Regulating capital flows at both ends
Atish R Ghosh, Mahvash Saeed Qureshi, Naotaka Sugawara 30 October 2014
Capital flows to emerging markets have been very volatile since the global financial crisis. This has kindled debates on whether – and how – to better manage cross-border capital flows. In this column, the authors examine the role of capital account restrictions in both source and recipient countries in taming destabilising capital flows. The results indicate that capital account restrictions at either end can significantly lower the volume of cross-border flows.
The boom-bust cycles in cross-border capital flows during and after the Global Financial Crisis have kindled debates on the management of capital flows to emerging markets. While most of the literature has focused on the policy options of recipient countries (e.g., Ostry et al. 2010, 2011, IMF 2011), some recent studies and policy papers call for a more coordinated approach to regulating these flows by acting at both the source and recipient country ends (e.g., Ostry et al. 2012, IMF 2012, Brunnermeier et al. 2012). The idea is not new.
International finance Monetary policy
capital account restrictions, cross-border banking, capital flows, source and recipient countries
Where danger lurks
Olivier Blanchard 03 October 2014
Before the 2008 crisis, the mainstream worldview among US macroeconomists was that economic fluctuations were regular and essentially self-correcting. In this column, IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard explains how this benign view of fluctuations took hold in the profession, and what lessons have been learned since the crisis. He argues that macroeconomic policy should aim to keep the economy away from ‘dark corners’, where it can malfunction badly.
Until the 2008 global financial crisis, mainstream US macroeconomics had taken an increasingly benign view of economic fluctuations in output and employment. The crisis has made it clear that this view was wrong and that there is a need for a deep reassessment.
The benign view reflected both factors internal to economics and an external economic environment that for years seemed indeed increasingly benign.
Macroeconomic policy Monetary policy
macroeconomics, global crisis, great moderation, rational expectations, nonlinearities, fluctuations, business cycle, monetary policy, inflation, bank runs, deposit insurance, sudden stops, capital flows, liquidity, maturity mismatch, zero lower bound, liquidity trap, capital requirements, credit constraints, precautionary savings, housing boom, Credit crunch, unconventional monetary policy, fiscal policy, sovereign default, diabolical loop, deflation, debt deflation, financial regulation, regulatory arbitrage, DSGE models
Political booms, financial crises: Why popular governments are not always a good sign
Christoph Trebesch, Helios Herrera, Guillermo L. Ordoñez 06 September 2014
Financial crises are often credit booms gone bust. This column argues that ‘political booms’, defined as an increase in government popularity, are also a good predictor of financial crises. The phenomenon of ‘political booms gone bust’ is, however, only observable in emerging markets. In these countries, politicians have more to gain from riding the popularity benefits of unsustainable booms.
Financial crises: the search for early warning indicators
Financial crises are a recurrent phenomenon in the history of emerging markets and advanced economies alike. To understand the common causes of these crises and to prevent future ones from developing, economists have a long tradition of studying early warning indicators. Two well-documented predictors of financial crises are credit booms and capital flow bonanzas.
Financial markets Politics and economics
credit booms, financial crisis, politics, emerging markets, capital flows, public opinion, popularity
The role of corporate saving in global rebalancing
Philippe Bacchetta, Kenza Benhima 24 August 2014
Among the various explanations behind global imbalances, the role of corporate saving has received relatively little attention. This column argues that corporate saving is quantitatively relevant, and proposes a theory that is consistent with the stylised facts and useful for understanding the current phase of global rebalancing. The theory implies that, while the economic contraction originating in developed countries has pushed interest rates towards the zero lower bound, the recent growth slowdown in emerging countries could push them out of it.
The increase in global imbalances in the last decade posed a theoretical challenge for international macroeconomics. Why did some less-developed countries with a higher need for capital, like China, lend to richer countries? The inconsistency of standard open-economy dynamic models with actual global capital flows had already been stressed before (e.g. by Lucas 1990), but the sensitivity to this issue became more acute with increasing global imbalances. This stimulated the development of several alternative theoretical frameworks.
International finance International trade
interest rates, global imbalances, capital flows, saving, global crisis, credit constraints, savings glut, zero lower bound, corporate saving, global rebalancing
New-breed global investors and emerging-market financial stability
Gaston Gelos, Hiroko Oura 23 August 2014
The landscape of portfolio investment in emerging markets has evolved considerably over the past 15 years. Financial markets have deepened and become more internationally integrated. The mix of global investors has also changed, with more money intermediated by mutual funds. This column explains that these changes have made capital flows and asset prices in these economies more sensitive to global financial shocks. However, broad-based financial deepening and improved institutions can enhance the resilience of emerging-market economies.
The investor base matters since different investors behave differently. During the emerging-market sell-off episodes in 2013 and early 2014:
- Retail-oriented mutual funds withdrew aggressively, but investors from different regions also tended to behave differently;
- Institutional investors such as pension funds and insurance companies with long-term strategies broadly maintained their emerging-market investments.
Figure 1 shows the facts.
Figure 1. Bond flows to emerging-market economies
Financial markets International finance
Pension Funds, financial stability, capital flows, investment, emerging markets, financial deepening, herding, original sin, mutual funds, institutional investors
Why is financial stability essential for key currencies in the international monetary system?
Linda Goldberg, Signe Krogstrup, John Lipsky, Hélène Rey 26 July 2014
The dollar’s dominant role in international trade and finance has proved remarkably resilient. This column argues that financial stability – and the policy and institutional frameworks that underpin it – are important new determinants of currencies’ international roles. While old drivers still matter, progress achieved on financial-stability reforms in major currency areas will greatly influence the future roles of their currencies.
Could the dollar lose its status as the key international currency for international trade and international financial transactions, and if so, what would be the principal contributing factors? Speculation about this issue has long been abundant, and views diverse. After the introduction of the euro, there was much public debate about the euro displacing the dollar (Frankel 2008). The monitoring and analysis included in the ECB’s reports on “The International Role of the Euro” (e.g.
Financial markets International finance
reserve currency, financial stability, dollar, capital flows, spillovers, Currency, SIFIs
Do capital controls deflect capital flows?
Paolo Giordani, Michele Ruta, Hans Weisfeld, Ling Zhu 23 June 2014
Capital controls may help countries limit large and volatile capital inflows, but they may also have spillover effects on other countries. This column discusses recent research showing that inflow restrictions have significant spillover effects as they deflect capital flows to countries with similar economic characteristics.
The size and volatility of capital flows to developing countries have increased significantly in recent years (Figure 1), leading many economists to argue that national policies and multilateral institutions are needed to govern these flows (Forbes and Klein 2013, Blanchard and Ostry 2012). The IMF itself has reviewed its position on the liberalisation and management of capital flows, while recognising that “much further work remains to be done to improve policy coordination in the financial sector” (IMF 2012, p. 28).
China, capital flows, spillovers, South Africa, capital controls, Brazil, Capital inflows, international capital flows
Capital controls in the 21st century
Barry Eichengreen, Andrew K Rose 05 June 2014
Since the global financial crisis of 2008–2009, opposition to the use of capital controls has weakened, and some economists have advocated their use as a macroprudential policy instrument. This column shows that capital controls have rarely been used in this way in the past. Rather than moving with short-term macroeconomic variables, capital controls have tended to vary with financial, political, and institutional development. This may be because governments have other macroeconomic policy instruments at their disposal, or because suddenly imposing capital controls would send a bad signal.
Capital controls are back. The IMF (2012) has softened its earlier opposition to their use. Some emerging markets – Brazil, for example – have made renewed use of controls since the global financial crisis of 2008–2009. A number of distinguished economists have now suggested tightening and loosening controls in response to a range of economic and financial issues and problems. While the rationales vary, they tend to have in common the assumption that first-best policies are unavailable and that capital controls can be thought of as a second-best intervention.
IMF, capital flows, global financial crisis, capital controls, capital, Macroprudential policy
Turmoil in emerging markets: What’s missing from the story?
Kristin Forbes 05 February 2014
The Federal Reserve’s ‘taper talk’ in spring 2013 has been blamed for outflows of capital from emerging markets. This column argues that global growth prospects and uncertainty are more important drivers of emerging-market capital flows than US monetary policy. Although crises can affect very different countries simultaneously, over time investors begin to discriminate between countries according to their fundamentals. Domestic investors play an increasingly important – and potentially stabilising – role. During a financial crisis, ‘retrenchment’ by domestic investors can offset foreign investors’ withdrawals of capital.
Emerging markets are going through another period of volatility – and the most popular boogeyman is the US Federal Reserve.
The basic storyline is that less accommodative US monetary policy has caused foreign investors to withdraw capital from emerging markets, causing currency depreciations, equity declines, and increased borrowing costs. In many cases, these adjustments will slow growth and increase the risk of some type of crisis.
Federal Reserve, capital flows, emerging markets, global financial crisis, tapering
Why fiscal sustainability matters
Willem Buiter 10 January 2014
Fiscal sustainability has become a hot topic as a result of the European sovereign debt crisis, but it matters in normal times, too. This column argues that financial sector reforms are essential to ensure fiscal sustainability in the future. Although emerging market reforms undertaken in the aftermath of the financial crises of the 1990s were beneficial, complacency is not warranted. In the US, political gridlock must be overcome to reform entitlements and the tax system. In the Eurozone, creating a sovereign debt restructuring mechanism should be a priority.
Does fiscal sustainability matter only when there is a fiscal house on fire, as was the case with the Greek sovereign insolvency in 2011–12? Far from it.
Financial markets Global crisis International finance Macroeconomic policy
eurozone, sovereign debt, capital flows, financial crisis, credit booms, fiscal policy, emerging markets, global financial crisis, banking, banks, Eurozone crisis, Currency wars, fiscal sustainability, banking union, sovereign debt restructuring, balance-sheet recession