This paper reviews developments and issues in the exchange arrangements and currency convertibility of IMF members. Against the backdrop of continuing financial globalization and a series of emerging market crises since 1997, there have been important changes in the evolution of exchange rate regimes and the pace of liberalization of current and capital transactions among IMF member countries. There has been a shift away from intermediate regimes according to the IMF's official exchange rate regime classification system based on de facto exchange rate policies. The de facto exchange rate classification system has helped to clarify the nature and role of members' exchange rate regimes. It has facilitated discussions with country authorities about the implementation of exchange rate regimes and hence has contributed to more effective surveillance of the international monetary system. The use of exchange controls appears to have been little influenced by the degree of flexibility of exchange rate regimes or the occurrences of currency crises.
This study reviews the developments and issues in the exchange arrangements and currency convertibility of IMF members. The principal information source for this report is the Annual Report on Exchange Arrangements and Exchange Restrictions prepared in consultation with national authorities.
The global trend toward lilberalization in countries international payments and transfer systems has been widespread in both industrial and developing countries and most dramatic in Central and Eastern Europe. Countries in general have brought their exchange systems more in line with market principles and moved toward more flexible exchange rate arrangements. This study updates previous studies published under the title Developments in International Exchange and Payments Systems.
This paper focuses on the private nonfinancial sectors of the affected economies, financial liberalization provided households and businesses with greater access to credit markets. This contributed to the long period of expansion during the 1980s. Partly as a result of major changes to the financial systems, several industrial countries had a boom in asset markets associated with a period of asset accumulation, an unprecedented buildup of debt, a sharp increase in relative asset prices, and related increases in household wealth. The expansion in household financial activity in the United Kingdom during the 1980s was paralleled by a sizable boom in investment spending and an increase in corporate debt. The structure of balance sheets was also affected by mergers and acquisitions that led to a further expansion in corporate debt. New types of bank loans and accounts have prevented even greater disintermediation but have also reduced net interest margins because more deposits now earn market-related rates of return.
This paper examines the implications of the growth and integration of international capital markets for the management of exchange rates, with particular attention to the inferences that can be drawn from the currency turmoil that shook the European Monetary System (EMS) last fall and winter. The resources available to the private sector for taking positions in the forex market are now much larger than even those of the Group of Ten central banks. When private markets, led by the increasing financial muscle of institutional investors, reach the concerted view (rightly or wrongly) that the risk/return outlook for a particular currency has deteriorated significantly, the defending central bank could be faced with a run that could easily amount to, say, $100–200 billion or more within a week. The range of private market participants involved in last fall’s crisis in European currency markets was broad—encompassing banks, securities houses, institutional investors, hedge funds, and corporations. However that wide participation explains in part why the funds that flooded into central banks were so massive.
This paper describes that in developing countries, the moves toward more flexible exchange rate arrangements and liberalization of exchange controls often occurred in the context of comprehensive macroeconomic adjustment programs supported by the IMF. These programs featured a broad range of policy actions, including an increasing emphasis on structural reforms aimed at improving resource allocation and enhancing the supply response of the economy. With respect to restrictive systems, the trend toward liberalization of nontrade current and capital transactions continues, primarily because it is seen as ineffective, even counterproductive, to try to control such financial flows. This trend contrasts with trade where it appears that some major participants have been awaiting the outcome of the Uruguay Round before further reducing restrictions. A single currency peg has been the exchange arrangement most frequently used by developing countries, of which over one third currently have such an arrangement. This type of peg has the merit of being easy to administer and is generally chosen by countries that have a large share of foreign exchange transactions in the currency chosen as the peg.
This paper summarizes major measures taken in the international exchange and trade systems in 1988 and developments in exchange arrangements and the evolution of exchange rates. The exchange arrangements adopted by members since 1973 cover a broad spectrum of degrees of flexibility, from single-currency pegs to a freely floating system. Most countries have adopted arrangements that fall clearly into one or another of the major categories of the present classification system adopted by the IMF in 1982, and countries with dual markets usually have one market that is clearly more important than the other, which allows accurate classification by major market. Changes in IMF members' arrangements for their currencies during this decade have shown a distinct tendency to move toward more flexible arrangements and away from single-currency pegs, continuing a trend that began in the mid-1970s. A qualitative sense of the significance of the trend toward more flexible arrangements can be conveyed by the degree that world trade is affected by countries adopting different arrangements.
This paper emphasizes on the policy reaction of the agencies and their authorities to countries in various stages of debt-servicing difficulties. Export credit agencies have, over the past few years, been adopting a progressively more open stance. This is true with respect to short-term cover generally and, with respect to medium-term cover, for countries that have rescheduled their debts but are implementing adjustment programs and adhering to Paris Club agreements. Despite the more open stance, the volume of new medium-term credit and cover commitments to developing countries appears to have fallen off sharply over the past two years. Although for some debtors the operative constraint is clearly on the supply of new credits and cover, this is not the general case and, indeed, agencies reported net repayments from some countries for which they were wide open for new business. A number of agencies also considered that a factor behind the decline in both investment and export credits to support that investment could be the terms on which such credits are available.
This paper emphasizes on the policy reaction of the agencies and their authorities to countries in various stages of debt-servicing difficulties. It was found that, largely for competitive reasons and provided that significant arrears had not emerged, agencies as a group had tended to remain quite open for debtors pursuing policies that could be expected to lead to payments difficulties, thus facilitating the postponement of necessary adjustment by the debtor and increasing the likelihood of eventual debt-servicing difficulties. Despite this more open stance, the volume of new medium-term credit and cover commitments to developing countries appears to have fallen off sharply over the past two years. Although for some debtors the operative constraint is clearly on the supply of new credits and cover, this is not the general case and, indeed, agencies reported net repayments from some countries for which they were wide open for new business.
This paper reviews recent analytical and empirical research on the determination of employment, to provide a framework for evaluating the merits of alternative policies to cope with unemployment. Particular emphasis is placed on the mechanisms of employment and wage determination described in recent studies. The lack of any systematic relationship between countries' long-run growth and employment performances reflects the fact that output per person employed (labor productivity) or, conversely, the labor intensity of production, has developed quite differently across countries. The main mechanism through which the rise in real wages has prevented greater employment gains in Europe over the past ten to fifteen years seems to have been a substitution of capital for labor which has lowered the labor intensity of production significantly more than in the United States. There are a number of important caveats with respect to the apparent relationship between differences in employment and labor cost developments across countries.
The foreign exchange market is the world’s largest financial market by virtually any measure. It is the only truly global financial market: currencies are traded in financial centers around the world, connected by communications systems that allow nearly instantaneous transmission of price information and trade instructions. The market has grown rapidly over the last decade since cross-border capital flows have been liberalized and the regulatory constraints on institutional investments relaxed. The increased liquidity of securities markets, particularly in the industrial countries, which has resulted from privatization and from larger and more efficient markets for government debt securities, has also increased the range of foreign assets available to investors and made foreign investment easier. This expansion of cross-border capital flows has been actively promoted by governments seeking broader investor bases for their own debt and for securities issued by domestic firms. Improvements in trading and settlement practices and in technology have increased the liquidity of secondary markets for foreign exchange instruments and allowed participating financial institutions to handle larger volumes of transactions safely.
Trading in the foreign exchange markets takes place for a variety of motives. This annex discusses three aspects of foreign exchange transactions: first, the arbitrage that links the forward and spot markets; next, the use of foreign exchange markets as “synthetic money markets”; and then the use of foreign exchange instruments to hedge foreign currency risk, which covers first the basic hedging techniques typically used by individuals and investors and then the dynamic hedging strategies typically used by banks to hedge exposure associated with issuing currency options. The consequences of these various strategies for foreign exchange market behavior are also examined.
The relaxation of capital and exchange controls and the acceleration of financial innovation have clearly encouraged competition among financial institutions and improved efficiency in financial services worldwide. Increased competition has also presented financial institutions with new risks-including those associated with losses on open positions and with losses resulting from settlement failures. These risks are increased by the speed with which prices change, by the delays inherent in covering exposures and settling trades, and by the extension of credit to counterparties with non-zero bankruptcy probabilities.
The increasing sophistication of foreign exchange markets offers investors a wide range of liquid assets. In normal times, this enables participants to manage their risks and lower their costs of transacting, and is therefore conducive to a more efficient allocation of funds in the world economy. But these same features have also expanded the range of opportunities available to speculators who believe that a currency’s sudden depreciation is impending, and have increased the private sector’s ability to marshall large resources on very short notice. Of course, during a foreign exchange crisis, when most market participants become convinced—rightly or wrongly—that a large change in the exchange rate could well be in the offing, the line between speculation and hedging becomes rather blurred.
A system of fixed exchange rates, or a system of exchange rate bands like the ERM, is usually maintained through the central bank’s foreign exchange market intervention using its foreign exchange reserves. Such regimes are subject to periodic speculative attacks, however: speculators take a position against a currency if they believe that the exchange rate is likely to devalue from its current parity soon enough to compensate them for the costs of speculation; high capital mobility has lowered these costs by greatly expanding the speculators’ range of alternative means of taking positions in the foreign exchange market.1
This annex focuses on the financial aspects of the currency crisis and complements the more detailed discussion of macroeconomic developments presented elsewhere.1 The first section describes the pattern of cross-border capital flows into and out of some of the countries most affected by the recent currency crisis, elaborating on the discussion of convergence plays in Section III of the paper. The next section describes the methods by which the speculative attacks against some of the weaker currencies were launched and the tools used by central banks to try to defend their exchange rate parities. The role of the commercial banks in providing credit to those that took positions against the weak currencies is described, illustrating the mechanics of speculative attacks characterized in Annex IV. The final section examines activity in the financial markets during the crisis.