Benn Steil

Geo-Graphics

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

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Showing posts for "Financial Crisis and Recession"

Greece and Its Creditors Should Do a Guns-For-Pensions Deal

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
Greece NATO Defense Spending

IMF Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard has said that Greece needs to slash pension spending by 1% of GDP in order to reach its new budget targets.  The Greek government continues to resist, arguing that Greeks dependent on pensions have already suffered enough.  But it has yet to put a compelling alternative to its creditors. Read more »

Greece-Troika Gap Over Primary Surpluses Has Shrunk Dramatically

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
Greece Primary Surplus IMF Troika

Greece has announced that it will not pay the IMF the €300 million due to the Fund on June 5.  Instead, it will “bundle” the payments due to the Fund over the course of June into one payment of about €1.7 billion that it will make at the end of the month.  This contradicts earlier pledges that it would not resort to bundling.  The only country ever to have done so is Zambia, three decades ago. Read more »

Are Fed Watchers Watching the Wrong People?

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
Fed Board FOMC IoER Fed Funds

One effect of the financial crisis was to change how the Fed conducts monetary policy.  This could be long-lasting and important.

Prior to the crisis, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) set a target for the so-called federal funds rate, the interest rate at which depository institutions lend balances to each other overnight.  The New York Fed would then conduct open market operations – buying and selling securities – in order to nudge that rate towards the target.  It did this by affecting the supply of banks’ reserve balances at the Fed, which go up when they sell securities to the Fed and down when they buy them. Read more »

Will China Bail Out Russia?

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
Russia's International Borrowing Options

Russia’s foreign exchange reserves have fallen by nearly 1/3 since October 2013; they’ve fallen 20% just since September 2014.  Whereas the country still has over $300 billion in reserves, about $150 billion of this may be illiquid; it also has close to $700 billion in external debt. Read more »

The Politics of IMF Crisis-Country Growth Projections

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
IMF growth projections vs reality Greece and Ukraine

IMF GDP growth “projections” accompanying emergency lending programs are nothing of the sort; they are targets the level of which is necessarily set high enough to enable the interventions.

Take Greece.  After committing to lending of €30 billion over 3 years in 2010, the Fund projected that the crisis-mired nation would return to growth by 2012.  As shown in the left figure above, Greece’s economy actually plunged by 7% that year – the year it completed the world’s largest sovereign restructuring, covering €206 billion of bonds. Read more »

Bank Valuations Tank as ECB Flubs Its Stress Test

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
european bank valuations before and after stress test

Low market valuations (i.e., price to book ratios) for euro area banks reflect market concerns over their capital cushions, opined the Bank of England just prior to last-year’s launch of the ECB stress tests—the long-awaited results of which were published on October 26.  The tests, “by improving transparency,” said the BoE, have “the potential to improve confidence in euro area banks.” Read more »

The ECB Fails to Stress Banks Over the One Critical Variable It Controls: Inflation

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
ECB Stress Tests Inflation Scenario

Relentlessly falling inflation is bad news for Eurozone banks.  It increases the real (inflation-adjusted) value of borrower debt and the real cost of servicing that debt.  It causes loan defaults, and therefore bank loan losses, to rise.

So with Eurozone inflation, currently at a near-record low of 0.4%, clearly at risk of heading into deflationary territory, what did the ECB say was the “adverse scenario” for this year?  Inflation of 1% – more than twice its current level.  This is indefensible; the ECB’s dire scenario for this year is actually much cheerier than the IMF’s baseline forecast, which pegs inflation at 0.5%.  The country-by-country comparison is shown in the graphic above. Read more »