Currency & Power


by iMFdirect

We have a global economy, but we don’t have a global currency. Or do we?

In this podcast interview with Benjamin Cohen, professor of International Political Economy at the University of California, Cohen explains why currencies become internationalized, and examines the relationship between world currencies and State power.

Power is influence, and it is also the ability to do what you want without having to worry about what others want, according to Cohen.

The United States dollar has been a dominant currency because the U.S. economy has dominated since World War II. What makes the dollar attractive, according to Cohen, is the U.S. financial market. The dollar offers liquidity advantages that no other does.

Cohen describes what he calls a currency pyramid, which  includes the U.S. dollar at the very peak.  It has universal scope and domain. Potentially the renminbi, China’s currency (also known as the yuan), which is still just a minnow, according to Cohen, but it’s international use is growing quite rapidly. It reflects that China has achieved a degree of autonomy that’s almost unprecedented.

Some people would like one world currency, which would come with a great deal of power. Cohen does not believe a world currency is possible in today’s world.

The best we can hope for is for institutions like the IMF to help governments to manage their currencies more efficiently.

According to Cohen, as long as we have a political system that relies on state sovereignty, we’re going to live with an imperfect monetary system, and the best we can hope for is international institutions that can help smooth some of the rough edges.

To listen to the podcast, you can tune in here:

 

Sluggish Business Investment in the Euro Area: The Roles of Small and Medium Enterprises and Debt


By John C. Bluedorn and Christian Ebeke

Small businesses could be the lifeblood of Europe’s economy, but their size and high debt are two of the factors holding back the investment recovery in the euro area. The solution partly lies in policies to help firms grow and reduce debt.

Our new study, part of the IMF’s annual economic health check of the euro area, takes a novel bottom-up look at the problem. We analyze the drivers of investment using a large dataset of over six million observations in eight euro area countries, from 2003 to 2013: Austria, Belgium, Germany, France, Finland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. Continue reading

Tackling China’s Debt Problem: Can Debt-Equity Conversions Help?


By James Daniel, José Garrido, and Marina Moretti

Version in 中文 (Chinese)

China’s high and rising corporate debt problem and how best to address it has received much attention recently. Indeed, corporate debt in China has risen to about 160 percent of GDP, which is very high compared to other, especially developing, countries.

The IMF’s April 2016 Global Financial Stability Report looked at the issue from the viewpoint of commercial banks and resulting vulnerabilities. Its analysis suggests that the share of commercial banks’ loans to corporates that could potentially be at risk has been rising fast and, although currently at a manageable level, needs to be addressed with urgency in order to avoid serious problems down the road.  Indeed the success in addressing this issue is important for China’s economic transition and, given its size and growing global integration, the world’s economy at large.

Continue reading

Warning Signs as Global Financial Risks Increase


GFSRBy José Viñals

Versions in عربي (Arabic), 中文 (Chinese), Français (French), 日本語 (Japanese), Русский (Russian), and Español (Spanish)

 

Over the last six months, global financial stability risks increased as a result of the following developments:

  • First, macroeconomic risks have risen, reflecting a weaker and more uncertain outlook for growth and inflation, and more subdued sentiment. These risks were highlighted yesterday at the World Economic Outlook press conference.
  • Second, falling commodity prices and concerns about China’s economy have put pressure on emerging markets and advanced economy credit markets.
  • Finally, confidence in policy traction has slipped, amid concerns about the ability of overburdened monetary policies to offset the impact of higher economic and political risks.

Continue reading

The Broader View: The Positive Effects of Negative Nominal Interest Rates


By Jose ViñalsSimon Gray, and Kelly Eckhold

Versions in: عربي (Arabic), Deutsch (German), 日本語 (Japanese), and Español (Spanish)

We support the introduction of negative policy rates by some central banks given the significant risks we see to the outlook for growth and inflation. Such bold policy action is unprecedented, and its effects over time will vary among countries. There have been negative real rates in a number of countries over time; it is negative nominal rates that are new. Our analysis takes a broad view of recent events to examine what is new, country experiences so far, the effectiveness of negative nominal rates as well as their limits and their unintended consequences. Although the experience with negative nominal interest rates is limited, we tentatively conclude that overall, they help deliver additional monetary stimulus and easier financial conditions, which support demand and price stability. Still, there are limits on how far and for how long negative policy rates can go. Continue reading

A New Look at the Benefits and Costs of Bank Capital


By Jihad Dagher, Giovanni Dell’Ariccia, Luc Laeven, Lev Ratnovski, and Hui Tong

The appropriate level of bank capital and, more generally, a bank’s capacity to absorb losses, has been a contentious subject of discussion since the financial crisis. Larger buffers give bankers “skin in the game” helping to prevent excessive risk taking and absorb losses during crises. But, some argue, they might increase the cost of financial intermediation and slow economic growth.

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Public Roads with Private Money: A Way Ahead


By iMFdirect

When you drive over potholes on downtown streets, are forced to make large detours to cross rivers lacking bridges, and finally arrive to find no cell coverage, connections between the global infrastructure investment gap and your pension fund might not be the immediate thing that comes to mind. But it should, because:

  • Huge pools of available assets: pension funds, insurance companies, mutual funds and sovereign wealth funds sit on $100 trillion in assets. To compare: U.S. nominal GDP in the third quarter of last year was $18 trillion.
  • Huge infrastructure investment gap: between $1 to 1.5 trillion per year worldwide.

Continue reading

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