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)

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), 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” »

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” »

How an Extended Period of Low Growth Could Reshape the Financial Industry

By Gaston Gelos and Jay Surti

Versions in  عربي (Arabic), Français (French), Русский (Russian), and Español (Spanish)

What happens if advanced economies remain stuck in a long-lasting funk marked by tepid growth, low interest rates, aging populations and stagnant productivity? Japan offers an example of the impact on banks, and our analysis suggests that there could also be far-reaching consequences for insurance companies, pension funds, and asset-management firms.

Continue reading “How an Extended Period of Low Growth Could Reshape the Financial Industry” »

With Global Financial Markets, How Much Control Do Countries Have Over Economic Policies?

By Selim Ali Elekdag and Gaston Gelos

Versions in عربي (Arabic), Français (French), Русский (Russian), and Español (Spanish)

The outlook for further interest-rate increases by the US Federal Reserve revives interest in a compelling question: In an increasingly integrated global financial system, how much control do countries outside of the US retain over their economic policies?

  Continue reading “With Global Financial Markets, How Much Control Do Countries Have Over Economic Policies?” »

Global Financial Stability: Vulnerabilities, Legacies, and Policy Challenges

GFSRBy José Viñals

(Versions in 中文FrançaisРусский, and Español)

Today global financial stability is not yet assured and downside risks prevail. Our recommendation is for an urgent upgrade in policies, to avoid downside risks and to achieve our upside scenario of “successful normalization” of monetary and financial conditions. This will secure financial stability and strengthen the economic recovery.

Continue reading “Global Financial Stability: Vulnerabilities, Legacies, and Policy Challenges” »

Emerging Market Corporate Debt in Foreign Currencies

By Selim Elekdag and Gaston Gelos

Debt held by firms in emerging market economies in a currency other than their own poses extra complications these days. When the U.S. Fed does eventually raise interest rates, the accompanying further strengthening of the U.S. dollar will mean an emerging market’s own currency will depreciate against the higher value of the U.S. dollar, and would make it increasingly difficult for firms to service their foreign currency-denominated debts if they have not been properly hedged.

In the latest Global Financial Stability Report, we find that firms in emerging markets that have increased their debt-to-assets ratios have generally also increased their overall sensitivity to changes in the exchange rate—commonly called exchange-rate exposure.

Continue reading “Emerging Market Corporate Debt in Foreign Currencies” »

From Taper Tantrum to Bund Bedlam

By Yingyuan Chen, David Jones and Sanjay Hazarika

(Versions in 中文 and deutsch)

Global financial markets traditionally take their cue from the United States. Unexpected Fed rate hikes have unsettled global markets in the past. The entire global financial system threw a tantrum when then Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke merely suggested in May 2013 that the end to bond-buying and other policies could soon begin. However for the past year, the gears of global markets seem to have been thrown into reverse — it is German government bonds, known as Bunds, rather than U.S. bonds, known as Treasuries, that appear to be driving prices in global bond markets. This role reversal could add a new layer of complexity to investor calculations as they prepare for the beginning of Fed interest rate hikes, which are expected later in 2015. Also, as developments in Greece lead to rises and falls in Bund and Treasury yields, this is a trend worth keeping an eye on.

Continue reading “From Taper Tantrum to Bund Bedlam” »

Flash Crashes and Swiss Francs: Market Liquidity Takes a Holiday

GFSR

By José Viñals

Financial market liquidity can be fleeting. The ability to trade in assets of any size, at any time and to find a ready buyer is not a given.  As discussed in some detail last fall in this blog, a number of factors, including the evolving structure of financial markets and some regulations appear to have pushed liquidity into a new realm: markets look susceptible to episodes of high price volatility where liquidity suddenly vanishes.

In our April 2015 Global Financial Stability Report we identify a new aspect to the problem:  asset price correlations have risen sharply in the last five years across all major asset classes (see figure). Continue reading “Flash Crashes and Swiss Francs: Market Liquidity Takes a Holiday” »

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