Drifting Apart: Income Convergence in the Euro Area

A souvenir shop in Lisbon, Portugal: Income convergence in the euro area has slowed (Photo: Rafael Marchante/REUTERS/Newscom)

By Jeffrey Franks and Hanni Schölermann

September 13, 2017

Versions in Español (Spanish), 語 (Japanese)

The experience of recent decades has challenged the prediction that the single currency would help differences in income levels across euro area countries narrow over time. This income convergence among the founding countries of the euro has not happened, prompting a need for further economic reforms. While newer members of the euro have converged, even this trend has stalled since the crisis.

Continue reading “Drifting Apart: Income Convergence in the Euro Area” »

Back-to-School Blogs

By IMFBlog

September 5, 2017

Back to school in Paris, France: get caught up on our top blogs you may have missed over the summer (photo: LAURENT CHAMUSSY/SIPA/Newscom)

What a summer it’s been. To help you get a handle on all that has happened in the global economy, our editors have compiled a handy primer of our blogs published over the summer months. Continue reading “Back-to-School Blogs” »

More Action Needed on European Bank Profitability

By John Caparusso, Rohit Goel and Will Kerry

August 30, 2017

Versions in Español (Spanish), Deutsche (German), Français (French)

A woman withdraws money from an automated teller machine in Italy: Some European banks have too many branches relative to assets (photo: Martin Moxter imageBROKER/Newscom)

European banking has made considerable progress in the past few years: Banks have built up capital, regulation is stronger and supervision has been enhanced. But profitability remains weak, posing risks for financial stability.

In a sample of more than 170 large European lenders with combined assets of $35 trillion, roughly half generated a weak return on equity in 2016, and banks representing only 15 percent of assets generated a healthy return on equity, defined as more than 10 percent. Weak profitability is also shown in a low return on assets for domestic banks in many European countries. The drivers of these weak returns reflect varying combinations of low income, high costs, or provisions needed to build buffers against non-performing assets.

Continue reading “More Action Needed on European Bank Profitability” »

Off the Charts: Your Favorite 5 Charts

By IMFBlog

August 28, 2017

(photo: iStock by Getty Images).

Much as sailors use nautical charts to determine their location at sea, economists use charts to show who we are, where we are, and where we might be going.

In the Spring, we began our Chart of the Week feature on the blog: snapshots in time and over time of how economies work to help illuminate the uncharted waters ahead for the global economy.

Here are our top five charts of the week, based on readership:

Continue reading “Off the Charts: Your Favorite 5 Charts” »

Chart of the Week: House of Cards

By IMFBlog

August 21, 2017

House for sale: young adults in the UK, US, and Europe have experienced declining home ownership rates (photo: Chris Helgren/Reuters/Newscom).

In some countries, owning a home is a rite of passage: a symbol of a stable life and a sound investment.

However young adults in the United Kingdom, United States, and Europe have experienced declining home ownership rates. Continue reading “Chart of the Week: House of Cards” »

By | August 21st, 2017|Advanced Economies, banking, Economic research, Europe, housing|

Aging Japan Puts a Strain on the Financial System

By Gaston Gelos and Sònia Muñoz

August 10, 2017

Versions in 中文 (Chinese), 日本語 (Japanese)

Elderly shoppers in Tokyo’s Sugamo district: As Japan's population ages, demand for financial services shifts (photo: Issei Kato/Reuters/Newscom).

Japan’s population is shrinking and getting older, posing challenges to the nation’s financial system. How Japan copes could guide other advanced economies in Asia and Europe that are grappling with the same trends but are at an earlier phase of similar demographic developments.

Continue reading “Aging Japan Puts a Strain on the Financial System” »

A Dip into Subzero Policy Rates

by Giovanni Dell’Ariccia, Vikram Haksar, and Tommaso Mancini-Griffoli

August 3, 2017

Versions in ربي (Arabic), 中文 (Chinese),  Español (Spanish), 日本語 (Japanese); Русский (Russian)

A recent IMF paper looks at the effectiveness of negative interest rates, drawing on the initial experience of the euro area, Denmark, Japan, Sweden, and Switzerland (photo: Tuckraider/iStock by Getty Images)

Zero was gradually adopted in the ancient world—both east and west—as the ultimate point of reference, a point above and below which things change. For the ancient Egyptians, zero represented the base of pyramids. In science it became the freezing point of water, in geography the altitude of the sea, in history the starting point of calendars.

In the realm of monetary policy, zero was typically seen as the lower bound for interest rates. That has changed in recent years in the context of a slow recovery from the 2008 crisis. Several central banks hit zero and began experimenting with negative interest rate policies. Most did so to counter very low inflation, but some also were concerned about currencies that were too strong. Continue reading “A Dip into Subzero Policy Rates” »

A Common Cause for Sustainable Growth and Stability in Central Africa

By Abebe Aemro Selassie

August 1, 2017

Version in Français (French),  Português (Portuguese), and Español (Spanish);

Woman with a machete in Bafut, Cameroon: Six countries in Central Africa have a strategy to turn their economies around, with help from the IMF (photo: Heiner Heine/imageBroker/Newscom)

Six countries in central Africa have been hit hard by the collapse in commodity prices. Oil prices dropped, economic growth stalled, public debt rose, and foreign exchange reserves declined. A delayed response from policymakers, and a regional conflict have worsened the situation further for people in the region.

The countries of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community are Gabon, Cameroon, Chad, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, and Equatorial Guinea. They share a common currency—the CFA franc—that is pegged to the euro, and have a common central bank that holds the region’s pool of foreign exchange reserves. Continue reading “A Common Cause for Sustainable Growth and Stability in Central Africa” »

Stepping up the Fight Against Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing

By Christine Lagarde

July 26, 2017

Versions in ربي (Arabic),  中文 (Chinese), Français (French), Русский (Russian), and Español (Spanish)

Money laundering and terrorist financing threaten economic stability. International cooperation is vital in the fight against misuse of the financial system (photo: CraigRJD/iStock by Getty Images)


Corrupt officials, tax cheats, and the financial backers of terrorism have one thing in common: they often exploit vulnerabilities in financial systems to facilitate their crimes.

Money laundering and terrorist financing can threaten a country’s economic and financial stability while funding violent and illegal acts. That is why many governments have stepped up the fight against such practices, helped by international institutions such as the IMF.

Continue reading “Stepping up the Fight Against Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing” »

A Firming Recovery

By Maurice Obstfeld

July 24, 2017

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

(photo: IMF)

The recovery in global growth that we projected in April is on a firmer footing; there is now no question mark over the world economy’s gain in momentum.

As in our April forecast, the World Economic Outlook Update projects  3.5 percent growth in global output for this year and 3.6 percent for next.

The distribution of this growth around the world has changed, however: compared with last April’s projection, some economies are up but others are down, offsetting those improvements. Continue reading “A Firming Recovery” »

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