IMF: Central banks must be careful when tightening policy
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REUTERS

 

WASHINGTON: Central banks of advanced economies must try to limit collateral damage to emerging markets when the time comes to tighten monetary policy, the International Monetary Fund’s steering panel said on Saturday.

The panel acknowledged that the ultra-accommodative policies first embraced by the U.S. Federal Reserve and other major central banks during the 2007-2009 crisis have supported world growth and remain appropriate.

But as growth strengthens, the shift to a more normal policy stance should be “well-timed, carefully calibrated and clearly communicated,” the International Monetary and Financial Committee said in a statement.

A wave of selling spread quickly through world financial markets this year after the Federal Reserve said it could start winding down its massive stimulus program by year end.

The pain was felt most severely in developing countries as the gusher of cheap dollars that had poured into their economies dried up, sparking a sharp slide in stock prices and currencies and pushing up local interest rates.

“Global financial stability is a shared responsibility,” said Ewald Nowotny, a member of the European Central Bank’s Governing Council. “The Fed should therefore clearly communicate the path of its intended policy actions to minimize negative spillovers” on developing economies.

Since 2008, the Fed has held interest rates near zero since and has roughly tripled its balance sheet to about $3.7 trillion. In the last year, it has been pumping $85 billion into the U.S. financial system each month through bond purchases.

While emerging markets’ pace of growth has slowed of late, the IMF still expects expansion in these countries to account for “the bulk of global growth.”

But policymakers from Jakarta to Sao Paulo feel vulnerable in the current environment, particularly those dependent on foreign capital inflows to finance budget deficits.

Worries about the strength of the U.S. economy have injected some uncertainty into the timing of the Fed’s first move. But few doubt the U.S. central bank will wait very long, and that could reignite turmoil.

“The assumption that the asset price correction that began this summer has already been largely completed does not seem to be plausible to us,” said Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said the fund “is prepared to deploy its resources when requested to support its members, including in conjunction with regional financing arrangements.”

In the meantime, though, some have urged policymakers to act now to reform their economies and reduce vulnerability to unpredictable capital flows.

“Policymakers in countries under market pressure should use the delay in the Fed’s tapering to address imbalances in order to be better prepared for the eventual monetary tightening in the United States,” the ECB’s Nowotny said.

The panel also urged the entire IMF to press on with reforms that would give emerging markets a greater say at the global lender.

The IMF’s board agreed some three years ago to make the changes, which would cut Europe’s representation, but they have been held up by the lack of approval from the United States, the fund’s biggest and most powerful member, and prospects for action before year-end are slim.

“The governance reforms have entered a stage of complete paralysis and this has further eroded the fund’s legitimacy and credibility,” said Brazil’s central bank chief Alexandre Tombini.

“Emerging market countries have honored their part of this political agreement,” he added. “It is time for the united states and Europe to deliver theirs.”

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