Volatility Strikes Back

By Sergei Antoshin, Fabio Cortes, Will Kerry and Thomas Piontek

May 3, 2018 

Investors who bet on continued low volatility suffered steep losses (photo: Richard B. Levine/Newscom).

The bouts of volatility in early February and late March that spooked investors were confined to equity markets. Nevertheless, they illustrate the potential for sudden market moves to expose fragilities in the financial system more broadly.

With central banks in advanced economies set to normalize their monetary policies just as trade and geopolitical tensions flare up, economic and policy uncertainty may rise and financial conditions may tighten abruptly. Continue reading “Volatility Strikes Back” »

Fiscal Rules: Make them Easy to Love and Hard to Cheat

By Xavier Debrun, Luc Eyraud, Andrew Hodge, Victor Lledo, Catherine Pattillo, Abdelhak Senhadji

April 13, 2018

Versions in Español (Spanish), Français (French),  Português  (Portuguese)

The national debt clock in New York City: a fiscal rule, like the debt ceiling, should not be set too low or too high. (photo: Frances M. Roberts/Newscom)

Rules to contain lavish government deficits are most effective if countries design them to be simple, flexible, and enforceable in the face of changing economic circumstances.

In new analysis, we look at fiscal rules in over 90 countries and, based on their experiences, find that the rules put in the place over the last three decades often were too complex, overly rigid, and difficult to enforce. Continue reading “Fiscal Rules: Make them Easy to Love and Hard to Cheat” »

Risky Business: Reading Credit Flows for Crisis Signals

By Claudio Raddatz Kiefer and Jérôme Vandenbussche 

April 10, 2018

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

The odds of a severe economic downturn are higher when a growing portion of credit flows to riskier firms, according to a new IMF study (Photo: Pali 137/ iStock by Getty Images).

Supervisors who monitor the health of the financial system know that a rapid buildup of debt during an economic boom can spell trouble down the road. That is why they keep a close eye on the overall volume of credit in the economy. When companies go on a borrowing spree, supervisors and regulators may decide to put the brakes on credit growth.

Trouble is, measuring credit volume overlooks an important question: how much of that additional money flows to riskier companies – which are more likely to default in times of trouble—compared with more creditworthy firms? The IMF’s latest Global Financial Stability Report seeks to fill that gap by constructing measures of the riskiness of credit allocation, which should help policy makers spot clouds on the economic horizon. Continue reading “Risky Business: Reading Credit Flows for Crisis Signals” »

For Home Prices in London, Check the Tokyo Listings

By Claudio Raddatz Kiefer and Jane Dokko

April, 10, 2018

Versions in عربي (Arabic);  中文 (Chinese), Español (Spanish),  Français (French), 日本語 (Japanese),  Português (Portuguese)

Hong Kong viewed from Victoria Peak. House prices across countries and cities are increasingly moving in tandem (Photo: Fraser Hall/Robert Harding/Newscom).

If house prices are rising in Tokyo, are they also going up in London?

Increasingly, the answer is yes.

In recent decades, house prices around the world have shown a growing tendency to move in the same direction at the same time. What accounts for this phenomenon, and what are the implications for the world economy? These are questions that IMF economists explore in Chapter 3 of the latest Global Financial Stability Report. Continue reading “For Home Prices in London, Check the Tokyo Listings” »

The Struggle to Manage Debt

By Christoph Rosenberg

March 1, 2018

Good economic times offer an opportunity to tackle budget deficits

The global economy has a spring in its step. Growth is picking up, and we at the IMF have been ratcheting up our forecasts. Government coffers are filling and, with more people at work, demand for public social support is receding. The fiscal woes of the past decade seem behind us.

But this sunny perspective ignores debt levels that remain close to historic highs and the inevitable end of the cyclical upswing. Estimates of underlying growth potential have hardly budged, and interest rates—the cost of servicing all this debt—are starting to rise, which will eventually make it harder to refinance bonds and loans. Continue reading “The Struggle to Manage Debt” »

Financial Stability Improves, But Rising Vulnerabilities Could Put Growth at Risk

By Tobias Adrian

October 11, 2017

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

The headquarters of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germany: To avoid causing market turbulence, central banks will have to clearly communicate their plans to gradually unwind crisis-era policies (photo: Caro/Sven Hoffman/Newscom).

It seems like a paradox. The world’s financial system is getting stronger, thanks to healthy economic growth, buoyant markets, and low interest rates. Yet despite these favorable conditions, dangers in the form of rising financial vulnerabilities are starting to loom. That is why policymakers should act now to keep those vulnerabilities in check. Continue reading “Financial Stability Improves, But Rising Vulnerabilities Could Put Growth at Risk” »

How Policy Makers Can Better Predict a Downturn – and Prepare

By Claudio Raddatz and Jay Surti

October 3, 2017

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

A trading floor in Singapore. Financial conditions provide valuable clues to the economic outlook and can improve the accuracy of forecasts (photo: Caro/Oberhaeuser/Newscom).

The global financial crisis showed that periods of robust growth and seeming calm in financial markets can be followed by a sudden surge in market volatility and an unexpected economic downdraft. That’s why it is so important for policy makers to keep a close watch on so-called financial conditions. These can include everything from bond yields and oil prices to foreign exchange rates and levels of domestic debt. Continue reading “How Policy Makers Can Better Predict a Downturn – and Prepare” »

Rising Household Debt: What It Means for Growth and Stability

By Nico Valckx

October 3, 2017

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

Household debt, including mortgage debt, has been on the rise since the global financial crisis (photo: Louoates/iStock).

Debt greases the wheels of the economy. It allows individuals to make big investments today–like buying a house or going to college – by pledging some of their future earnings.

That’s all fine in theory. But as the global financial crisis showed, rapid growth in household debt – especially mortgages – can be dangerous. Continue reading “Rising Household Debt: What It Means for Growth and Stability” »

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” »

The Compact with Africa—The Contribution of the IMF

By Christine Lagarde

June 12, 2017

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

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde on a visit to Nigeria in 2016 (photo: IMF staff/Steve Jaffe)

Some of the world’s top policymakers and investors are gathering in Berlin to discuss a new initiative that could help reshape Africa’s economic future.

Millions of citizens could see tangible economic benefits from the recently launched Group of Twenty advanced and emerging economies' initiative, known as the “Compact with Africa.” The goal is to boost private investment by harnessing the expertise and resources of governments, investors, and international organizations.

The Compact is about facilitating projects that can lift productivity and living standards. It is about creating fresh opportunities on a continent where 70 percent of the population is under 35 years of age.

Continue reading “The Compact with Africa—The Contribution of the IMF” »

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