The More the Merrier? What Happens When More People Use Financial Services

By Ratna Sahay, Martin Cihak, Papa N’Diaye, Adolfo Barajas, and Srobona Mitra

(Version in FrançaisEspañolعربي)

A growing number of policymakers see financial inclusion—greater access to financial services throughout a country’s population—as a way to promote and make economic development work for society. More than 60 countries have adopted national financial inclusion targets and strategies. Opening bank accounts for all in India and encouraging mobile payments platforms in Peru are just two examples. Evidence for individuals and firms suggests that greater access to financial services indeed makes a difference in investment, food security, health outcomes, and other aspects of daily life. Our study looks at the benefits to the economy as a whole.

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Metals and Oil: A Tale of Two Commodities

By Rabah Arezki and Akito Matsumoto

(Version in Español)

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” With these words Charles Dickens opens his novel “A Tale of Two Cities”. Winners and losers in a “tale of two commodities” may one day look back with similar reflections, as prices of metals and oil have seen some seismic shifts in recent weeks, months and years.

This blog seeks to explain how demand — but also supply and financial market conditions — are affecting metals prices. We will show some contrast with oil, where supply is the major factor. Stay tuned for a deeper analysis of the trends in a special commodities feature, which will be included in next month’s World Economic Outlook.

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From Taper Tantrum to Bund Bedlam

By Yingyuan Chen, David Jones and Sanjay Hazarika

(Versions in 中文 and deutsch)

Global financial markets traditionally take their cue from the United States. Unexpected Fed rate hikes have unsettled global markets in the past. The entire global financial system threw a tantrum when then Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke merely suggested in May 2013 that the end to bond-buying and other policies could soon begin. However for the past year, the gears of global markets seem to have been thrown into reverse — it is German government bonds, known as Bunds, rather than U.S. bonds, known as Treasuries, that appear to be driving prices in global bond markets. This role reversal could add a new layer of complexity to investor calculations as they prepare for the beginning of Fed interest rate hikes, which are expected later in 2015. Also, as developments in Greece lead to rises and falls in Bund and Treasury yields, this is a trend worth keeping an eye on.

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Behind the News in Greece and China, Moderate Growth Continues

 By Olivier Blanchard

(Versions in Español and عربي)

Today we published the World Economic Outlook Update.

But first, let me talk about the elephant in the room, namely Greece.

The word elephant may not be right: As dramatic as the events in Greece are, Greece accounts for less than two percent of the Eurozone GDP, and less than one half of one percent of world GDP.
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“To Lean or Not to Lean?” That is the Question

By Stefan Laseen, Andrea Pescatori, and Jarkko Turunen

Academics and policy-makers alike have long struggled with the question of whether to use monetary policy to dampen asset price booms – whether to “lean against the wind” or not. Can officials identify emerging asset price bubbles, what are the implications of bursting them, and is monetary policy the appropriate response to potential bubbles? These questions have become even more important to the policy debate in the wake of the global financial crisis, which was preceded by an unsustainable boom in sub-prime mortgage lending and housing prices.

Given over six years of near zero policy interest rates, should the U.S. Fed now use interest rates to lean against potential financial stability risks that may have built up?

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U.S. Monetary Policy: Avoiding Dark Corners

By Ali Alichi, Douglas Laxton, Jarkko Turunen, and Hou Wang

Copyright : © fStop Images GmbH / AlamyA few weeks ago, the Fund suggested that the Federal Reserve could defer its first increase in the policy rate until it sees greater signs of wage or price inflation, with a gradual increase in the federal funds rate thereafter. Such a monetary policy strategy could help avoid the “dark corners” in which, as Olivier Blanchard has argued, small shocks can have potentially large effects. In this blog and accompanying working paper, we expand upon this idea. We also outline the potential benefits of an expanded communications toolkit.

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Cross-Country Analysis of Housing Finance and Real Estate Booms

By Eugenio Cerutti, Jihad Dagher, and Giovanni Dell’Ariccia

Housing finance—considered one of the villains of the recent global financial crisis—was seen, at least until recently, as a vehicle for economic growth and social stability.  Broader access to housing finance promotes home ownership, especially for younger and poorer households; which in turn is often linked to social stability, and ultimately economic growth.

But real-estate boom episodes have often ended in busts with dire economic consequences, especially when the boom was financed through fast credit growth.  Several countries have seen these boom-bust patterns over the last decade, particularly in some of the hardest hit countries during the global financial crises, such as Ireland, Spain, and the United States. Despite having different mortgage market structures, these three countries saw an astonishing increase in house prices and construction on the back of risky lending which was followed by a painful adjustment period—a mortgage credit boom gone bad.

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