The Ties That Bond Us: What Demand For Government Debt Can Tell Us About the Risks Ahead


by Serkan Arslanalp and Takahiro Tsuda

It’s not news that emerging markets can be vulnerable to bouts of market volatility. Investors often pull sudden stops—they stop buying or start selling off their holdings of government bonds.

But what has become apparent in recent years is that advanced economy government bond markets can also experience investor outflows, and associated runs. At the same time, some traditional and new safe haven countries have seen their borrowing costs drop to historic lows as they experience rising inflows from foreign investors.

Our new research shows that advanced economies’ exposure to refinancing risk and changes in government borrowing costs depend mainly on who is holding the bonds— the demand side for government debt.

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Not Making the Grade: Report Card on Global Financial Reform


by Laura Kodres

Despite a host of reforms in the right direction, the financial structures that were in place before the global crisis have not actually changed that much, and they need to if the global financial system is to become a safer place.

Although the intentions of policymakers are clear and positive, the system remains precarious.

Our new study presents an interim report card on progress toward a safer financial system. Overall, there is still a long way to go.

How we measure progress

In our study, we first tried to pay attention to those features of financial systems related to the crisis—the large dominant, highly interconnected institutions, the heavy role of nonbanks, and the development of complex financial products for instance—features that need to be addressed in some way.

To do this we needed to construct measures of these features in a way that would allow us to gauge how well the reforms are working toward changing them. We looked at a lot of data, but we focus on three types of features.

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The Long-term Price of Financial Reform


by André Oliveira Santos and Douglas J. Elliott

In response to the global crisis, policymakers around the world are instituting the broadest reform of financial regulation since the Great Depression.

Some in the financial industry claim the long-run economic costs of these global reforms outweigh the benefits. But our new research strongly suggests the opposite—the reforms are well worth the money.

Granted, just as adding fenders, safety belts, airbags, and crash avoidance features can make cars slower, we know that additional safety measures can slow down the economy in years when there is no crisis. The payoff comes from averting or minimizing a disaster.

Five years after the onset of the current crisis, we sadly know all too well the cost in terms of economic growth, so the potential gains in avoiding future crises are very large.

Our study finds that the likely long-term increase in credit costs for borrowers is about one quarter of a percentage point in the United States and lower elsewhere. This is roughly the size of one small move by the Federal Reserve or other central banks. A move of that size rarely has much effect on a national economy, suggesting relatively small economic costs from these reforms.

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How to Exit the Danger Zone: IMF Update on Global Financial Stability


By José Viñals

(Versions in  عربي, 中文, EspañolFrançaisРусский日本語)

Since September of last year, risks to global financial stability have deepened, notably in the euro area.

However, over the past few weeks, markets have been encouraged by measures to provide liquidity to banks and sovereigns in the euro area. This recent improvement should not be taken for granted, as some sovereign debt markets remain under stress, and as bank funding markets are on life support from the European Central Bank (ECB).

Main sources of risk

Many of the root causes of the euro area crisis still need to be addressed before the system is stabilized and returns to health. Until this is done, global financial stability is likely to remain well within the “danger zone,” where a misstep or failure to address underlying tensions could precipitate a global crisis with grave economic and financial consequences.

Despite the recent improvements, sovereign financing stress has increased for many countries—with almost two-thirds of outstanding euro area bonds at spreads in excess of 150 basis points—and financing prospects are challenging. Markets remain very volatile and long-term foreign investors have sharply reduced their exposure to a number of euro area debt markets, including some in the core. Keeping these investors involved is essential to stabilizing markets.

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Central Banks, Financial Regulators, and the Quest for Financial Stability: 2011 IMF Annual Research Conference


By Olivier Blanchard

The global financial crisis gave economists pause for thought about what should be the future of macroeconomic policy. We have devoted much of our thinking to this issue these past three years, including how the many policy instruments work together.

The interactions between monetary and macroprudential policies, in particular, remain hotly debated. And this year’s IMF Annual Research Conference is an important opportunity to take that debate another step forward.

Looking back, it is striking how many papers from last year’s conference—on post-crisis macroeconomic and financial policies—have been so immediately relevant to events on the ground. Just to give you an example: the paper on fiscal space is obviously front and center in the policy debate on the European sovereign crisis, the United States’ budget, and challenges faced by advanced country governments more generally.

This year’s topic—monetary and macroprudential policies—is equally relevant. It goes to the core of central banks’ mandates, and their role in achieving macroeconomic and financial stability. The financial crisis triggered a fundamental rethinking of these issues, but much research, both conceptual and empirical, remains to be done. The conference provides an excellent opportunity to engage with prominent academics, policymakers and private sector practitioners. I hope the conference will contribute to expanding the frontier of knowledge on this topic. Continue reading

Blow, Bling and Bucks: IMF Work Against Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing


By Jody Myers

(Version in Français)

Drug traffickers, diamond smugglers, and terrorists’ financiers around the world have one thing in common: they abuse the financial system to “clean” the proceeds they have obtained from their illegal work, or to transfer funds to achieve their destructive aims. The former is known as money laundering and the latter as terrorist financing.

In the United States alone, profits from these crimes are estimated around $275 billion, excluding tax evasion.

Our research shows this dark side of the economy has destructive consequences for a country’s financial stability, economy, and governance.    Continue reading

A Tale of Titans: The Too Important to Fail Conundrum


By Aditya Narain and İnci Ötker-Robe

Folklore is riddled with tales of a lone actor undoing a titan: David and Goliath; Heracles and Atlas; Jack and the Beanstalk, to name a few.

Financial institutions seen as too important to fail have become even larger and more complex since the global crisis. We need look no further than the example of investment bank Lehman Brothers to understand how one financial institution’s failure can threaten the global financial system and create devastating effects to economies around the world. Continue reading

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