IMF Says Global Financial Risks Rising as Growth Outlook Weakens

IMF Paints Gloomy Picture for Global Economy
  • Report says policy measures are needed to avoid market turmoil
  • Fund cites chance of `financial stagnation' that saps output

Risks to global financial stability are rising as growth slows and commodity prices fall, posing the danger of an eventual stagnation in credit that saps world output, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The gloomy mix of conditions “increases the urgency of a broad-based policy response, both individually and collectively, to raise growth, manage vulnerabilities and boost confidence,” the IMF said Wednesday in its semiannual report on financial stability. Without such actions, market turmoil may recur, eventually increasing chances of a prolonged slowdown marked by financial institutions struggling with “impaired balance sheets for an extended period of time.”

The report echoes themes in Tuesday’s economic outlook from the IMF, which lowered its forecast for global growth and said the world has become more exposed to negative shocks. The pronouncements set a downbeat tone as finance ministers and central bankers gather in Washington this week for spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank.

Renewed market turmoil could lead to a “pernicious feedback loop of fragile confidence, weaker growth, lower inflation, and rising debt burdens,” the fund said. “Financial soundness could become eroded to such an extent that both economic growth and financial stability are adversely affected in the medium term.”

The report laid out two paths for policy makers: Avert stagnation, and it could boost world output by 1.7 percent by 2018 relative to baseline projections. Fail to do so, and output could drop by 3.9 percent relative to the baseline by 2021, the IMF said.

As in previous reports, IMF officials recommended government leaders around the world press ahead with structural reforms, continued monetary policy accommodation and “prudent fiscal support.”

Tackle NPLs

While banks in advanced economies “have become safer in recent years,” they came under market pressure at the start of 2016, they said. The IMF urged the euro area to “urgently tackle” the issue of elevated nonperforming loans. 

In the U.S., officials “should reinvigorate efforts to reduce the dominance of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and continue with reforms of these institutions,” the fund said, referring to the U.S. mortgage-financing companies that have operated under government conservatorship since 2008.

China was also a major focus of the report, which recognized progress in the country’s “complex transition” to growth based on domestic consumption, as opposed to export-oriented manufacturing. It also noted a deterioration in corporate profitability that, in conjunction with China’s credit boom, has helped create a “large credit overhang.”

“The ability of many Chinese listed firms to service their debt obligations is eroding, with higher debt and declining earnings capacity,” the report said.

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