China’s Housing Market: Defying the Odds?


by iMFdirect

Housing is on everyone’s mind. The collapse of housing bubbles can be very costly.

  • In Japan, house prices rose by about 40 percent during the mid-1980s; the collapse was followed by a ‘lost decade’ in which incomes did not grow and house prices fell by over 40 percent.
  • In the United States, house prices increased by about 30 percent between 2001 and 2006; their collapse was followed by the global financial crisis.

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Virtual Currencies: The Public Impact of Private Money


By iMFdirect

(Version in عربي中文, and Español)

Technology and finance have always gone together. So what’s new this time around? Virtual currencies are part of a broader tech revolution that is driving fundamental change in the global economy.

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Subdued Growth, Diminished Prospects, Action Needed


By Maurice Obstfeld

(Versions in عربي, , 中文Français, 日本語, Русский, and Español)

At the start of 2016, turbulence in financial markets has returned amid renewed concern about risks to global economic growth. The fundamental forces that underlay our October World Economic Outlook projections have not dissipated, and in some respects have intensified, leading us to trim our expectations for future medium-term growth of the world economy.

In the World Economic Outlook Update released today, we still, however, expect growth to pick up this year in most countries.

Despite the modesty of the reduction we see in general growth prospects and the promise of improvement in coming years, downside risks to our central scenario have intensified. In our view, a focus on these risks is the main factor driving recent developments in financial markets.

We may be in for a bumpy ride this year, especially in the emerging and developing world.

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The Specter of Risk in the Derivatives of Bond Mutual Funds


By Fabio Cortes

Current regulations only require U.S. and European bond mutual funds to disclose a limited amount of information about the risks they have taken using financial instruments called derivatives. This leaves investors and policymakers in the dark on a key issue for financial stability.  Our new research in the October 2015 Global Financial Stability Report looks at just how much is at stake.  Continue reading

Are Capital Flows Expansionary or Contractionary? It Depends What Kind


By Olivier Blanchard, Jonathan D. Ostry, Atish R. Ghosh, and Marcos Chamon

(Version in Español)

With the expected move by the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates before the end of the year, many are asking about the effects on emerging market countries. Will outflows increase, and how will this affect economic activity in emerging markets? To answer that, we need to know if capital inflows are in general expansionary or contractionary.

One would think that the question was settled long ago. But, in fact, it is not. It is a case where theory suggests one thing and practice another. The workhorse model of international macro (the Mundell-Fleming model), for example, suggests that, for a given monetary policy rate, inflows lead to an appreciation, and thus to a contraction in net exports—and a decrease in output. Only if the policy rate is decreased sufficiently can capital inflows be expansionary. Symmetrically, using a model along these lines, Paul Krugman argued in his 2013 Mundell-Fleming lecture that capital outflows are expansionary.

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Trading Out of Trouble in Latin America


By Natalija Novta and Fabiano Rodrigues Bastos

(Versions in Español and Português)

Growth in Latin America and the Caribbean is suffering a double whammy—economic activity has slowed down sharply and the medium-term outlook continues to deteriorate. It is therefore not surprising that policymakers across the region are eagerly searching for ways to revitalize growth.

One answer may be more trade—both within the region and with the rest of the world. Our new study analyzes the export performance in developing and emerging market regions over the past two decades to assess the potential for future export growth in Latin America. We find evidence that most countries in the region “undertrade” compared to what standard models would predict. This has been an entrenched problem for almost a quarter of a century, partly as a result of the region’s geography and a legacy of protectionist policies.

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What Future for Unconventional Monetary Policies


Maurice Obstfeld2By Maurice Obstfeld

How quickly should the United States tighten monetary policy and exit from quantitative easing?  Is the neutral real interest rate lower than before the crisis? Should we raise inflation targets?  What can we learn from the unconventional policies that emerging markets adopted during the crisis? Are we entering an environment of global deflation?  And if so, can the existing central bank toolkit stave off that threat?

Seven years after the crisis, the effects of unconventional monetary policies continue to be a matter of debate. There is little consensus not only about the effectiveness of these policies in promoting aggregate demand, but also about possible unintended side effects on financial stability.

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