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” »

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” »

Building Fiscal Institutions in Fragile States

By Katherine Baer, Sanjeev Gupta, Mario Pessoa

August 9, 2017

Version in Français (French)

A porter in the market in Kathmandu, Nepal: the country increased their tax revenues in recent years with the help of technical assistance (photo: Navesh Chitrakar/Newscom)

Fragile states face more obstacles to growth than most countries.  Their per-capita GDP is less than half of most other low-income countries, and their economies are more volatile.  Many are in conflict or going through a natural disaster, or just emerging from these.  Our study is based on 39 countries, and since completed, the number of fragile states has increased to 43. 

To grow, a country needs tax policies and tax administration, laws and institutions to formulate and execute a budget, and trained staff to implement fiscal policies, among other factors.  Our preliminary results show that fragile states that have received technical assistance, also have improved their fiscal performance.

Continue reading “Building Fiscal Institutions in Fragile States” »

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” »

Latest Outlook for The Americas: Back on Cruise Control, But Stuck in Low Gear

By Alejandro Werner

July 25, 2017

Versions in Español (Spanish), Português (Portuguese)

Shopping mall in Viña del Mar, Chile: Latin America is expected to recover gradually as most economies continue to face weak domestic demand (photo: Rodrigo Garrido/Newscom)

After disappointing growth over the past few years, economic activity in Latin America remains on track to recover gradually in 2017–18 as recessions in a few countries—notably Argentina and Brazil—are coming to an end. Our latest projections show the region growing by 1 percent in 2017 and 1.9 percent in 2018.

But amid low confidence, domestic demand continues to remain weak across most economies, and is expected to only recover slowly as actual output catches up to potential and internal sources of growth build strength, based on a decline in political and policy uncertainty across some major economies. Some countries in the region will need clear strategies to adjust further following a permanent loss in commodity revenues. Continue reading “Latest Outlook for The Americas: Back on Cruise Control, But Stuck in Low Gear” »

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” »

Uganda’s Recipe for Growth

By IMFBlog

July 21, 2017

Construction worker in Uganda (photo: James Akena/Reuters/Newscom)

After two decades of steady growth, Uganda’s economy has slowed, and life for Ugandans is not improving fast enough.

Drought in the Horn of Africa, regional conflict, and slow credit growth have contributed to this decline, with per capita growth falling to ½ percent from an average of 5 percent for the past 20 years. Continue reading “Uganda’s Recipe for Growth” »

IMF Support for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals

By Stefania Fabrizio, Roland Kpodar, and Chris Lane

July 19, 2017

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

Schoolchildren in line in Mali: Reducing the large gap between men’s and women’s education in some low-income states is one of the 2030 goals which IMF advice can address (photo: Stringer/Reuters/Newscom)

Since the adoption of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, we at the IMF have supported countries to reach their goals through policy advice, training, and financial support. Results will accrue over time, and we already see some notable progress. Continue reading “IMF Support for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals” »

Chart of the Week: Norway’s Home-Price Boom

By IMFBlog

July 10, 2017 

A crane looms over the city of Oslo, Norway: Constraints on new construction limit the supply of housing, driving up prices (photo: Ingram Publishing/Newscom)

Think Londoners and New Yorkers have it bad when it comes to sky-high house prices? Residents of Oslo have reason to gripe, too.

House prices in the Norwegian capital are among the world’s highest, as measured by the average cost of a home relative to household median income. Prices in Oslo are perhaps the most visible symptom of a real estate boom across the oil-rich, Nordic nation of 5.2 million people.

Continue reading “Chart of the Week: Norway’s Home-Price Boom” »

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