Latin America: What’s Ahead in 2012?


By Nicolás Eyzaguirre

(Version in Español, Português)

A few days after the first sunrise of 2012 kissed the shores of Latin America, it is natural to ask: What does the New Year hold for the region’s economies, especially with Europe still under stress?

For sure, a dimmer economic environment, here and abroad. Growth has softened in the larger countries of the region. Looking North, the United States is growing a bit more, but elsewhere activity is softening, including in China—an increasingly important customer for the region’s commodities.

Perhaps more importantly, global financial markets are still strained, because many questions about advanced economies remain unanswered:    Continue reading

Capital Flows to the Final Frontier


By Antoinette M. Sayeh

(Version in Français)

Sub-Saharan Africa’s “frontier markets”—the likes of Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, and Zambia—were seemingly the destination of choice for an increasing amount of capital flows before the global financial crisis. Improving economic prospects in these countries was a big factor, but frankly, so too was a global economy awash with liquidity.

Then the crisis hit. And capital—particularly in the form of portfolio flows—was quick to flee these countries as was the case for so many other economies.

Fast forward to 2011. Capital flows are coming back to the frontier, but in dribs and drabs. Continue reading

Does Foreign Exchange Intervention Slow the Pace of Currency Appreciation?


By Gustavo Adler and Camilo E. Tovar

(Version in Español)

Abundant global liquidity and high exposure to capital movements have put foreign exchange intervention at center stage of the policy debate in Latin America. Although intervention is widely used, there is limited evidence about its effects on the exchange rate, and particularly in terms of slowing the pace of currency appreciation.

In the latest Regional Economic Outlook: Western Hemisphere we took a fresh look at this issue, examining intervention practices and effectiveness for a group of economies in Latin America and other regions during 2004-10. In particular, we sought to answer the following questions:

  • How do Latin American countries intervene and in what respects do they differ from other economies?
  • What are the rationales for these policies?
  • How effective have they been in affecting the exchange rate?  Continue reading

Reducing the Chance of Pulling the Plug on Liquidity


By Jeanne Gobat

The near collapse of the financial system that set off the global crisis was due in part to financial institutions suddenly lacking access to funding markets, and liquidity drying-up across securities markets.

Many financial institutions were unable to roll over or obtain short term funding without sustaining significant losses. This threatened to sink them.

Financial institutions did not factor in how their own responses to a liquidity shortfall could make the entire system shut down and less stable—that is, they underestimated their contribution to systemic liquidity risk in good times, and did not bear the cost of their actions on others in bad times.

It only takes a few institutions to pull the plug on a liquidity-filled bathtub before it runs dry, and the central bank needs to open the spigots again. Continue reading

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