02182018

New IMF warning on financial stability

Jose VinalsImage copyright
Handout

Image caption

Company and bank finances are “stretched thinner in many emerging markets”, according to Mr Vinals

The International Monetary Fund has warned that “global financial stability is not yet assured”.

The note of caution came from senior IMF official Jose Vinals, as he presented the organisation’s latest Global Financial Stability Report.

But the nature of the danger has changed, he said.

Financial stability in advanced economies has improved, but risks have moved towards emerging economies, Mr Vinals explained.

The shift in the focus of the IMF’s concern partly reflects issues raised in the fund’s report about the wider global economic outlook published on Tuesday.

One of the key messages in that analysis was that emerging and developing economies are experiencing their fifth consecutive year of slowing economic growth.

That is one of the key factors behind the increased risks to their financial stability.

Dollar debts

Company and bank finances are “stretched thinner in many emerging markets”, the report says. The IMF estimates there is $3.3 trillion in what it calls “overborrowing” by companies and banks in emerging markets.

China, Thailand, Turkey and Brazil are identified as countries where credit has expanded markedly compared with past trends.

Another issue is businesses with foreign currency debts that could be hit by a strengthening dollar, which makes their debts more expensive to repay in national currency terms. On that measure, Hungary, Mexico, Indonesia and Chile are particularly exposed.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

China: hoping for an increase in consumer spending

One big question posed by the report is “can China avoid destabilizing markets while achieving its objectives”, namely moving to a more sustainable rate of economic growth based more on services and spending by Chinese consumers.

The problem for the rest of the world is that the transition involves at the very least slower growth in Chinese demand for commodities, especially energy and industrial raw materials. That has already had a marked impact on some emerging economies that supply them and the share prices of companies in the business.

China risk

The report notes that global financial markets have become more sensitive to changes in China’s economic performance and policy.

There is no definitive answer to the question, but a pretty clear recognition that the Chinese slowdown does pose a risk to financial stability beyond its own borders.

The fact that the focus is increasingly on emerging economies does not mean the IMF thinks all is rosy in the rich countries. There are still legacy issues from the financial crisis, particularly in government finances and the banks in the euro area.

But it is striking that the IMF’s attention is showing signs of moving away from the direct aftermath of the financial crisis that shook the rich world in 2007 and the years that followed.

What Next?

Recent Articles

Leave a Reply

You must be Logged in to post comment.