- International Monetary Fund. Monetary and Capital Markets Department
- Published Date:
- November 2009
Global Financial Stability Report Navigating the Financial Challenges Ahead
International Monetary Fund
© 2009 International Monetary Fund
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Global financial stability report—Washington, DC : International Monetary Fund, 2002–
v. ; cm.—(World economic and financial surveys, 0258-7440)
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The Global Financial Stability Report (GFSR) assesses key risks facing the global financial system with a view to identifying those that represent systemic vulnerabilities. In normal times, the report seeks to play a role in preventing crises by highlighting policies that may mitigate systemic risks, thereby contributing to global financial stability and the sustained economic growth of the IMF’s member countries. In the current crisis, the report traces the sources and channels of financial distress, and provides policy advice on mitigating its effects on economic activity, stemming contagion, and mending the global financial system.
The analysis in this report has been coordinated in the Monetary and Capital Markets (MCM) Department under the general direction of Josi, Counsellor and Director. The project has been directed by MCM staff Jan Brockmeijer, Deputy Director; Peter Dattels and Laura Kodres, Division Chiefs; and L. Effie Psalida, Deputy Division Chief. It has benefited from comments and suggestions from Herverhani, Deputy Director.
Contributors to this report also include Myrvin Anthony, Sergei Antoshin, Amitabh Arora, Emanuele Baldacci, Sean Craig, Phil de Imus, Wouter Elsenburg, Vincenzo Guzzo, Kristian Hartelius, Geoffrey Heenan, Gregorio Impavido, Hui Jin, Andreas Jobst, John Kiff, Michael Kisser, Manmohan Kumar, Vanessa Le Leslé Yinqiu Lu, Kazuhiro Masaki, Rebecca McCaughrin, Paul Mills, Ken Miyajima, Christopher Morris, Sylwia Nowak, Jaume Puig, Mustafa Saiyid, Jodi Scarlata, and Ian Tower. Martin Edmonds, Oksana Khadarina, Yoon Sook Kim, Ryan Scuzzarella, and Narayan Suryakumar provided analytical support. Nirmaleen Jayawardane, Tsegereda Mulatu, and Ramanjeet Singh were responsible for word processing. David Einhorn of the External Relations Department edited the manuscript and coordinated production of the publication
This particular issue draws, in part, on a series of discussions with accountancies, banks, securities firms, asset management companies, hedge funds, auditors, standard setters, financial consultants, and academic researchers, as well as regulatory and other public authorities in major financial centers and countries. The report reflects information available up to September 17, 2009
The report benefited from comments and suggestions from staff in other IMF departments, as well as from Executive Directors following their discussion of the Global Financial Stability Report on September 14, 2009. However, the analysis and policy considerations are those of the contributing staff and should not be attributed to the Executive Directors, their national authorities, or the IMF.
JOINT FOREWORD TO WORLD ECONOMIC OUTLOOK AND GLOBAL FINANCIAL STABILITY REPORT
The Recovery Has Started, and the Challenge Is to Sustain It
The global economy is expanding again, and financial conditions have improved markedly. It will still take some time, however, until the outlook for employment improves significantly.
Emerging and developing economies are further ahead on the road to recovery, led by a resurgence in Asia in general, emerging economies have withstood the financial turmoil much better than expected based on past experience, which reflects improved policy frame-works. However, gains in activity are now being seen more broadly, including in the major advanced economies. Financial market sentiment and risk appetite have rebounded, banks have raised capital and wholesale funding markets have reopened, and emerging market risks have eased.
The triggers for this rebound are strong public policies across advanced and emerging economies that, together with measures deployed by the IMF at the international level, have allayed concerns about systemic financial collapse, supported demand, and all but eliminated fears of a global depression. These fears had contributed to the steepest drop in global activity and trade since World War II. Central banks reacted quickly with exceptionally large interest rate cuts as well as unconventional measures to inject liquidity and sustain credit. Governments launched major fiscal stimulus programs, while assessing their banks with stress tests and supporting them with guarantees and capital injections. And the IMF made use of its enhanced lending capacity and more flexible facilities to help emerging and developing economies cope with the risks associated with the crisis. Together, these measures reduced uncertainty and increased confidence.
But complacency must be avoided. Despite these advances, the pace of recovery is expected to be slow and, for quite some time, insufficient to decrease unemployment. Also, poverty could increase significantly in a number of developing economies where real GDP per capita is contracting in 2009 for the first time in a decade. Activity may pick up quickly in the short term. Yet the forces that are driving the current rebound are partly temporary in nature, including major fiscal stimulus, central banks’ support for credit markets, and restocking following exceptionally large cutabacks in production and drawdowns of inventories. These forces will diminish during the course of 2010.
A further key constraint on the pace of recovery will be limits on credit availability. Bank deleveraging will constrain the supply of bank credit for the remainder of 2009 and into 2010 in both the United States and Europe, where credit supply is even more bank-dependent. Bank balance sheets have benefited from capital-raising efforts and positive earnings reports but will remain under pressure as a result of continuing credit deterioration. Our analysis suggests that U.S. banks have recognized somewhat more than half their projected losses from impaired assets through 2010. In Europe, loss recognition is less advanced, reflecting differences in the economic cycle. Although stronger bank earnings are supporting capital levels, they are not expected to fully offset write-downs over the next 18 months. Moreover, steady-state earnings are likely to be lower in the postcrisis environment, and reforms under way to bank regulation are expected to reduce net revenues and result in more costly self-insurance through higher capital and liquidity requirements. Projections for emerging economies assume that capital flows, which took a major hit over the past year, will stabilize or grow moderately. Credit growth will continue to fall or stay at very low levels, and this will hold back investment, with the notable exception of China. Significant credit contraction is generally unlikely, except in parts of emerging Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Meanwhile, consumption and investment are gaining strength only slowly, held back by the need for balance sheet repair, high excess capacity as well as financing constraints, and rising unemployment, which is expected to peak at over 10 percent of the labor force in advanced economies. Consumption will be particularly weak in advanced economies, especially those that experienced credit booms, housing bubbles, and large current account deficits, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, and in a number of other (especially emerging) European economies. U.S. consumers, in particular, are likely to maintain substantially higher saving rates than before the crisis.
Accordingly, the World Economic Outlook projects activity contracting by about 1 percent in 2009 and expanding by about 3 percent in 2010, which is still well below rates achieved before the crisis.
Downside risks remain a concern. The main risk is that private demand in advanced economies remains very weak. If so, policymakers may be confronted with the difficult choice of either maintaining fiscal stimulus, raising issues of debt sustainability, or phasing out the fiscal stimulus, raising the danger of adverse interactions between real activity, the health of the financial sector, and the fiscal situation. However, there is also potential for positive surprises. Specifically, reduced fears about a 1930s-style crash in activity and an accompanying strong rebound in financial market sentiment could drive a larger-than-projected short-term increase in consumption and investment.
It is still too early for policymakers to relax their efforts to restore financial sector health and support demand with expansionary macroeconomic policies. The challenge is to ensure that continued short-term support does not distort incentives and endanger public balance sheets, with damaging consequences for the medium term. Furthermore, policies must begin to address key medium-term challenges, including the need for reforming financial systems, boosting potential growth, and rebalancing the patterns of global demand.
Notwithstanding already large deficits and rising public debt in many countries, fiscal stimulus needs to be sustained until the recovery is on a firmer footing and may even need to be amplified or extended beyond current plans if downside risks to growth materialize. However, fiscal policy is likely to become increasingly less effective in supporting demand in the absence of reassurances to investors and taxpayers that deficits and debt will eventually be rolled back. This is likely to require major efforts to constrain spending by initiating entitlement reforms and by committing to large reductions in deficits once the recovery is on a solid footing. The credibility of such reductions could usefully be supported with more robust fiscal frameworks, including suitable fiscal rules and strong enforcement mechanisms that help rein in spending pressures when good times return.
The key issues facing monetary policymakers are when to start tightening and how to unwind large central bank balance sheets. Advanced and emerging economies face different challenges. In advanced economies, central banks can (with few exceptions) afford to maintain accommodative conditions for an extended period because inflation is likely to remain subdued as long as output gaps remain wide. Moreover, monetary policy will need to accommodate the impact of the gradual withdrawal of fiscal support. If and when necessary, instruments exist to start tightening monetary conditions even while central bank balance sheets remain much larger than usual. The pace at which the buildup in central bank balance sheets should be unwound depends on progress in normalizing market conditions and the types of interventions in place. Supported by appropriate pricing, short-term liquidity operations are already unwinding naturally as market conditions improve. However, it could take much longer to unwind the buildup in illiquid assets on some central bank balance sheets.
The situation is more varied across emerging economies, but the moment for starting to remove monetary accommodation is likely to materialize sooner than in advanced economies. In some countries, warding off risks for new asset price bubbles may call for greater exchange rate flexibility, to allow monetary policy tightening relative to easy stances in advanced economies.
Policymakers face two major financial sector challenges. The first is to ensure that markets and banks can support economic recovery. This calls especially for renewed efforts to increase bank capital and repair bank balance sheets. So far, only very partial progress has been made on this front. Official stress tests are important instruments through which the condition of banks can be diagnosed in order to design appropriate strategies for the recapitalization and restructuring of viable banks and for the careful resolution of nonviable banks. In addition, exit strategies from public support need to be clearly articulated to help guide markets. Programs need to be phased out gradually, using market-based incentives to encourage reduced reliance on public support. Moreover, clarity on new capital regulation, liquidity risk requirements, provisioning, and accounting standards and, where possible, agreement on resolution strategies are essential for banks to be able to determine how to deploy their resources and which business lines are likely to be profitable in the future.
The second challenge is to put in place financial reforms that forestall a similar crisis in the future. This will require a major overhaul of prudential policies, which must not be jeopardized by growing confidence that the greatest crisis dangers are past, or fears that national competitive advantages might be lost, or concerns that first-best solutions are beyond reach for technical reasons. Four issues deserve particular attention. First, the perimeter of regulation needs to be broadened and made more flexible, covering all systemically important institutions alongside incentives to preclude further buildups of institutions currently considered “too big or too connected to fail.” Second, effective market discipline needs to be encouraged through greater transparency and disclosure and reform of governance in financial institutions. Third, macroprudential frameworks must induce banks to build more buffers—by raising capital and making provisions in good times that can be used in bad times. And, fourth, international collaboration and coordination need to be improved to adequately cope with the challenges posed by cross-border institutions. Looking forward, to avoid a similar crisis, there is a need not just for better rules—through enhanced regulation—but also for adequate enforcement of the rules—through effective supervision—and for prudent behavior by financial institutions—through suitable internal riskmanagement processes.
Rebalancing Global Demand
Achieving sustained healthy growth over the medium term also depends critically on rebalancing the pattern of global demand. Specifically, many current account surplus economies that have followed export-led growth strategies will need to rely more on domestic demand growth to offset likely subdued domestic demand in deficit economies that have undergone asset price (stock and housing) busts. By the same token, many external deficit countries will need to rely less on domestic demand and more on external demand. This will require significant structural reforms, many of which are also necessary to boost potential output, which has taken a hit as a result of the crisis. Key are measures to repair financial systems, improve corporate governance and financial intermediation, support public investment, and improve social safety nets.
With respect to social policies, rising unemployment will present a major challenge in many advanced economies that must be met with support for incomes, retraining for the jobless, and measures that facilitate wage adjustment in response to shocks. The crisis has also been a setaback to poverty-alleviation efforts in many low-income economies, and continued strong donor support will be necessary to safeguard the major progress these countries have made in stabilizing their economies.
Systemic risks have been substantially reduced following unprecedented policy actions and nascent signs of improvement in the real economy. There is growing confidence that the global economy has turned the corner, underpinning the improvements in financial markets. Nonetheless, the risk of a reintensification of the adverse feedback loop between the real and financial sectors remains significant as long as banks remain under strain and households and financial institutions need to reduce leverage. Although indicators of sovereign risk are lower than six months ago, the transfer of financial risks to fiscal authorities, combined with the financing burden of fiscal stimulus, has raised concerns over crowding out the private sector and the sustainability of public sector finances. These vulnerabilities underscore the need to strengthen financial intermediation, restore health to the financial system, and eventually reduce the private risks now borne by sovereign balance sheets. Great care in disengaging from public support will be necessary to avoid either sparking a secondary crisis through premature withdrawal or endangering monetary and fiscal credibility through a belated exit. Complacency now becomes a risk—banking system problems could go unresolved and much-needed regulatory reforms may be delayed or diluted. Policymakers should promptly provide a plan for the future regulatory framework that mitigates the buildup of systemic risks, grounds expectations, and underpins confidence, thereby contributing to sustained economic growth.
Prospects for the Road Ahead
The immediate outlook for the financial system has improved markedly since the April 2009 Global Financial Stability Report (GFSR) and extreme tail risks have abated. Financial markets have rebounded, emerging market risks have eased, banks have raised capital, and wholesale funding markets have reopened. Even so, credit channels are still impaired and the economic recovery is likely to be slow. Chapter 1 first chronicles the path toward reestablishing sound credit intermediation and the near-term risks that could interrupt its restoration, including the rising burden of sovereign financing. The chapter then examines how near-term policies should be managed to provide a secure backdrop for economic recovery and a withdrawal of extraordinary public support to the financial system. Some medium-term policy options are also discussed that aim to reshape the financial landscape.
Extreme systemic risks have abated, but complacency about banking system repair is still a concern.
A key question addressed is whether the financial system can provide sufficient credit to sustain an economic recovery. Recently, bank balance sheets have benefited from capitalraising efforts and positive earnings. Nonetheless, there are still serious concerns that credit deterioration will continue to put pressure on banks’ balance sheets. Our analysis suggests that U.S. banks are more than half way through the loss cycle to 2010, where as in Europe loss recognition is less advanced, reflecting differences in the economic cycle.
While stronger bank earnings are supporting capital levels, they are not expected to fully offset writedowns over the next 18 months. Moreover, steady-state earnings are likely to be lower in the post-crisis environment. Stronger action to address impaired assets will help bolster bank earning capability and support lending.
The tightening of bank regulation under way is expected to reduce net revenues and require more costly self-insurance through higher levels of capital and liquidity.
Crisis risks in emerging markets have subsided, but vulnerabilities remain.
Tail risks in emerging markets have declined as a result of strong policy measures—including increased IMF resources. Financial stresses have eased substantially in emerging Europe, but vulnerabilities remain high. Western European banks appear able to absorb deteriorating credit conditions in emerging Europe, but may lack sufficient capital to support a recovery in the region. Asia and Latin America have benefited most from the stabilization of core markets and a recovery in portfolio inflows. Although international flows into emerging market debt have recovered, they have been skewed toward higher quality borrowers, leaving many corporates facing substantial rollover risks, particularly in emerging Europe. Financial policies should continue to foster an orderly adjustment of bank, corporate, and household balance sheets. Extending agreements to maintain or even increase sustainable cross-border bank funding channels would also help.
Impaired credit channels may face difficulty meeting even tepid private sector demand.
With ongoing bank deleveraging pressure and dislocations in securitization markets, our scenarios envisage the supply of bank credit falling for the remainder of 2009 and into 2010 both in the United States and Europe. When set against projected demand for credit by the public and private sectors, it appears that ex ante supply may fall short of even anemic private sector demand. As a result, pressure on funding rates could increase and the flow of credit to support recovery could be curtailed. The results highlight which areas are likely to suffer the tightest credit conditions and where prolonged policy interventions are needed to ensure an adequate flow of credit, particularly with the authorities’ objective of keeping interest rates low.
The transfer of private risks to sovereign balance sheets needs careful management.
The transfer of risk to public balance sheets as a result of financial system rescues and fiscal stimulus packages has raised concerns that record sovereign issuance could push up interest rates and hurt the nascent recovery. In this context, credit capacity could struggle to meet even tepid private sector demand, while deteriorating public finances may compromise sovereign credit worthiness. Countries should mitigate this risk by designing and articulating medium-term fiscal consolidation plans that take into account their financial sector stabilization policies and contingent liabilities.
Financial institutions need further restructuring to ensure their ability to lend and support economic recovery.
Credit capacity constraints suggest little room for complacency in cleansing bank balance sheets of impaired and illiquid assets and resuscitating securitization. Deeper financial reform and the resolution of weak banks will be needed before authorities in many jurisdictions can fully exit from liquidity and funding provision. This calls for renewed efforts to increase bank capital and cleanse troubled assets from bank balance sheets. Official stress tests are important instruments through which the condition of banks can be diagnosed in order to design appropriate strategies for recapitalization of viable banks and for careful resolution of nonviable banks. However, the public release of bank-by-bank outcomes should be considered only if effective remedies to address any capital shortfalls can also be presented. Nondisclosure should not imply the absence of such remedies, if needed.
Incentives are critical to repair and restart securitization.
Given the importance of repairing credit intermediation, Chapter 2 examines the role of private securitization and assesses proposals to restart the market. A combination of new regulation and better private sector practice will be needed to align incentives of those institutions taking part in securitization and avoid it contributing to systemic instability once more. In redesigning regulation and market practices, the benefits of transferring credit risk outside the banking system and the ability of lenders to diversify funding sources need to be retained.
The chapter suggests that a robust private securitization market requires policy action in several areas, including credit rating agency oversight, accounting practices, capital charges, and retention policies. This action needs to be coordinated across regulators within a country and internationally. The chapter illustrates the potential dangers of uncoordinated responses by examining the impact of retention policies and capital requirements imposed on originators and shows that these could, in some cases, fail to encourage screening and monitoring or, in other cases, make securitization prohibitively expensive. Undertaking careful impact studies before introducing new regulations should ensure that their interaction and potential for damaging unintended consequences is recognized in advance.
The chapter also examines the benefits and costs of issuing covered bonds, in which the loan cash flows are pooled but kept on the balance sheet of the issuing entity. This method has the advantage that the issuer has an incentive to screen and monitor the loans, but because they remain on the issuer’s balance sheet, capital must still be held against them, reducing the benefits of securitization. Nonetheless, the advantages of capital-market-type financing—selling the bonds to investors—allows more intermediation to occur. On balance, the chapter concludes that this model, too, should be encouraged with appropriate legislation and regulation.
Policies Needed to Underpin Financial System Recovery and Reform
The policy response to dislocations in funding and credit markets has been unprecedented and, though definitive conclusions are difficult to make on the longer-term benefits, the initial evidence is generally positive. Chapter 3 takes an early look at the very short-term impact and more medium-term effects of conventional and unconventional policy responses, including whether they stabilized financial markets at the time of their announcement.
Some unconventional policies have provided support better than others.
The chapter looks at the impact of intervention announcements made by 13 advanced economies. Those aimed at supporting liquidity were most effective prior to the Lehman Brothers event, but were less so once it was evident that the financial crisis had become one of solvency rather than liquidity risk in a number of countries. Correspondingly, announcements of capital injections were most effective in reducing the default risk of banks in the post-Lehman period, as was the announcement of the potential use of asset purchases. Another important result is that interventions aimed at domestic institutions or markets had important spillover effects to other countries, with magnitudes sometimes larger than in the home country. This underlines the critical importance of coordinating policy responses.
Although it is too soon to gauge with confidence the longer-term effects of these policy actions, initial evidence suggests that some facilities have been effective in supporting funding and issuance activity. Examples include the bank liability guarantees introduced in several countries, the U.S. Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility with its impact on secondary market spreads and issuance of consumer assetabacked securities, and the European Central Bank’s decision to purchase covered bonds outright, which helped to lower spreads and reenergize issuance.
It is too early to withdraw official support policies, but a strategy for disengagement is needed.
While the time is not ripe for a full-fledged disengagement from all the unconventional policies undertaken—indeed in some countries additional public resources may still be needed—it is time for policymakers to consider and articulate how and in what sequence policies may be unwound. Timing is complicated by the fact that some policies may be effective even if their usage is limited, as they may be bolstering confidence or acting as a backstop to a class of institutions or investors.
Chapter 3 outlines some considerations regarding the modalities and timing of unwinding unconventional policies. In general, if a facility can be phased out by raising its costs or gradually decreasing its availability, one can attempt to wean the private sector from support in a gradual manner. Expensive policies or those where costs are not commensurate with the benefits should be considered first for withdrawal, as should policies that significantly distort financial markets. Importantly, given the global nature of the crisis and the types of unconventional policies used, attention must be paid to the cross-border impact of unwinding, and coordination may be helpful, notably with regard to the withdrawal of guarantees for bank debt across countries where potential arbitrage opportunities can arise. Clarity of communication over withdrawal strategy is critical. In this context, the use of signposts—described in terms of indicators of market conditions rather than firm deadlines—may be more helpful for influencing market expectations. Given that this is uncharted territory for policymakers, some experimentation may be appropriate to test market conditions. If warranted, reinstatement of some facilities should not be viewed as a setaback.
A clear vision of future financial system regulation is needed to provide clarity and boost confidence.
In addition to a well-defined strategy for unwinding unconventional policies, confidence in the financial system will be bolstered by clarity over future regulatory reforms needed to address systemic risks. The recent easing of tail risks should not prompt authorities to relax their efforts to map out the path to a more robust financial system. A holistic, understandable approach needs to be formulated so that the private sector can plan appropriately.
The priority should be to reform the regulatory environment so that the probability of a recurrence of a systemic crisis is significantly reduced. This includes not only defining the extent to which capital, provisions, and liquidity buffers are to rise, but also how market discipline is to be reestablished following extensive public sector support of systemic institutions in many countries. There are already proposals that will go some way toward removing procyclicality in the financial system and increasing buffers against losses and liquidity dislocations. But hard work lies ahead in devising capital penalties, insurance premiums, supervisory and resolution regimes, and competition policies to ensure that no institution is believed to be “too big to fail.” Early guidance at defining criteria for identifying systemically important institutions and markets—such as that being formulated by the International Monetary Fund, Financial Stability Board, and Bank for International Settlements for the G-20—should assist in this quest. Once identified, some form of surcharge or disincentive for marginal contributions to systemic risk will need to be formulated and applied.
A macroprudential approach to global policymaking is needed to restore market discipline and ensure that the benefits of financial integration are preserved.
The further challenge is to place these reforms in the context of an integrated macroprudential policy framework in which both domestic and cross-border institutions can operate securely. There is now recognition that a combination of microprudential and macroeconomic policies operated procyclically and led to a buildup of leverage and systemic risk. Policymakers will need to address ways in which their own actions exacerbate systemic risks, regardless of whether they oversee monetary, fiscal, or financial policy.
Cooperation and consistency in the policy field must extend across borders. Cross-border relationships between institutions and markets have made it impossible for policymakers to act unilaterally without consequences for others. Following the crisis, however, there is a danger that some countries will want to ring-fence their institutions and withdraw from global markets to protect their domestic economies from external shocks. What is needed instead is a way to benefit from increasing financial integration, while ensuring that potential negative spillovers are contained and clarity exists about the roles of home and host authorities. As policymakers move forward on this difficult task, the IMF can play a catalytic role through its surveillance activities and work on global macrofinancial linkages