World Bank's Zoellick Predicts Currency `Tensions,' Not a `War' on Trade

World Bank President Robert Zoellick said he sees tensions arising from currency devaluations as nations seek to buoy their economies, though he doesn’t expect them to turn into “wars.”

“I don’t foresee that we’re moving into an era of currency wars but there’s clearly going to be tensions, particularly if you have countries that have trade or current-account surpluses that are intervening to keep their currencies at lower rates,” Zoellick said on a conference call with journalists today.

Japan last month sold the yen for the first time in six years to spur exports and economic growth, joining countries across Asia and Latin America that have tempered gains in their currencies against the dollar. Brazil’s Finance Minister Guido Mantega warned Sept. 27 of a “currency war” and said that his government will buy all “excess dollars” in the market to curb the real’s appreciation.

China has incurred international criticism for limiting gains in its exchange rate. The yuan has risen about 2 percent versus the dollar since the People’s Bank of China in June pledged greater flexibility in the currency after pegging it around 6.83 for two years.

China’s Premier Wen Jiabao today called for “relatively stable” exchange rates, rebuffing U.S. calls for a stronger appreciation of the yuan to trim China’s trade surpluses.

Slow growth in mature economies and fast expansion in emerging ones is creating distortions in financial markets, Zoellick said.

‘Money Chasing Yields’

“Money is chasing yield, it can’t find those yields in developed economies,” Zoellick said. “This is not only pushing up currency values in emerging and developing countries, it’s also pushing up the price of some assets, with the risks of bubbles in property and some commodities.”

Net private capital flows to emerging-market economies will rise to $825 billion in 2010 from $581 billion in 2009, the Institute of International Finance, a Washington-based industry group that represents some of the world’s largest commercial banks and financial firms, said in a report today.

At the same time, emerging economies face “weak” bank lending and food prices are “a serious cause for concern” in some nations, Zoellick said.

Global growth, though it has returned, has slowed since May and “won’t be fast enough to make inroads” into unemployment, he said.

The Washington-based World Bank doesn’t expect a ‘double- dip’ recession and forecasts global expansion of 3.5 percent this year and 3.3 percent next year, Zoellick said. That compares with a June forecast of 3.3 percent for both years.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sandrine Rastello in Washington at srastello@bloomberg.net; Rebecca Christie in Washington at rchristie4@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Wellisz at cwellisz@bloomberg.net

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