The collpse of Lehman was similiar to a stroke causing neuronal hubs to die. Getty Images

By James Park

With the start of QE3 and indefinite bond buying by the Fed, the financial crisis continues to morph. This idea was promulgated by El-Erian of Pimco who claims that a crisis of bank balance sheets may evolve into a crisis of sovereign balance sheets.

We already see an outline of what a sovereign balance sheet crisis may look like in Greece. Previously, we discussed the metaphor of septic shock and the need for emergent resuscitation with liquidity as a temporary salve, as covered in the first piece – Of Lasix and liquidity. In the last of this three-part series, we look at how a complement metaphor in the form of epileptic activity may forewarn and outline steps to minimize the chances or aftermath of the next possible financial convulsion. Read more

by Eswar Prasad and Karim Foda

In the lead-up to the G20 summit in Los Cabos, the Brookings-FT Tiger index shows that this stop-and-go global recovery has stalled once again.

The engines of world growth are running out of steam while the trailing wagons are going off the rails. Emerging market economies are facing sharp slowdowns in growth while many advanced economies slip into recession.

Political fragmentation and gridlock have hurt confidence and stunted the effectiveness of macroeconomic policies. Financial markets have shed their optimism and investors are clamoring to retreat to safe havens as confidence has tumbled.

The US economy had been a relatively bright spot, although a fragile one, but growth is showing signs of slowing and employment growth has weakened even as the economy gets closer to an impending fiscal crunch. The UK and many of the eurozone economies are in or at the edge of recession. Even the once-mighty German economy seems to have lost its footing while Japan’s economy is stirring but remains mired in weak growth. Read more

By Olafur Arnarson, Michael Hudson and Gunnar Tomasson

Today, from Greece to Iceland, governments are acting as enforcers or even as collection agents on behalf of the financial sector — and Iceland stands as a dress rehearsal for this power grab.

The problem of bank loans gone bad has thrown into question just what should be a “fair value” for these debt obligations. The answer will depend largely on the degree to which governments back the claims of creditors. The legal definition of how much can be squeezed out is becoming a political issue pulling national governments, the IMFECB and financial agencies into a conflict, pitting banks, vulture funds and debt-strapped populations against each other. Read more

By Eswar Prasad and Karim Foda

The world economy has hit a rough patch on the road to recovery and is in danger of skidding off course.

The latest update of the Brookings Institution-FT Tracking Indices for the Global Economic Recovery (TIGER) reveals abundant cause for gloom. The general picture among G20 economies is one of slowing growth, swooning financial markets, and declining consumer and business confidence.

A series of adverse shocks, coupled with political wrangling that has stymied effective policymaking and added to uncertainty, has crippled growth in advanced economies. Emerging markets have maintained strong growth so far, but the battle against domestic inflation and weaknesses in major export markets are beginning to affect their growth as well.

Debt crises, weak employment growth and policy dithering in the major advanced economies have exacerbated global economic uncertainty. The perception of rising risk and inadequate policy responses has shaken financial markets and dented confidence around the world. Reflecting widespread anxiety and fear about global economic prospects and the lack of obvious policy solutions, stock markets around the world have taken a beating over the past summer. Read more

By James Park

With the demise of Lehman Brothers in 2008 and the subsequent septic shock that stemmed the flow of liquidity in the financial system, the Federal Reserve responded with an unprecedented infusion of liquidity that has continued into this year.

However, this heightened rate of infusion is scheduled to finish in July. With the looming end of the second dose of quantitative easing (QE2) the media has latched onto the analogy of Bill Gross, Pimco’s co-chief investment officer, of QE2 and subsequent liquidity pumping efforts as a Ponzi scheme. The recent exit of Pimco (one of the world’s biggest bond fund managers) from US Treasuries underscores Mr Gross’s huckster metaphor.

While there is an element of warranted alarm, seeing the crisis through the clinical prism of blood composition and stem cells may provide a more balanced view. Read more

By Eswar Prasad and Karim Foda

Despite a number of recent shocks, the global economic recovery is getting on to a firmer footing.

The latest update of the Brookings Institution-FT Tracking Indices for the Global Economic Recovery (TIGER) indicates that resurgent job growth and rising business and consumer confidence are solidifying the recoveries in many advanced economies. Emerging markets are still doing well but some of the shine is coming off these economies as they tighten policies to cope with inflationary pressures.

The Overall Growth Index for the G20 economies shows a slight uptick in recent months, led by a gradual rebound in real activity. After the initial post-recession surge, financial markets have pulled back a bit, at least in terms of growth in stock market indexes and valuations. One bright spot is the resurgent business and consumer confidence in both advanced and emerging economies. Read more

When the Queen asked asked an academic at the LSE why the economics profession had failed to predict the credit crunch, she raised a topic which continues to resonate. In fact, the IMF’s watchdog criticised the organisation on exactly those grounds yesterday. Although many answers have been given to Her Majesty’s question, I suspect that none of them has really settled the issue. Her question is disarmingly simple, but the answer is not. Read more

In his article “The economist’s reply to the ‘Inside Job”” Prof Frederic Mishkin misrepresents both his own activities, including his interview for my film, and the widespread conflicts of interest which have distorted academic economics and its role in the financial crisis. Read more

By Eswar Prasad and Karim Foda

Despite all the portents of doom the world economy has been quietly mending itself.

This is not to say that the recovery is firmly entrenched or that few risks remain, but despite the rough patches in 2010, it is important to keep in mind that the economic picture looks far better now than it did a year ago. Read more

By Kevin P. Gallagher

Clear and consistent proposals toward crisis recovery and prevention are needed at the International Monetary Fund upcoming annual meetings. Unfortunately, the IMF has been sending mixed messages over the past two months on the subject of capital controls. Read more

An open letter from Laurence Kotlikoff of Boston University to Lord Turner, chairman of Britain’s Financial Services Authority

Dear Adair,

I listened to your terrific talk at the Soros conference. I could focus on the eloquence, fantastic delivery and numerous deep insights, but let me make a couple of comments that may be of actual value at the margin.  Take them from where they emanate – real friendship and respect.

It seems that you are questioning yourself. On the one hand, you are saying it’s critical to consider radical solutions. On the other hand, you are saying, “Too radical, too fast, is too dangerous. If we move to real safely, we may need to take decades.” Read more

The financier’s new think tank encourages post-crisis alternative theories including his own on the ‘alchemy of finance’.

George Soros was interviewed at the Institute for New Economic Thinking conference, sponsored by his foundation, at King’s College, Cambridge. Read more

By Roger E. A Farmer

Anyone who thinks that the 2008 financial crisis is a new and unusual event on the world stage should read Walter Bagehot’s book, Lombard Street, written in 1873. Bagehot was editor-in-chief of The Economist magazine and the son-in-law of its founder James Wilson. He literally wrote the book on central banking.  Read more

By Michael Pomerleano

What are the broader implications of the report on Lehman Brothers issued by the bankruptcy examiner?

The report details the effort to conceal Lehman’s true debt levels through the so-called “Repo 105” structure. It finds “credible evidence” to back a claim that the failure of Dick Fuld, Lehman chief executive, to disclose the transactions was “grossly negligent”. Read more

By Alistair Milne

Debt is a drug. High levels of debt used for unproductive purposes result in a temporary economic high. But after the high there is the inescapable low. Who should pay the bill when it eventually comes due? Should it be the debt user, for eagerly borrowing more than they can comfortably repay? Should it be the debt provider, for knowingly supplying more debt than they can reasonably expect to be paid back? Or should others rally round to help reduce the burden?

The struggle by Greece to repair its public finances is a big challenge to the European single currency. But the underlying question is no different from other previous debt crises, such as Imperial Spain in the 16th and 17th century, Latin America in the 1980s or most recently in US subprime mortgage lending. Who pays? Read more

Germany says “nein”. That is the most important conclusion to be drawn from the debate on eurozone economic policy. What the German government is saying is that the eurozone must become a greater Germany. But this policy would have profoundly negative implications for the world economy.

Continue reading “Excessive virtue can be a vice for the world economy”.  Please leave your comments in the box at the end of Martin Wolf’s column.

By Niels Thygesen

As financial markets and the public debate focus on very rapid debt accumulation by European governments, and by Greece in particular, many people have looked again at the unique construction of Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union.  Read more

By Paul De Grauwe

The crisis that started in Greece culminated into a crisis of the eurozone as a whole. It may find a temporary resolution. But even then, it will leave an important imprint on macroeconomic management within the eurozone. Read more

Anybody who looks carefully at the world economy will recognise that a degree of monetary and fiscal stimulus unprecedented in peacetime is all that is prodding it along, not only in high-income countries, but also in big emerging ones. The conventional wisdom is that it will also be possible to manage a smooth exit. Nothing seems less likely. So let us consider the endgame, instead.

The remainder of this column can be read here. Please post comments below.

Niall Ferguson is not given to understatement. So I was not surprised by the claim last week that the US will face a Greek crisis. I promptly dismissed this as hysteria. Like many other high-income countries, the US is indeed walking a fiscal tightrope. But the dangers are excessive looseness in the long run and excessive tightness in the short run. It is a dilemma of which Prof Ferguson seems unaware.

The remainder of this column can be read here. Please post comments below.