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Commentary

Tue 18 Jun 2019 / Latin America Caribbean

Bolsonaro's Brazil in public debt peril

Jair Bolsanoro's move into Brazil's presidential palace raised market hopes that he would revitalise the country's economy, build a political consensus for much-needed pension reform and place public finances on a more sustainable track. So far, he has failed to make much progress in these areas as he engaged in divisive politics and his administration became riven by internal squabbles. Brazil is vulnerable to a full-blown public debt crisis, which will have global consequences, if the government fails to devise a credible programme.

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Wed 12 Jun 2019 / Global

Trump tariffs threaten world economy

Donald Trump's hard-lin e stance on the China trade issue could lead to a slowing in the world's second largest economy. This is bound to have spillover effects on economies with which the country has strong trade links, and could contribute to global financial market instability. Seemingly oblivious to the lessons from the collapse of Lehman Brothers during the 2008 financial crisis, Trump appears to think that the US economy is insulated from the rest of the world economy and is immune from a global financial market meltdown.

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Tue 7 May 2019 / North America

Fed should focus on winning over public

The Federal Reserve's review of its 'monetary policy strategy, tools and communication practices' – especially during the forthcoming June conference – offers an opportunity to examine the questions surrounding Fed 'independence'. One of its goals should be to win over the public, rather than fascinate markets and high priests of monetary policy. The Fed should dispel public perceptions that it alone can deliver all desired economic outcomes, let alone determine stock market prices.

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Thu 18 Apr 2019 / North America

Fed running out of monetary ammunition

It is clear that President Donald Trump's administration is not concerned with whether the US will have enough resources left to fight the next downturn. The president's quest for an ultra-easy monetary policy at this late stage in the economic cycle might cause the US economy to overheat and thereby rekindle inflation. Moreover, it would leave the Federal Reserve with scant ammunition to fight the next recession. With the Fed funds rate already as low as 2.25%-2.5%, further cuts would leave the central bank with limited room to slash rates.

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Thu 11 Apr 2019 / Latin America Caribbean,Middle East,Global

'Submerging markets' pose global threat

Renewed currency weakness in Argentina and Turkey underlines the risks that emerging markets, or rather 'submerging markets', could pose to the global economic recovery. Fortunately, given their relatively small size, the Argentine and Turkish economies cannot by themselves constitute a significant threat. The same, however, might not be said of Brazil and Mexico. Both these countries appear vulnerable to crisis in the light of the seemingly shaky economic stewardship of their respective new presidents.

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Fri 29 Mar 2019 / Europe

UK and Germany 'looking beyond abyss'

Germany and Britain are trying to look beyond the abyss to focus on areas for beneficial bilateral co-operation after the UK's planned withdrawal from the European Union. But a debate on 29 March at the Allianz Forum in Berlin was heavily overshadowed by the impasse over departure. Michael Schmidt, president of the BCCG, presenting to the audience the British embassy-OMFIF report on 'UK-German futures', said: 'To find positive concepts about the future is a much happier task than carrying out a separation.'

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Thu 21 Mar 2019 / Global

Next financial crisis may eclipse 2008

It is difficult to forecast when the next global economic recession will happen. It is much easier to predict its severity. Among the more disturbing vulnerabilities of the global economy is the large amount of debt spawned by the years of ultra-unorthodox monetary policy conducted by major central banks in advanced economies. According to the IMF, the global debt to GDP level is 250% – around 30 percentage points higher than it was on the eve of the 2008 financial crisis, and the mispricing of global debt has become much more pervasive.

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Thu 24 Jan 2019 / Global

Emerging market trials persist

Last year's thrashing in all emerging market investment classes, with debt, equity and currencies in simultaneous decline for the first time in a decade, prompted reconsideration of allocation rationale into the next decade. Crises in Argentina and Turkey in 2018 were in part a replay of 2013 Federal Reserve-induced 'taper tantrum', as retail foreign investors sold indiscriminately. Contagion may yet spread, but for now index performance will continue to be subdued without the spectre of uncontrolled crashes.

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Tue 22 Jan 2019 / Global

Proper perspective on emerging risks

You can hear the bearishness in everyone's voices. They fear a market swoon in a world of unstable politics. Risks are mounting, as indicated by recent data signalling slight economic contractions in Germany and Japan. There is plenty of room for unpleasant surprises, especially from higher debt servicing costs and continuing pressures on some emerging markets. But it is important to keep these risks in proper perspective against a global economy that is slowing, but still very strong, and political tensions that are distracting, but unlikely to trigger recession.

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Wed 16 Jan 2019 / Global

Central banks heading for exit

In among all the concern about economic growth rolling over, it is important to recognise that central banks are still heading to the exit. Just before Christmas the Sveriges Riksbank raised rates for the first time in this cycle, a move that went largely unnoticed. In its monetary report, the Swedish central bank acknowledged that countries were entering 'a phase of more subdued GDP growth' globally. The central bank referenced the uncertainties surrounding Brexit and 'the ongoing trade conflict between the US and several other countries'.

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