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Changyong Rhee and Katsiaryna Svirydzenka
The Asia-Pacific region was the first to be hit by the COVID-19 pandemic; it put a strain on its people and economies, and policymaking became exceptionally difficult. This departmental paper contains the assessment of the key challenges facing Asia at this critical juncture and policy advice to the region both to address the current challenges and to build the foundations for a more sustainable and inclusive future. The paper focuses on (1) adjusting to the COVID-19 shock, (2) using unconventional policies when policy space is limited, (3) dealing with debt, and (4) helping the vulnerable and greening the recovery. The paper first presents the different ways countries are adjusting to the COVID-19 shock.
Khalid ElFayoumi and Martina Hengge
The COVID-19 pandemic and associated policy responses triggered a historically large wave of capital reallocation between markets and asset classes. Using high-frequency country-level data, this paper examines if and how the number of COVID cases, the stringency of the lockdown, and the fiscal and monetary policy response determined the dynamics of portfolio flows. Despite more dominant global factors, we find that these domestic factors played an important role, particularly for emerging markets and bond flows, contributing to a global wave of reallocation to safer asset classes. Our results indicate that rising domestic COVID cases had a strong positive effect on portfolio flows, which responded to an increase in financing needs in affected economies. Lockdown and fiscal policy measures also led to an increase in portfolio flows; however, evidence from the CDS market suggests that the increase in flows was dominated by supply forces, reflecting investors' preference for stronger policy responses. In contrast, we find that interest rate cuts led to a decline in portfolio flows as investors searched for higher yield. Finally, we show that COVID policy responses also affected countries' exposure to the global shock and that pre-COVID macroeconomic conditions, such as lower sovereign risk and higher trade openness, contributed to larger flows during the COVID episode.
Charles Cohen, S. M. Ali Abbas, Myrvin Anthony, Tom Best, Mr. Peter Breuer, Hui Miao, Ms. Alla Myrvoda, and Eriko Togo
The COVID-19 crisis may lead to a series of costly and inefficient sovereign debt restructurings. Any such restructurings will likely take place during a period of great economic uncertainty, which may lead to protracted negotiations between creditors and debtors over recovery values, and potentially even relapses into default post-restructuring. State-contingent debt instruments (SCDIs) could play an important role in improving the outcomes of these restructurings.
International Monetary Fund. Monetary and Capital Markets Department

Abstract

Near-term global financial stability risks have been contained as an unprecedented policy response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has helped avert a financial meltdown and maintain the flow of credit to the economy. For the first time, many emerging market central banks have launched asset purchase programs to support the smooth functioning of financial markets and the overall economy. But the outlook remains highly uncertain, and vulnerabilities are rising, representing potential headwinds to recovery. The report presents an assessment of the real-financial disconnect, as well as forward-looking analysis of nonfinancial firms, banks, and emerging market capital flows. After the outbreak, firms’ cash flows were adversely affected as economic activity declined sharply. More vulnerable firms—those with weaker solvency and liquidity positions and smaller size—experienced greater financial stress than their peers in the early stages of the crisis. As the crisis unfolds, corporate liquidity pressures may morph into insolvencies, especially if the recovery is delayed. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are more vulnerable than large firms with access to capital markets. Although the global banking system is well capitalized, some banking systems may experience capital shortfalls in an adverse scenario, even with the currently deployed policy measures. The report also assesses the pandemic’s impact on firms’ environmental performance to gauge the extent to which the crisis may result in a reversal of the gains posted in recent years.

International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.

Abstract

The pandemic continues to spread in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), but economic activity is picking up. After a deep contraction in April, activity started recovering in May, as lockdowns were gradually eased, consumers and firms adapted to social distancing, some countries introduced sizable policy support, and global activity strengthened.

International Monetary Fund. Monetary and Capital Markets Department
The Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP) work was conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report, however, includes stability analysis and stress tests under updated illustrative scenarios to quantify the possible implications of the COVID-19 shock on bank solvency. An unusually high degree of caution must be exercised in interpreting the stress tests results and their implications or validity at the current juncture, due to heightened uncertainty around post COVID central projections and downside risks. Financial vulnerabilities were elevated on the eve of the COVID-19 pandemic. Key financial vulnerabilities included high household leverage amid high real estate valuations following a long period of loose financial conditions. There were also signs of risk taking in some sectors, such as commercial real estate (CRE), and in addition, there were downside risks to bank profitability amid the low-interest-rate environment.