Credit, asset boom stokes risks in emerging markets

Credit, asset boom stokes risks in emerging markets

LONDON - Reuters
Credit, asset boom stokes risks in emerging markets

This photo shows the facade of the Turkish Central Bank. The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) warned emerging market central banks like Brazil, Thailand, Indonesia and Turkey’s to pay attention to the global ramifications of their domestic policies. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Loose global monetary conditions are stoking credit and asset price booms in some emerging markets that could lead to a new financial crisis, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) warned on June 24.

Such a boom-and-bust cycle might have severe global repercussions, not least due to the increased weight of emerging markets in the world economy and in investment portfolios, the BIS said in its annual report.

Global spillovers

It urged central banks to pay more attention to the global spillovers from their domestic policies, an echo of complaints from Brazil and others that the ultra-loose monetary stance in older economies has touched off large, destabilising flows of capital into emerging markets in search of higher yields.

“This creates risks of rising financial imbalances similar to those seen in advanced economies in the years immediately preceding the crisis,” the BIS said.

Credit growth that is well above its long-term trend in relation to economic growth opens up a gap that has often presaged serious financial distress when it has exceeded six percent in the past, the report said.

Thailand and Turkey have credit gaps of 15 percent or more, while Brazil and Indonesia are also in the danger zone above 6 percent, according to the BIS.

Real credit growth in Argentina and China has also far outpaced gross domestic product (GDP) growth, but their credit gaps are well below the 6 percent threshold.

Asset prices look frothy in emerging markets

Asset prices also look increasingly frothy in many emerging economies, the BIS said. In some local Brazilian markets, real estate prices have almost doubled since the subprime crisis. Prices in some Chinese cities have risen even faster.

High debt loads could be a problem, too. The fraction of GDP that households and firms in Brazil,
China, India and Turkey are allocating to debt service stands at its highest level since the late 1990s,
or close to it, even though interest rates are low.

The BIS acknowledged that emerging market central banks are nursing a policy headache: raising interest rates may attract even more capital inflows and thus fuel domestic credit growth.

As a result, it said, monetary policy in emerging markets may be systematically too loose.

“One way out is to accompany higher interest rates with macroprudential measures such as higher capital ratios or tighter loan-to-value ratios. And, even if these tools fail to slow credit growth significantly, they should at least reinforce the financial system against the consequences of a credit bust.”

The BIS also urged emerging markets to wean themselves off exports because prospects for the world economy are poor: only two out of 28 representative economies can expect their trading partners to grow faster in 2011-2015 than in 2003-2007.

For example, around one fifth of Thai exports goes to countries where growth is projected to drop by no less than 2 percentage points in 2011-15.

Russia and India are also vulnerable to the slower growth expected in their trading partners -Ukraine and Turkey for Russia, and the Middle East for India, the BIS said.