Suddenly this month the esoteric world of international finance is resonating to the clash of currencies. On September 27 Brazil’s finance minister stated that an “international currency war” has erupted. In its October 16 issue the London Economist put “Currency wars” on its cover, with evocative imagery of an aerial dogfight between paper planes of currency notes from different countries. Read more
By Kevin P. Gallagher
At the recent annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank Taiwan’s Central Bank governor Perng Fai-nan urged emerging market nations in Asia to use capital controls to promote financial stability.
Yesterday, this call was echoed by Noeleen Heyzer, executive secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. She singled out China, India, Singapore, Indonesia and South Korea as the most vulnerable nations in need of controls
These statements would have been unthinkable a decade ago, and shows how much has changed.
Part of the stigma attached to capital controls has been dampened by the new tune at the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In a February 2010 staff position note and in the IMF‘s Global Financial Stability Report (GSFR) the IMF said that capital controls are a legitimate part of the toolkit for emerging markets. What’s more, the IMF’s economists found that those countries that deployed capital controls in the run-up to the current crisis were among the least hard hit from the global financial crisis.
It is time for the debate over capital controls to shift from whether to deploy controls to how and when.
The problem is that many of the world’s trade and investment treaties, especially those with the US, make it very difficult to effectively use capital controls. Read more
In March the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) published the balance of payments data for the October-December quarter of 2009. It elicited surprisingly little comment. Surprising, because for the second quarter in a row the current account deficit was well above 3 per cent of GDP. Read more
By Ronald I. McKinnon
Speculation is rife about when, not just if, China should exit from its policy of stabilising the renminbi/dollar rate. The Financial Times editorial policy more generally, and Martin Wolf in particular have joined the usual ranks of American protectionists in bashing China for failing to appreciate. Read more
By Michael Pomerleano
As fears of debt disaster swirl around Dubai and Europe, it is useful to take a closer look at local currency bond markets. A recent superb book – This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, by Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff - offers a veritable tour de force of local currency markets. Reinhart and Rogoff have done an extraordinary job of putting together statistics covering eight centuries of government debt defaults around the world. The lengthy historical perspective documents never-ending cycles of boom and bust.
Their story is vastly different from the reports propagated by the official community. The official story of local currency bond markets reads roughly as follows. The typical report from a multilateral financial institution (and there have been several) points to the rapid development of local currency bond markets over the past years as a source of strength for financial systems in emerging-market economies. They report that foreign investment is buoyant, with foreign investors channeling increasing volumes of funds into these markets. The authors invariably commend developing countries for borrowing in local currency to reduce foreign currency mismatches end encourage them to adopt better macroeconomic policies, improve debt management strategies, and undertake further financial sector reform. Read more
In this post for the Financial Times’ Economists’ Forum, Martin Wolf answers a reader’s question on the prospects for sterling in 2010. Read more
Barack Obama, president of the US, met Hu Jintao, president of the People’s Republic of China, for a private meeting on Tuesday. The agenda was long, covering the world economy, climate change and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. The last two are the most important, over the long run. But the first is the most urgent. If we do not achieve a healthy global economic recovery, hope of a co-operative relationship is likely to prove vain. Yet such a recovery is far from ensured. Worse, some of what is now happening – particularly China’s decision to depreciate the renminbi along with the dollar – makes healthy recovery less likely. Read more
By Paul De Grauwe
The recent decline of the dollar against major currencies such as the euro and the Japanese yen has been spectacular. Even more spectacular, but often forgotten, is the long run decline of the dollar against the major currencies in the world. Since 1960 the dollar lost two thirds of its value against the Japanese yen, the Swiss franc and the German mark (since 1999 the euro).
The long-term decline of the dollar appears to be quite surprising especially considering that at least since the early 1990s the US has been seen to produce superior economic results, ie a higher productivity growth than most of Europe and Japan with more or less the same rates of inflation. Yet despite the appearance of superior economic performance the dollar has gone on losing value against currencies of countries deemed to have an inferior economic system. Where does this paradox come from? Read more
By Kumiharu Shigehara
Japan‘s economic expansion stumbled by late 2007, and in the context of the global economic crisis, it has been trapped in the deepest recession of the post-war era. Initially, the impact of the global crisis on the Japanese economy was expected to be limited because Japanese banks and other financial institutions were relatively insulated from financial turmoil. However, between the third quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of this year, Japan’s exports fell at an annual rate of some 55 per cent in volume terms, the sharpest among OECD countries and double the area’s average rate of decline.
It is the season of dollar panic. These panic-mongers are varied: gold bugs, fiscal hawks and many others agree that the dollar, the dominant currency since the first world war, is on its death bed. Hyperinflationary collapse is in store. Does this make sense? No. All the same, the dollar-based global monetary system is defective. It would be good to start building alternative arrangements. Read more
By Ronald McKinnon
Tensions between the US and China escalated recently when Timothy Geithner, the new US Treasury secretary, suggested that China might be designated as a “currency manipulator’. Premier Wen Jiabao mounted a vigorous defence of China’s existing exchange rate policy at a high level meeting of world leaders at Davos, Switzerland. Mr Wen pledged to keep the renminbi at a “reasonable and balanced level”. Read more
By Eswar Prasad
Timothy Geithner, in his first foray into international economic affairs as US Treasury secretary, has kicked off a public row with the Chinese by accusing them of currency manipulation. The Chinese have vehemently rebutted this accusation and flexed their own muscles, telling the US to get its own house in order before lecturing others.
The world economy, already on its knees, cannot afford escalating economic tensions between China and the US. Read more
By Michael Spence
The accelerating asset deflation globally is going to cause a deep global recession. The deleveraging process is driving emergency sales of assets, capital hoarding and asset prices (including exchange rates) to overshoot any reasonable estimate of intrinsic values. Read more
By Maurice Obstfeld, Jay C. Shambaugh and Alan M. Taylor
Since the early 1990s, central banks in many emerging markets and developing countries have accumulated foreign reserves at an unprecedented rate. The macroeconomic impact of these official flows has been profound and they have contributed significantly to global imbalances. Providing an explanation for these trends remains a major puzzle in international macroeconomics, and prevailing theories based on trade or debt deliver poor empirical performance. We argue that part of this great reserve accumulation is a response to the threat of financial instability in the context of rapidly expanding financial systems, increasingly mobile capital, and exchange rate objectives. The recent turbulence in global financial markets supports this view. Read more
By Charles Wyplosz
In 1971, with the greenback weak and falling, US Treasury secretary John Connally famously told the rest of the world that the US dollar was “our currency and your problem”. Thirty years later, with the dollar strong and still rising, Robert Rubin, his successor, no less famously stated that “a strong dollar is in the interest of the United States”. Read more
By Dani Rodrik and Arvind Subramanian
First large downhill flows of capital – from rich countries to poor countries – led to the Latin American debt crisis of the early 1980s. In the 1990s similar flows begat the Asian financial crisis. Read more