Going forward, while the space for a macroeconomic policy response is smaller than it was entering the global financial crisis, Asia’s policymakers still have ample room to react appropriately to a sharp deleveraging of foreign banks arising from a euro area shock. In addition, capital adequacy ratios, which exceed regulatory norms in most economies, and low nonperforming loan ratios, combined with room to offer liquidity support, suggest that relatively healthy local banking systems should also provide a buffer, as they did in the wake of the global financial crisis.
Worsening terms of trade, and the persistent strength of imports tied to investment spending have had a substantial impact on China’s currency account surplus. Economists here at the IMF suggest they account for close to two-thirds of that decline since 2007. But as I said above, there is little evidence that consumption is rising as a share of GDP. Yes, China is increasingly becoming a source of final consumer demand for the world economy, but its imports of consumer goods are growing at a slower pace than its imports of machinery and equipment.
Over the past two decades—in line with the region’s growing role in the global economy—Asia’s equity markets have become increasingly sensitive to global financial developments. More specifically, we have discovered that equity returns in Asia generally now move in tandem with those in systemic economies. (By systemic economies, we are talking here about those countries—such as the United States and the United Kingdom which are home to major, global, financial centers such as Wall Street and the City of London.)
The fact is, the global outlook underpins any turnaround in Asia and at this point, it could go either way: too early to declare victory over the forces of financial volatility and contagion. The art then is being prepared for either eventuality and policymakers should be ready to shift gears if, and when, circumstances warrant.
The new issue of the IMF’s Finance & Development magazine explores how the region is moving into a leadership role in the world economy. Anoop Singh, Director of the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department, says that, based on expected trends, within five years Asia’s economy will be about 50 percent larger than it is today and be comparable in size to the economies of the United States and Europe.