Benn Steil

Geo-Graphics

A graphical take on geoeconomic issues, with links to the news and expert commentary.

Is the BRICS Bank More “Democratic” Than the World Bank?

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker Wednesday, July 23, 2014
brics bank world bank founders vs non founding members

The launch of the new BRICS development bank “reflects the disparity and democratic deficiency in the global governance and is trying to restart, to rethink that,” according to Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz.  But is the BRICS bank really more “democratic” than the World Bank, whose governance legitimacy its founders are challenging? Read more »

Hurling BRICS at the World Bank and the $

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker Monday, July 21, 2014
brics bank world bank

Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (the “BRICS”) made a splash last week with the official launch of their new development bank.  The backers made no secret of their intention to challenge the way things are done in the established international financial and monetary architecture. Read more »

China, not Piketty, Explains “Confused Signals” in U.S. Asset Prices

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker Monday, June 23, 2014
china drives down treasury yields

The FT’s Ed Luce recently took on the “confused signals” being sent by U.S. stock and bond prices moving in sync (upward).

Which is it, he asks?  Are economic prospects good, as stock prices suggest, or bleak, as bond prices suggest? Read more »

Mr. Draghi, Tear Down These Rates!

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker Tuesday, June 3, 2014
euro area real and nominal lending rates

ECB President Mario Draghi was able to stabilize Eurozone nominal lending rates, which had been climbing dangerously in the periphery countries, with his famous do “whatever it takes” speech in July 2012.  Real (inflation-adjusted) lending rates for nonfinancial businesses, however, have risen steadily since then; in Spain, they are back up to their 2009 euro-era peak, as the right-hand figure in today’s Geo-Graphic shows. Read more »

Ukraine, Greece, and the IMF: Déjà vu All Over Again?

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker Tuesday, May 27, 2014
IMF programs Ukraine and Greece

The IMF approved a $17 billion 24-month stand-by lending arrangement with Ukraine at the end of April.  The Fund sees the Ukrainian economy contracting 5% this year, but is enormously confident that its program will quickly set things right, projecting 2% growth next year and 4%+ growth in subsequent years. Read more »

China’s RMB Fairly Valued, Euro Overvalued, According to Our Geo-Graphics iPad mini Index

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker Monday, May 5, 2014

The “law of one price” holds that identical goods should trade for the same price in an efficient market. To what extent does it hold internationally?

The Economist magazine’s famous Big Mac Index uses the price of McDonald’s burgers around the world, expressed in a common currency (U.S. dollars), to estimate the extent to which various currencies are over- or under-valued. The Big Mac is a global product, identical across borders, which makes it an interesting one for this purpose. Yet it travels badly—cross-border flows of burgers won’t align their prices internationally. Read more »

French Banks Play Russian Roulette

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker Wednesday, April 30, 2014
bank exposure to russia

In the fourth quarter of last year, with tensions rising between Russia and the West over Ukraine, U.S., German, UK, and Swedish banks aggressively dialed down their credit exposures in Russia.  But as the graphic above shows, French banks, which have by far the highest exposures to Russia, barely touched theirs.  At $50 billion, this exposure is not far off the $70 billion exposure they had to Greece in 2010.  At that time, they took advantage of the European Central Bank’s generous Securities Market Programme (SMP) to fob off Greek bonds, effectively mutualizing their Greek exposures across the Eurozone.  No such program will be available for Russian debt.  And much of France’s Russia exposure is illiquid, such as Société Générale’s ownership of Rosbank, Russia’s 9th largest bank by asset value ($22 billion).  With the Obama Administration and the European Union threatening to dial up sanctions on Russia, is it time for U.S. money market funds and others to start worrying about their French bank exposures? Read more »

Should the ECB Go on a Bund Buying Spree?

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker Wednesday, April 16, 2014
bund buying

Should the European Central Bank finally join the Fed, the Bank of England, and the Bank of Japan and deliver a good, stiff dose of Quantitative Easing?

Maybe, came the surprise response from the hawkish Bundesbank president on March 25.  But “any private or public assets that we might buy,” Jens Weidmann warned, “would have to meet certain quality standards.” Read more »

IMF Reform and Ukraine: Amateur Hour for U.S. Economic Diplomacy

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker Friday, March 28, 2014
ukraine imf reform

In our March 5 post, we argued that the Obama administration linking Ukraine aid to IMF reform was disingenuous and counterproductive.  We were right: the legislation failed, congressional Republicans were angered, foreign governments were annoyed, and aid was delayed.  All for what?  Without IMF reform, Ukraine will still get every penny it would have gotten with IMF reform.  Today’s Geo-Graphic shows this.  And more… Read more »