“To Lean or Not to Lean?” That is the Question

By Stefan Laseen, Andrea Pescatori, and Jarkko Turunen

Academics and policy-makers alike have long struggled with the question of whether to use monetary policy to dampen asset price booms – whether to “lean against the wind” or not. Can officials identify emerging asset price bubbles, what are the implications of bursting them, and is monetary policy the appropriate response to potential bubbles? These questions have become even more important to the policy debate in the wake of the global financial crisis, which was preceded by an unsustainable boom in sub-prime mortgage lending and housing prices.

Given over six years of near zero policy interest rates, should the U.S. Fed now use interest rates to lean against potential financial stability risks that may have built up?

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U.S. Monetary Policy: Avoiding Dark Corners

By Ali Alichi, Douglas Laxton, Jarkko Turunen, and Hou Wang

Copyright : © fStop Images GmbH / AlamyA few weeks ago, the Fund suggested that the Federal Reserve could defer its first increase in the policy rate until it sees greater signs of wage or price inflation, with a gradual increase in the federal funds rate thereafter. Such a monetary policy strategy could help avoid the “dark corners” in which, as Olivier Blanchard has argued, small shocks can have potentially large effects. In this blog and accompanying working paper, we expand upon this idea. We also outline the potential benefits of an expanded communications toolkit.

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U.S. Economy Returning to Growth, but With Pockets of Vulnerability

2014MDNEW_04By Christine Lagarde 

IMF staff have just concluded their annual health check of the U.S. economy, and released their concluding statement.

This year we have also undertaken a Financial Sector Assessment Program with the United States. We conduct these once every 5 years for systemically important countries and it is a comprehensive exercise looking at the whole U.S. financial system.

Given this important work, we have focused our review of the U.S. economy on financial stability risks and the appropriate policies to mitigate them, as well as looking at recent movements in the U.S. dollar and the timing, form, and impact of interest rate normalization by the Fed.

A more detailed report on the U.S. economy and on the financial sector will be available on July 8.

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Reigniting Strong and Inclusive Growth in Brazil

2014MDNEW_04By Christine Lagarde 

(Versions in Español and Português)

Brazil has made remarkable social gains over the past decade and a half. Millions of families have been lifted from extreme poverty, and access to education and health has improved thanks to a series of well-targeted social interventions, such as Bolsa Familia, the conditional cash transfer program. I was privileged to see some of this tangible progress during my visit to Brazil last week.

I met with Tereza Campello, Brazil’s Minister for Social Development, who explained the network of social programs in the country, and guided us on a visit to Complexo do Alemão—a neighborhood and a group of favelas in the North Zone of Rio de Janeiro. We got there after a ride on the recently built cable car, which links several neighborhoods on the hills to the North Zone. This is a great example of infrastructure that has contributed immensely to improving the economic opportunities of people, who now have a quick way to move around and connect to the larger city. The stations themselves are also focal points of the efforts aimed at improving the daily lives of the people of Rio de Janeiro, since they house important services such as the youth center, a social assistance center, a public library, a training center for micro-entrepreneurs, and even a small branch of the bank that distributes the Bolsa Familia monthly grants.

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Unclogging Euro Area Bank Lending

By Will Kerry and Jean Portier

A year ago our research showed Europe had an €800 billion stock of bad loans.  In our latest Global Financial Stability Report we show that the problem has now grown to more than €900 billion.  This stock of nonperforming loans is concentrated in the hardest hit economies, with two-thirds located in just six euro area economies. The European Central Bank’s Asset Quality Review  confirmed this picture, which revealed that the majority of banks in many of these economies had high levels of nonperforming assets (see chart 1).

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Managing Capital Flows in Frontier Economies

By Jonathan D. Ostry, Atish R. Ghosh, and Mahvash S. Qureshi 

There has been a remarkable increase in financial flows to frontier economies from private sources which, in relation to their economic size, are now on par with those to emerging economies (see chart).

Ostry Capital Flows

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Tolstoy & Billionaires: Overheard at the IMF’s Spring Meetings

By iMFdirect editors

All happy countries are alike; each unhappy country is unhappy in its own way.

This twist on Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina echoed through the seminars during the IMF’s Spring Meetings as most countries, while recovering, are struggling with the prospect of lower potential growth and the “new mediocre” becoming a “new reality.”

Our editors fanned out to cover what officials and civil society had to say about how to help countries pave their own path to happiness.

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Oil Prices and Public Finances: A Double-Edged Sword

By Benedict Clements and Marta Ruiz-Arranz 

(Versions in 中文, Français, 日本語Русскийعربي and Español)

Plunging oil prices have taken the public finances on an exciting ride the past six months. Oil prices have fallen about 45 percent since September (see April 2015 World Economic Outlook), putting a big dent in the revenues of oil exporters, while providing oil importers an unexpected windfall.  How has the decline in oil prices affected the public finances, and how should oil importers and exporters adjust to this new state of affairs?

In the April 2015 Fiscal Monitor, we argue that the oil price decline provides a golden opportunity to initiate serious energy subsidy and taxation reforms that would lock in savings, improve the public finances and boost long-term economic growth.

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Can Abenomics Succeed? Overcoming the Legacy of the Lost Decades

Changyong RheeBy Changyong Rhee

(Versions in 日本語)

Abenomics can succeed, despite recent setbacks to growth and inflation, in revitalizing Japan by making steadfast progress on all three of its arrows equally and simultaneously, as we show in our new book. This is also essential to avoid an undue weakening of the yen and ensure positive spillovers to Japan’s neighbors, its region, and the global economy.

The Legacy: Structural Changes During the Lost Decades

Most Japan followers will be familiar with the following striking statistic: in 2013, Japan’s level of nominal GDP was about 6 percent below its mid 1990s level. During this period, three important structural changes have been a brake on growth and efforts to get out of deflation: Continue reading “Can Abenomics Succeed? Overcoming the Legacy of the Lost Decades” »

Dams And Dikes For Public Finances

By Vitor Gaspar, Richard Hughes, and Laura Jaramillo

Fortune, wrote Machiavelli five hundred years ago in The Prince, is like a violent river. She “shows her power where virtue has not been put in order to resist her and therefore turns her impetus where she knows that dams and dikes have not been made to contain her.” Managing the ebb and flow of government’s fiscal fortunes poses similar challenges today. We need a risk-based approach to fiscal policymaking that applies a systematic analysis of potential sources of fiscal vulnerabilities. This method would help countries detect potential problems early, and would allow for institutional changes to build resilience.

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