debt might not sound like a desirable development, but in some ways this could be. One of the global economy's biggest problems has been its dependence on an overstretched U.S. consumer. If folks in places such as China and Brazil are now stepping up and taking on some of the burden, that could provide some much-needed rebalancing.

Read the full story at WSJ.