Brazil

Kevin P. Gallagher

The development process can quickly unravel when a herd of speculative investors steers into a country. Brazil boldly attempted to regulate such speculation in 2010 and 2011. Their efforts were a modest success, but developing countries can’t bear the full burden of regulating cross-border capital flows.

“Hot money” in the form of short-term debt, currency trading, stock market, real estate speculation, all stampeded into emerging market developing countries in 2010 and 2011. Low interest rates in the developed world and higher rates in emerging markets triggered such financial flows. The fact that developing countries were growing faster than crisis-plagued industrial nations played a role as well. Via the carry trade, investors borrow dollars and buy Brazilian real. Then they short the dollar and go long on the real. Depend on the leverage factor an investor can make, well, a killing. 

By Eswar Prasad and Karim Foda

The world economy is showing scattered signs of vigor but remains on life support, mostly provided by accommodative central banks. Concerns about spillover from a worsening of the European debt crisis and slowing growth in key emerging markets are putting a damper on consumer and business confidence. Equity markets are pulling back from a robust performance in the first quarter of this year as the sobering reality of a continued anemic recovery weakens investors’ optimism.

There are some positive signs in the latest update of the Brookings Institution-FT Tracking Indices for the Global Economic Recovery (TIGER), but also much to worry about as the world economy continues to meander with no clear sense of direction. 

By Kevin P. Gallagher

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. AFP/Getty Images

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. AFP/Getty Images

Emerging markets have fallen victim to unstable capital flows in the wake of the financial crisis. In an attempt to mitigate the accompanying asset bubbles and exchange rate pressures that come with such volatility, a number of emerging markets resorted to capital controls. Although these actions have largely been supported by the International Monetary Fund, some policy-makers and economists have decried capital controls as protectionist measures that can cause spillovers that unduly harm other nations.

Recently-published research shows that these claims are unfounded. According to the new welfare economics of capital controls, unstable capital flows to emerging markets can be viewed as negative externalities on recipient countries. Therefore regulations on cross-border capital flows are tools to correct for market failures that can make markets work better and enhance growth, not worsen it. 

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.