Vulnerabilities, Legacies, And Policy Challenges: Risks Rotating To Emerging Markets by IMF
Financial stability has improved in advanced economies
Financial stability has improved in advanced economies since the April 2015 Global Financial Stability Report. This progress reflects a strengthening macrofinancial environment in advanced economies as the recovery has broadened, confidence in monetary policies has firmed, and deflation risks have abated somewhat in the euro area.
The Federal Reserve is poised to raise interest rates as the preconditions for liftoff are nearly in place. This increase should help slow the further buildup of excesses in financial risk taking. Partly due to confidence in the European Central Bank’s (ECB’s) policies, credit conditions are improving and credit demand is picking up. Corporate sectors are showing tentative signs of improvement that could spawn increased investment and economic risk taking, including in the United States and Japan, albeit from low levels.
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Risks continue to rotate toward emerging markets, amid greater market liquidity risks
Despite these improvements in advanced economies, emerging market vulnerabilities remain elevated, risk appetite has fallen, and market liquidity risks are higher. Although many emerging market economies have enhanced their policy frameworks and resilience to external shocks, several key economies face substantial domestic imbalances and lower growth, as noted in the October 2015 World Economic Outlook (WEO). Many emerging market economies relied on rapid credit creation to sidestep the worst impacts of the global crisis. This increased borrowing has resulted in sharply higher leverage of the private sector in many economies, particularly in cyclical sectors, accompanied by rising foreign currency exposures increasingly driven by global factors. This confluence of borrowing and foreign currency exposure has increased the sensitivity of these economies to a tightening of global financial conditions (see Chapter 3).
As emerging market economies approach the late stage of the credit cycle, banks have thinner capital cushions, while nonperforming loans are set to rise as corporate earnings and asset quality deteriorate. In China, banks have only recently begun to address the growing asset quality challenges associated with rising weaknesses in key areas of the corporate sector. These developments in emerging market banking systems stand in contrast to those in advanced economies, where banks have spent the past few years deleveraging and repairing balance sheets, raising capital, and strengthening funding arrangements.
Against a challenging backdrop of falling commodity prices and weaker growth, several emerging market sovereigns are at greater risk of losing investment-grade ratings in the medium term. Pressures on sovereign ratings could intensify if contingent liabilities of stateowned enterprises—with a large and rising share of emerging market corporate bond issuance—have to be
assumed by the sovereign, for example, from firms in the oil, gas, and utility sectors.
Policymakers confront a triad of challenges
The baseline outlook for financial stability, consistent with the October 2015 WEO, is characterized by continuing cyclical recovery, but with weak prospects for medium-term growth in both advanced economies and emerging markets. In advanced economies, improvements in private balance sheets and continued accommodative monetary and financial conditions have spurred a cyclical recovery, but the handover to higher levels of self-sustaining growth is incomplete. Emerging markets face substantial challenges in adjusting to the new global market realities from a position of higher vulnerability.
Successful normalization of financial and monetary conditions would bring macro-financial benefits and considerably reduce downside risks. This report analyzes the prospects for normalization according to three scenarios: the baseline, an upside scenario of successful normalization, and a downside scenario characterized by disruptions in global asset markets. Against this backdrop, the global financial outlook is clouded by a triad of broad policy challenges in evidence over the past several months:
- Emerging market vulnerabilities—As examined in the WEO, growth in emerging markets and developing economies is projected to decline for the fifth year in a row. Many emerging markets have increased their resilience to external shocks with increased exchange rate flexibility, higher foreign exchange reserves, increased reliance on FDI flows and domestic-currency external financing, and generally stronger policy frameworks. But balance sheets have become stretched thinner in many emerging market companies and banks. These firms have become more susceptible to financial stress, economic downturn, and capital outflows. Deteriorating corporate health runs the risk of deepening the sovereign-corporate and the corporate-bank nexus in some key emerging markets. China in particular faces a delicate balance of transitioning to more consumption-driven growth without activity slowing too much, while reducing financial vulnerabilities and moving toward a more market-based system—a challenging set of objectives. Recent market developments, including slumping commodity prices, China’s bursting equity and margin-lending bubble, falling emerging market equities, and pressure on exchange rates, underscore these challenges.
- Legacy issues from the crisis in advanced economies—High public and private debt in advanced economies and remaining gaps in the euro area architecture need to be addressed to consolidate financial stability, and avoid political tensions and headwinds to confidence and growth. In the euro area, addressing remaining sovereign and banking vulnerabilities is still a challenge.
- Weak systemic market liquidity—This poses a challenge in adjusting to new equilibria in markets and the wider economy. Extraordinarily accommodative policies have contributed to a compression of risk premiums across a range of markets including sovereign bonds and corporate credit, as well as a compression of liquidity and equity risk premiums. While recent market developments have unwound some of this compression, risk premiums could still rise further. Now that the Federal Reserve looks set to begin the gradual process of tightening monetary policy, the global financial system faces an unprecedented adjustment as risk premiums “normalize” from historically low levels alongside rising policy rates and a modest cyclical recovery. Abnormal market conditions will need to adjust smoothly to the new environment. But there are risks from a rapid decompression, particularly given what appears to be more brittle market structures and market fragilities concentrated in credit intermediation channels, which could come to the fore as financial conditions normalize (see Chapter 2). Indeed, recent episodes of high market volatility and liquidity dislocations across advanced and emerging market asset classes highlight this challenge.
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