Brazil, China, Commodities, Economics, Emerging Markets, Emerging markets, Fiscal policy, global economy, IMF, International Trade, Latin America, Long term finance, natural resources, Sovereign ratings, Uncategorized

Global imbalances and currency bullying

 Coming out next Monday, July 30, on Seeking Alpha, INTERFIMA, Roubini EconoMonitor, and OCP Policy Center

The IMF released last July 24 its latest assessments of the current account balances for the 30 largest economies in its External Sector Report 2018 (ESR). There was no major change in 2017 relative to previous years and the reconfiguration of surpluses and deficits that has prevailed since 2013 was essentially extended. However, there are reasons to expect more abrupt alterations ahead, as the U.S. fiscal easing under high employment conditions unfolds. Given the context of ongoing U.S.-led trade wars, as well as the recent bout of Chinese exchange rate depreciation, one may wonder about the prospects of currencies also becoming subject to war or rather to what Citi has called “currency bullying”.

Global current account balances have evolved along a stable configuration since 2013…

Chart 1 depicts the evolution of current account balances of major 30 economies in the period of 1997-2017. After the substantial climb prior to – and its unwinding in the aftermath of – the global financial crisis, the absolute sum of surpluses and deficits has remained close to 3.25% of global GDP (the peculiarities of the first phase are approached in Canuto (2017)).

Canuto - chart1 global imbalances currency bullying

The overall stable landscape featured changes in composition. More recently, China’s current account surpluses have gradually diminished, while Japan, euro area debtor countries and oil-exporting countries have moved in the opposite direction. Below the line, in the case of deficit countries, while the U.S. stayed as the major case, emerging market economies have displayed divergent trajectories: Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa have left the “fragile” position of the “taper tantrum” in 2013, while Argentina joined Turkey in that zone (Canuto, 2013)  (Canuto, 2018).

Asymmetric macroeconomic policy stances among advanced economies since 2013 have also affected the evolution of balances. While some economies have combined large surpluses and weak domestic demand (e.g., Germany, Japan, Netherlands), United Kingdom and United States exhibited stronger recoveries in their domestic demands.

In the case of the U.S., the expansionary effects of last year’s tax cuts have already started to appear in the GDP figures of the second quarter. Although accompanied by a surge in exports, to some extent reflecting anticipation of sales abroad for fear of trade wars becoming fiercer, the U.S. current account deficit is poised to rise.

Stock positions of countries in terms of net international investments evolve according to previous current account balances and the corresponding valuation of assets. Those stocks, in turn, are also among factors determining future current account balances (Alberola et al, 2018). In 2017, valuation effects – including from U.S. dollar weakening – led to a stability of global stock positions (IMF, 2018).

… while real effective exchange rate (REER) and current account gaps have remained significant…

National economies are not expected to exhibit zero current-account balances and stocks of net foreign assets. At any period, domestic absorption – consumption and investment – can be larger or smaller than the local GDP, triggering inflows or outflows of capital, due to “fundamental” factors (Canuto, 2017):

  • Differences in intertemporal preferences and age structures of their populations mean different ratios of domestic consumption to GDP;
  • Differences in opportunities for investment also tend to lead to capital flows;
  • Differences in institutional development levels, reserve currency statuses and other idiosyncratic features also generate capital flows and imbalances;
  • Cyclical factors – including fluctuations in commodity prices – may also cause transitory increases and declines in balances; and
  • As referred above, countries’ outstanding stocks of net foreign assets also have a counterpart in terms of service payments in their current accounts.

When global imbalances – and corresponding real effective exchange rates (REERs) – reflect such fundamentals, economies are in a better place than they would be in autarky (isolated with zero balances). There are situations, however, in which such imbalances may be gauged as in excess with respect to notional values suggested by fundamentals.

The IMF External Sector Report has now for six years offered assessments comparing actual current account balances – and REERs – with those that would reflect medium-term fundamentals and desired policies. Chart 2 shows the evolution of current account gaps in 2012-2017, where stronger (weaker) means that a current account balance is larger (smaller) than that “consistent with fundamentals and desirable policies”.

Last year, Germany, the Netherlands, Singapore and Thailand (“substantially stronger”); Malaysia (“stronger”); and China, Korea and Sweden (“moderately stronger), held current account gaps above 4, between 2 and 4, and between 1 and 2 percentage points of GDP, respectively. The euro area was also “moderately stronger,” moving up from the alignment of previous years.

Canuto - chart2 global imbalances currency bullying

On the other side, Argentina, Belgium, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Kingdom (“weaker”); and Canada, France, Russia, South Africa, Spain and the U.S. (“moderately weaker”), showed negative current account gaps in the ranges of 2-4 and 1-2 percentage points of GDP, respectively. Within the euro zone, large positive gaps (Germany, Netherlands) have co-lived asymmetrically with negative gaps (Belgium, France, Spain), and the euro zone as a whole moved to a positive gap because of shrinking negative gaps in France, Italy and Spain. Notice the absence last year of “substantially weaker” cases.

As one might expect, REER and current account assessments, according to the IMF report, are closely linked to each other. Stronger (weaker) REERs in Chart 2, corresponding to “undervaluation” (“overvaluation”), may also be seen in Chart 3.

 Canuto - chart3 global imbalances currency bullying

… and the U.S. Treasury is scheduled to present the next FX report in October

Next October, the U.S. Treasury will report again to Congress on “macroeconomic and foreign exchange policies of major trading partners of the United States” (last time was April). A country may be named a “currency manipulator” according to three criteria, besides being considered a major U.S. trading partner: certain levels of bilateral trade surplus with the U.S., overall current account surplus, and one-sided foreign exchange interventions geared at maintaining depreciation. Japan (1988), Taiwan (China) (1988 and 1992), and China (1992-1994) have ben previous cases of such denomination.

In case a country is considered as crossing the 3 lines and is labeled as “currency manipulator”, down the road there may be consequences as denial of access to the U.S. government procurement, the USTR taking it into account in bilateral or regional agreements, and others (see Citi Global Economics View, “Currency bullying and currency manipulators”, 25 July 2018).There are no countries currently named as “currency manipulators”, but China, Japan, Korea, Germany, India, and Switzerland comprise the current “monitoring list” because they are classified as fulfilling 1 or 2 of those criteria. There are hints that this watch list might be increased, although analysts are not expecting any labeling of “currency manipulator” in this forthcoming report – the application of previously used thresholds does not point to any country crossing all three fault lines (Chart 4).

Canuto - chart4 global imbalances currency bullying

The Chinese Renminbi has depreciated sharply in recent weeks, partially reversing the course of appreciation that started mid-2007. The IIF (2018) alludes to a possibility that Chinese authorities might be adopting a “neglect” stance as a signal amid the ongoing trade battles with the Trump government, but also highlights risks of substantial capital outflows being triggered – like in 2015 (Chart 5) – with corresponding shocks on China’s financial markets and elsewhere in the world, including global risk assets. The possibility of mutually damaging financial effects between U.S. and China might impose some limits to the “currency bullying” as a proxy to the trade war. Furthermore, as we saw, the U.S. Treasury is not likely to name China as a “currency manipulator”. Nonetheless, rhetoric and “currency bullying” are likely to remain loud as the U.S. trade and current account deficits rise ahead and global imbalances aggravate.

Canuto - chart5 global imbalances currency bullying

Otaviano Canuto is an Executive Director of the World Bank. The opinions expressed in this article are his own. Follow him at @ocanuto

Some content on this page was disabled on December 14, 2020 as a result of a DMCA takedown notice from Citigroup Inc., Citigroup Global Markets Inc., Citigroup Global Markets Limited, and Citibank, N.A.. You can learn more about the DMCA here:
Some content on this page was disabled on December 14, 2020 as a result of a DMCA takedown notice from Citigroup Inc., Citigroup Global Markets Inc., Citigroup Global Markets Limited, and Citibank, N.A.. You can learn more about the DMCA here:

Brazil, China, Commodities, Corporate Finance, Economics, Emerging Markets, Emerging markets, global economy, IMF, International Trade, Latin America, Long term finance, Shadow Banking, Uncategorized, World Bank

Articles 2017 by Otaviano Canuto

Articles 2017 (Otaviano Canuto)


I – Global Economy


China and the new phase of trade expansion, OMFIF, Huffington Post, INTERFIMA, Seeking Alpha, December 2017

Two globalization processes will evolve in parallel, and might even reinforce each other. Much will depend on the extent to which anti-globalization sentiment rises or falls in key markets. Progress on trade deals like the new TPP and the wide reach of the Belt and Road should engender some confidence that international economic cooperation has not reached a nadir under President Trump – but can strike out in new and positive directions.


Overlapping Globalizations, Huffington Post, INTERFIMA, Seeking Alpha, November 2017

Current technological developments in manufacturing are likely to lead to a partial reversal of the wave of fragmentation and global value chains that was at the core of the rise of North-South trade from 1990 onward. At the same time, China – the main hub of the global-growth-cum-structural-change of that period – may attempt to extend the previous wave through its “One Belt, One Road” initiative.


The Metamorphosis of Financial Globalization Capital Finance International, Huffington Post, INTERFIMA, Seeking Alpha, OCP Policy Center, autumn 2017

After a strong rising tide starting in the 1990s, financial globalisation seems to have reached a plateau since the global financial crisis. However, that apparent stability has taken place along a deep reshaping of cross-border financial flows, featuring de-banking and an increasing weight of non-banking financial cross-border transactions. Sources of potential instability and long-term funding challenges have morphed accordingly.


Bloated central bank balance sheets  Capital Finance International, Huffington Post, INTERFIMA, Seeking Alpha, OCP Policy Center, spring 2017 (w/ Matheus Cavallari)

Central banks of large advanced and many emerging market economies have recently gone through a period of extraordinary expansion of balance sheets and are all now possibly facing a transition to less abnormal times. However, the fact that one group is comprised by global reserve issuers and the other by bystanders receiving impacts of the former’s policies carries substantively different implications. Furthermore, using Brazil and the U.S. as examples, we also illustrate how the relationships between central bank and public sector balance sheets have acquired higher levels of complexity, risks and opacity. (.pdf version here from OCPPC)


Global Imbalances on the Rise  Capital Finance International, winter 2017

Signs of a possible resurgence of rising global current-account imbalances have returned attention to the issue. We argue here that, while not a threat to global financial stability, the resurgence of these imbalances reveals a sub-par performance of the global economy in terms of foregone product and employment, i.e. a post-crisis global economic recovery below its potential. In addition, we approach how the re-orientation of the US economic policy already announced by president Trump suggests risks of new bouts of tension around global current account imbalances.


NAFTA at the Crossroads  Huffington Post, INTERFIMA, Seeking Alpha, OCP Policy Center, May (w/ Michael McKeon and Samuel George)

The U.S. Senate voted to confirm Robert Lighthizer as United States Trade Representative last week, rounding out President Donald Trump’s cabinet and giving momentum to his trade agenda. At his swearing-in ceremony on May 15, Ambassador Lighthizer predicted that President Trump would permanently reverse “the dangerous trajectory of American trade,” and in turn make “U.S. farmers, ranchers and workers richer and the country safer.” This policy shift will begin in earnest in the coming weeks, when Lighthizer meets with congressional trade leaders to discuss the administration’s plan to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).


II – Infrastructure Finance


Bridging Finance and Infrastructure, Cornell on Emerging Markets, December 1, 2017 (w/ Aleksandra Liaplina)

A bridge between private sector finance and infrastructure can be built if properly structured projects are developed, with risks and returns distributed in accordance with different incentives of stakeholders.


Filling the infrastructure financing gap,  OMFIF, Huffington Post, INTERFIMA, Seeking Alpha, December 2017

Infrastructure investment has fallen short of what is needed to support potential growth. At the same time, financial resources in world markets have contended with low long-term interest rates, while opportunities for greater returns from potential infrastructure assets are missed.


Matchmaking Finance and Infrastructure  Capital Finance International, Huffington Post, INTERFIMA, Seeking Alpha, OCP Policy Center summer 2017 (w/ Aleksandra Liaplina)

The world economy – and emerging market and developing economies in particular – display a gap between their infrastructure needs and the available finance. On the one hand, infrastructure investment has fallen far short from of what would be required to support potential growth. On the other, abundant financial resources in world markets have been facing very low and decreasing interest rates, whereas opportunities of higher return from potential infrastructure assets are missed. We approach here how a better match between private sector finance and infrastructure can be obtained if properly structured projects are developed, with risks and returns distributed in accordance with different incentives of stakeholders. (.pdf version here from OCPPC)


III – Brazil


Brazil’s Economic Deliverance Project Syndicate, September 28

Brazil’s proliferating corruption scandals have imposed substantial costs on some of the country’s largest companies. But, in the long term, today’s efforts to strengthen the rule of law and ensure fair market competition will prove to have been well worth it.


Dissolving corruption in Brazil  OMFIF, Huffington Post, INTERFIMA, Seeking Alpha, October  

The prevalence of crony relationships between public and private agents is neither new to Brazil nor singular to the country. The dissolution of this framework, even if painful in the short term, has great potential to create economic, political, and social gains in Brazil, and may provide an example for other countries around the world.


Does Brazil’s Sector Structure Explain Its Productivity Anemia?   Huffington Post, INTERFIMA, Seeking Alpha, OCP Policy Center, June (w/ Fernanda De Negri)

Brazil’s labor and total-factor productivity (TFP) have featured anemic increases in the last decades. As we illustrate here, contrary to common view, sector structures of the Brazilian GDP and employment cannot be singled out as major determinants of productivity performance. Horizontal, cross-sector factors hampering productivity increases seem to carry more weight.


Long-term finance and BNDES tapering in Brazil  Huffington Post, INTERFIMA, Seeking Alpha, OCP Policy Center, June (w/ Matheus Cavallari)

One major policy issue in Brazil is how to boost productivity, while following a path of fiscal consolidation that will take at least a decade to bring the public-debt-to-GDP ratio back to 2000 levels. The productivity-boosting agenda includes not only the implementation of a full range of structural reforms, but also recovering and upgrading the national infrastructure and other long-term investments. Given that fiscal consolidation has already been leading to less transfer of funds—in fact, the reversal—from the Treasury to the National Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES) and a consequent downsizing of the latter’s operations, pursuing the double objective of raising productivity and adjusting fiscal accounts will require an expansion of alternative sources of long-term asset finance.


Brazil’s Pension Reform Proposal is Necessary and Socially Balanced  Huffington Post, INTERFIMA, Seeking Alpha, OCP Policy Center, April

Last week the World Bank released a Staff Note analyzing the pension reform proposal sent last December by Brazil’s Federal Government to Congress. It concludes that:  “… the proposed pension reform in Brazil is necessary, urgent if Brazil is to meet its spending rule, and socially balanced in that the proposal mostly eliminates subsidies received under the current rules by formal sector workers and civil servants who belong to the top 60 percent of households by income distribution.” With the help of some charts extracted from the note, we summarize here some of the reasons for such a statement.


The Brazilian debt hangover  Huffington Post, INTERFIMA, Seeking Alpha, OCP Policy Center, January

With the help of five charts, we approach the Brazilian credit cycle, the downward phase of which helps understand why the post-crisis recovery has been so hard to obtain. In our view, the profile of such a credit cycle in effect points to it as a special chapter of our previously approached determinants of the Brazilian economic crisis.


The Brazilian productivity anemia  Cornell on Emerging Markets, April 2017

Brazil has been suffering from “anemic productivity growth”. This is a major challenge because in the long run, sustained productivity increases are necessary to underpin inclusive economic growth. Without them, increases in real labor earnings tend to conflict with global competitiveness; collecting taxes in order to fund government expenditures on infrastructure and social policies becomes a heavy burden; returns to private investment becomes harder to achieve; and ultimately citizens will have less access to high-quality goods and services at affordable prices. The focus on urgent fiscal reforms adopted by the new government– public spending cap, social security reform – must be accompanied by action on the productivity front.


IV – Emerging Markets


Beyond the Ballot: Turkey’s Economy at the Crossroads  Huffington Post, INTERFIMA, Seeking Alpha, OCP Policy Center, March 2017 (w/ Sam George)

In the current environment, Erdogan is no longer striving to prove Turkey is ready for the EU and many believe that this course has rendered Turkish accession extremely unlikely, at least in the near term. From a purely economic standpoint, a political falling out would be a shame. The European Union is the most important trading partner for Turkey, and 40 percent of Turkey’s exports are destined for European countries. Turkey has increasingly become a part of European production chains for manufacturing as well. If political ties are not deepened, these economic links may not reach their full potential. In the meantime Turkey’s economy continues to grow, and the country maintains its momentum. But as Turks prepare to take to the polls to address a political crossroads, they must not lose track of the economic crossroads bearing down on them from beyond the bend.


Colombia: getting growth, getting peace  Huffington Post, INTERFIMA, Seeking Alpha, OCP Policy Center, March 2017 (w/ Diana Quintero)

The Santos administration has delivered on two of its main promises: sign a peace agreement with the FARC guerrilla and get approved a significant structural tax reform. We approach here why both are expected to become strong pillars to help keep the growth-cum-poverty-reduction momentum of the last decades.


Cuba Online  Huffington Post, INTERFIMA, Seeking Alpha, OCP Policy Center, August 2017 (with Sam George)

Dual transitions are under way in Cuba. The island is slowly opening its economy, and a new crop of younger political leaders, potentially more open to democratic norms, waits in the wings. A third transition, the rise of digital access, is also in an early stage. But it is this third transition that arguably has the most momentum and could significantly accelerate the first two.

Brazil, China, Commodities, Corporate Finance, Economics, Emerging Markets, Emerging markets, global economy, IMF, International Trade, Latin America, Long term finance, Shadow Banking, Small States, Uncategorized, World Bank

Four Lectures on Emerging Markets and the Global Economy

Four Lectures on Emerging Markets and the Global Economy

Otaviano Canuto, Casablanca, 15-18 January 2017


  1. Asset Accumulation and Growth in Developing Economies
  • Behind our “measured ignorance”
  • Natural Capital and the Resource Curse
  • Poverty- and Middle-Income Traps
  • Innovation, Capabilities and Intangible Wealth
  • Investment Climate and Infrastructure
  • Income and Efficiency Gaps


Canuto, O. and Cavallari, M. “Natural Capital and the Resource Curse“, Economic Premise No. 83. World Bank. Washington D.C. May 2012.

Brahmbhatt, M.; Canuto, O. and Vostroknutova, E. “Natural Resources and Development Strategy after the Crisis”, in Canuto, O. and Giugale, M. (eds.) The Day after Tomorrow: A Handbook on the Future of Economic Policy in the Developing World, World Bank, Washington D.C, 2010.

Agenor, P-R.; Canuto, O. and Jelenic, M. “Avoiding middle income growth traps”, Economic Premise No. 98. World Bank. Washington D.C. November 2012.

Agenor, P-R.; Canuto, O. and Jelenic, M. “Access to Finance, Product Innovation, and Middle-Income Growth Traps”, Economic Premise No. 137. World Bank. Washington D.C. March 2014.

Canuto, O.; Dutz, M. and Reis, J.G. “Technological learning: climbing a tall ladder”, in Canuto, O. and Giugale, M. (eds.) The Day after Tomorrow: A Handbook on the Future of Economic Policy in the Developing World, World Bank, Washington D.C, 2010.

Cirera, X. and Maloney, W. F. “The innovation paradox: Developing-Country Capabilities and the unrealized promise of technological catch up”, World Bank, Washington D.C., 2017 (Executive summary and ch.1)

World Bank, “A better Investment climate for everyone”, World Development Report 2005, World Bank, Washington D.C. 2004

Araujo, J.T., Vostroknutova, E., and Wacker, K.M. “Understanding the Income and Efficiency Gap in Latin America and the Caribbean“, World Bank, 2016


  1. Trade Globalization and Industrialization
  • Globalization and “The Great Convergence”
  • China: from the Great Transformation to Rebalancing
  • What Happened to World Trade
  • The Future of Manufacturing-Led Development
  • Premature Deindustrialization
  • China’s Rebalancing and Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Middle East and North Africa needs reforms


Baldwin, R. “The Great Convergence: Information Technology and the New Globalization”, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2016.

Hallward-Driemeier, M. and Nayyar, G. “Trouble in the Making? : The Future of Manufacturing-Led Development”, World Bank, Washington D.C., 2017

WIPO – World Intellectual Property Right Organization, World Intellectual Property Report 2017 – Intangible Capital in Global Value Chains, Geneva, 2017 (Executive Summary and ch.1)

Canuto, O. “What happened to world trade?”, OCP Policy Brief PB-16/15, June 2016.

Dadush, U. “Is Manufacturing Still a Key to Growth?”, OCP Policy Paper PP-15/07,

Canuto, O. “Overlapping globalizations”, OCP Policy Brief PB-17/ , November 2017.

Canuto, O.  “China, Brazil: Two Tales of a Growth Slowdown”, Capital Finance International, summer 2013.

Chen, W. and Nord, R. (2017). “A Rebalancing Act for China and Africa: The Effects of China’s Rebalancing on Sub-Saharan Africa’s Trade and Growth”, IMF African Department Paper Series.

Lakatos, C. et al. (2016). “China’s Slowdown and Rebalancing: Potential Growth and Poverty Impacts on Sub-Saharan Africa”, World Bank, Policy Research Working Paper 7666, May 2016.

Azour, J. (2017). “A time for action”, Finance & Development, December, Vol. 54, n. 4.

Arezki, R. (2017). “Getting There”, Finance & Development, December, Vol. 54, n. 4.


  1. Financial Globalization and Emerging Markets
  • The Metamorphosis of Financial Globalization
  • Unbalanced Growth in the Global Economy
  • Macroeconomic Policies in Advanced Economies After the Global Financial Crisis
  • Capital Flows to Emerging Markets
  • Global Debt
  • China’s Great Leverage
  • Finance and Infrastructure


Canuto, O. “Macroeconomics and Stagnation – Keynesian-Schumpeterian Wars”, Capital Finance International, May 2014.
Canuto, O. and Cavallari, M. “The mist of central bank balance sheets”, OCP Policy Brief PB-17/07, February 2017

Canuto, O. “The Metamorphosis of Financial Globalization”, Capital Finance International, Autumn 2017

Canuto, O. Global Imbalances on the Rise  Capital Finance International, winter 2017

Canuto, O. and Gevorkyan, A. “Capital Flows and Deleveraging in Emerging Markets: the Great Portfolio Rebalancing”, Huffington Post, 2016

Canuto, O. and Gevorkyan, A. “Tales of emerging markets”, EconoMonitor, August 8, 2016

Hannan, S.A., The Drivers of Capital Flows in Emerging Markets Post Global Financial Crisis, IMF Working Paper WP/17/52, February 2017.

Canuto, O., “Whither Emerging Markets Foreign Exchange Reserves” Capital Finance International, winter 2015-2016.

Canuto, O. and Liaplina, A. Matchmaking Finance and Infrastructure  OCP Policy Brief PB-17/23, June 2017

Canuto, O. “China’s Spill-Overs on Latin America and the Caribbean”Capital Finance International, summer 2016.

IMF, 2017 External Sector Report, July 28, 2017

IMF, People’s Republic of China – Financial Sector Stability Assessment, December 2017

Canuto, O. and Zhuang, L. “Shadow Banking in China: A Morphing Target”, Huffington Post, 2015.


  1. Macroeconomic Policies in Emerging Markets
  • Fiscal Policy for Growth and Development
  • Macro-Financial Linkages in Emerging Markets
  • Monetary Policy and Macroprudential Regulation
  • Macroeconomics and Sovereign risk Ratings


Brahmbhatt, M. and Canuto, O. “Fiscal Policy for Growth and Development“, Economic Premise No. 91. World Bank. Washington D.C. October 2012.

IMF “Tackling Inequality”, ch. 1 of IMF Fiscal Monitor: Tackling Inequality, October 2017.

IMF, “IMF Fiscal Monitor: Achieving More with Less”, April 2017

Canuto, O. and Ghosh, S., “Overview”, in Canuto, O. and Ghosh, S., (eds.), Dealing with the Challenges of Macro Financial Linkages in Emerging Markets, World Bank, 2013.

Canuto, O. and Cavallari, M. “Monetary Policy and Macroprudential Regulation: Whither Emerging Markets“, in Canuto, O. and Ghosh, S., (eds.), Dealing with the Challenges of Macro Financial Linkages in Emerging Markets, World Bank, 2013.

Canuto, O. “How Complementary Are Prudential Regulation and Monetary Policy?“, Economic Premise No. 60. World Bank. Washington D.C. June 2011

Canuto, O.;  Mohapatra, S. and Ratha, D. “Shadow Sovereign Ratings“, Economic Premise No. 63. World Bank. Washington D.C. August 2011.

Canuto, O.; Santos, P.F. and Porto, P.C.S., “Macroeconomics and Sovereign Risk Ratings“, Journal of International Commerce, Economics and Policy, Vol. 3, No. 2. May 2012.

Brazil, China, Commodities, Corporate Finance, Economics, Emerging Markets, Emerging markets, global economy, International Trade, Latin America, Long term finance, Shadow Banking, Uncategorized

2016 Retrospect – with links



Global Macro-Economy

Financial markets seem to believe that president-elect Trump can deliver higher growth and inflation, as manifested in the rotation from bonds to equities. At the same time, the shock waves already felt by assets abroad may be a harbinger of the bumpy and treacherous journey ahead. No wonder Mr. Trump’s softening of statements — and campaign promises — after the election has been taken with sighs of relief.

Discussions around large current account imbalances among systemically relevant economies as a threat to the stability of the global economy faded out in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. More recently, some signs of a possible resurgence of rising imbalances have brought back attention to the issue. We argue here that, while not a threat to global financial stability, the resurgence of these imbalances reveals a sub-par performance of the global economy in terms of foregone product and employment.

Huffington Post, Roubini EconoMonitor (with Aleksandr V. Gevorkyan)

Capital outflows from emerging market economies have substantially accelerated since last year. The cycle of intense debt leveraging that took place in those economies after the 2008 global financial crisis has also started to reverse. Furthermore, 2015 was also a fifth consecutive year of growth deceleration in emerging markets. Some analysts have taken those features as pointing to a high likelihood of a “third wave” of the global financial crisis, this time centered on emerging markets. While arguably their combination may acquire a disorderly nature and materialize systemic risks to those economies as a group – and therefore to the global economy going forward – there are also reasons to expect the significant portfolio rebalancing at play not to lead to a disruptive break.

After a exponential rise in foreign exchange reserves accumulation by emerging markets from 2000 onwards, the tide seems to have turned south since mid-2014. Changes in capital flows and commodity prices have been major factors behind the inflection, with the new direction expected to remain, given the context of the global economy going forward. Although it is too early to gauge whether the on-going relative unwinding of such reserves defenses will lead to vulnerability in specific emerging markets, the payoff from strengthening domestic policies has broadly increased.


Global Trade

Prospects for growth in global trade in 2016 and 2017 have been downgraded again. The World Trade Organization (WTO) now expects that trade this year will increase at its slowest pace since the post-2008 global recession. What is going on?

World trade suffered another disappointing year in 2015, experiencing a contraction in merchandise trade volumes during the first half and only a low recovery during the second half (Figure 1). While last year’s trade performance can be associated to the ongoing growth transition in China and its reflections on other non-advanced economies, the fact is that last year’s performance came after a period since the 2000s in which world trade volumes have lagged behind GDP growth, a trend accentuated since the onset of the global financial crisis and in sharp contrast to global trade increases at a higher pace than world GDP prior to the new millennium.

For better or worse, TPP and TTIP could redefine global trade in the 21st century. At the moment, a Latin America perspective is largely lacking in the negotiation process; in TTIP, it is excluded by definition. But Latin American countries can move unilaterally to ensure that tariffs and regulations match what could become the new global standard. Of course, alternatively, they could rebuild protective economic walls. But if they do, later on down the road, they just might have to pay for it.

Trade has been a key driver of global growth, income convergence, and poverty reduction. Both developing countries and emerging market economies have benefited from opportunities to transfer technology from abroad and to undergo domestic structural transformation via trade integration in the last decades. Yet, more recently, concerns have been raised over whether the current pace and direction of world trade lead towards a lesser development-boosting potential.


In recent years Brazil has experienced significant depreciation of its nominal exchange rate. Compared with its average in 2013, the Brazilian real lost 38 per cent of its value against the US dollar in 2016. At its weakest, in January 2016, it lost as much as 47 per cent. A year ago, we saw that depreciation as a silver liningfor Brazil amid its deep recession, as a source of support for exports. But Brazil’s recent GDP data (particularly for the second quarter of 2016) show a negative contribution of net exports to growth.

Brazil’s GDP is poised to decline by close to 7% in 2015-2016. Per capita GDP in 2016 is likely to shrink by more than 10% as compared to three years ago. We argue here that a double malaise has been ailing the Brazilian economy: given an anaemia of productivity increases, an appetite for public spending without prioritisation has led to a condition of fiscal obesity. We further approach why market reactions to the Brazilian government’s proposal of crisis response have been positive.

Now that impeached Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is out of office, it is up to the newly empowered administration of President Michel Temer to clean up Brazil’s macroeconomic mess. Can Temer’s government save Brazil’s crumbling economy?

Brazil has been suffering from anemic productivity growth. This is a major challenge because in the long run, sustained productivity increases are necessary to underpin inclusive economic growth. Without them, increases in real labor earnings tend to conflict with global competitiveness; collecting taxes in order to fund government expenditures on infrastructure and social policies becomes a heavy burden; returns to private investment becomes harder to achieve; and ultimately citizens will have less access to high-quality goods and services at affordable prices. The focus on urgent fiscal reforms adopted by the new government- public spending cap, social security reform – must be accompanied by action on the productivity front.

Brazil’s GDP contraction since mid-2014 has multiple non-fiscal roots – Canuto (2016a; 2014) – but it has morphed into an unsustainable fiscal trajectory (Canuto, 2016b). Dealing with the latter has become a precondition for full economic recovery and the Brazilian government has submitted to Congress a constitutional amendment bill mandating a public spending cap for the next 20 years. This piece considers how the Brazilian landscape evolved toward such a precipice and why additional reforms – particularly on pensions – will have to be implemented to make the spending cap feasible.

With the impeachment of President Dilma Roussseff being sent to the Senate on April 17, Brazil continues a period of turmoil that has lasted for more than a year now. With images of protests, counter-protests and the minutia of the country’s legal proceedings blasted by media outlets around the world, it seems important to take a step back and remember that a lot more lies beyond the headlines.

Emerging Markets

This collection empirically and conceptually advances our understanding of the intricacies of emerging markets’ financial and macroeconomic development in the post-2008 crisis context. Covering a vast geography and a broad range of economic viewpoints, this study serves as an informed guide in the unchartered waters of fundamental uncertainty as it has been redefined in the post-crisis period. Contributors to the collection go beyond risks-opportunities analyses, looking deeper into the nuanced interpretations of data and economic categories as interplay of developing world characteristics in the context of redefined fundamental uncertainty. Those concerns relate to the issues of small country finance, the industrialization of the developing world, the role of commodity cycles in the global economy, sovereign debt, speculative financial flows and currency pressures, and connections between financial markets and real markets. Compact and comprehensive, this collection offers unique perspectives into contemporary issues of financial deepening and real macroeconomic development in small developing economies that rarely surface in the larger policy and development debates.

The Chinese economy is rebalancing while softening its growth pace. China’s spillovers on the global economy have operated through trade, commodity prices, and financial channels. The global reach of the effects from China’s transition have recently been illustrated in risk scenarios simulated for Latin American and the Caribbean economies.

A propensity to undergo periodic episodes of instability and volatility of emerging markets in global finance will persist. Get ready for a continuous dispute between the two financial tales about emerging markets, as well as to increasing efforts of differentiation among their assets.

Turkey’s economy is at a crossroads, and how the country emerges from the current period of political crisis could dictate its ability to meet its challenges. Will power consolidation and purges render a compromised central bank? Will truculence with major partners such as the EU and Russia lead to deceleration in real-sector growth? Will human rights abuses and risk aversion lead investors to steer clear of Istanbul? And how will a population on edge react to what many expect to be a miserable summer in tourism receipts?

Suriname is facing twin – external and fiscal – deficits that originated in the commodity price slump of recent years. In response, the Surinamese government started a four-pronged adjustment program in August 2015 to adapt to new circumstances.




Calibrating 2014

The global economy looks poised to display better growth performance in 2014. Leading indicators are pointing upward – or at least to stability – in major growth poles. However, for this to translate into reality policymakers will need to be nimble enough to calibrate responses to idiosyncratic challenges.

Consider the United States. Job creation has accelerated since last August. Household debt is now US$800 billion less than at the end of 2008, due to liquidation or refinance at lower interest rates. The current housing recovery does not seem exhausted as demand is expected to outstrip the pipeline of housing starts this year. Non-financial corporations have plenty of cash, empowering them to respond to improved prospects. Finally, the agreement in Congress on the federal budget for 2014-15, together with the political weakening of the opposition to adjustments of the public debt ceiling, point to an easing of the fiscal drag that harmed the US recovery last year.

But even with these positive factors there is a challenge as the Federal Reserve starts unwinding  its “quantitative easing” (QE), beginning this month with a reduction of US$10 billion in its monthly asset purchases (currently at US$85 billion). Notwithstanding the limited size of this change – when matched with the US$2 trillion of assets currently held by the Fed – as well as Fed’s “forward guidance” signaling that basic interest rates will remain low for an extended period, the initially muted reaction in bond markets was followed by 10-year Treasury yields crossing the 3% mark at the end of 2013. As 2-year yields also climbed, markets seem to believe that the Fed will be obliged to speed up the unwinding. The Fed thus must be sure to strike the right balance of actions and communication so as to avoid precocious interest rate hikes which could harm the recovery.

In the Euro-area, perceived risks of a currency breakdown and a financial and economic collapse have receded substantially. Despite sticky high levels of unemployment in crisis-ridden countries, the European Central Bank (ECB) forecast of 1.1% (GDP growth) plus 1.1% (inflation) for 2014 has been taken as a signal that the bottom of the crisis has been left behind.

The crisis still casts some shadows, however. The implementation of structural reforms in several member countries has fallen short. The public and private debt legacy in those countries still remains tall. Furthermore, the Euro-area institutional framework, which has now been fully recognized as essential, has not yet been refurbished enough. While the time horizon for tackling these issues will necessarily be long, there is a major immediate task to be faced by policymakers: the health check and prescriptions to which their banks will be submitted this year.

The vicious circle between fiscal fragility and national banks’ balance-sheet deterioration that plagued crisis-ridden member countries has been broken, thanks to fiscal adjustment programs and, especially, the ECB’s promise “to do what it takes” to impede a collapse. Nevertheless, the resurgence of bank credit to the private sector – particularly to small and medium enterprises – will be fundamental to consolidate the recovery. Such resurgence will only take place when banks are once again able to be funded and create credit at interest rates much lower than currently available. Therefore the Euro-area major policy challenge will be to calibrate the “asset quality review”, stress tests, and new capital requirements making them tough enough to ensure that the exercise is credible, while simultaneously avoiding spooking markets.

China will also face the challenge of appropriately calibrating the implementation of its structural reform package. Higher penetration of non-state firms in several sectors, including the banking system, will require some slackening of regulation and phasing out interest-rate controls. Prior to that, however, the central government will need to rein in subnational finance and the “shadow banking” through which local governments have splurged on infrastructure and real estate spending in the last few years. Results from a public debt audit were released last month, showing that the debt of localities had risen 67% from the end of 2010 to June 2013.  In that context, another important consideration when looking ahead is to remember the interbank market turmoil of December, which only ended when the Central Bank of China conceded to providing liquidity.  This illustrated that authorities will have to step cautiously— a stone at a time— to cross the transition river, if an economic growth collapse is to be avoided.

Meanwhile, tax policy will be a key policy challenge in the case of Japan. Aggressive fiscal and monetary stimuli implemented during Prime Minister Abe’s government have jolted Japan’s economy out of its deflationary lethargy.  However, Japan’s public debt has climbed to levels around 250% of GDP. As part of the solution, the consumption tax will be hiked to 8% from 5% in April. There is also a scheduled decision in next November on whether to additionally increase it to 10% as of October 2015. It will be crucial that such a higher tax burden does not countervail the overall anti-deflationary direction of macroeconomic policy.

Finally, there is the case of emerging economies coping with the actual unwinding of QE. Last summer – in between Ben Bernanke’s testimony to the US Congress in May, when he alluded to the eventual unwinding of the currently third round of QE, and the Fed meeting in September postponing its beginning – the so-called “fragile 5” (Brazil, India, Turkey, Indonesia, and South Africa) underwent massive capital outflows and large currency depreciation. Some analysts referred to that turmoil as a potential revival of the emerging-market crises of the 1990s. Those countries shared in common the presence of large, liquid, and integrated financial systems, as well as current-account deficits associated with substantial capital inflows and currency appreciation since the beginning of the US “unconventional monetary policies.”

Now that the unwinding is really starting, the baseline scenario is not one of a repetition of the turbulence, since changes in asset values, exchange rates, and investors’ positions have not reverted. The unwinding is to some degree already priced in. On the other hand, four of the “fragile 5” (Brazil, India, Turkey, and Indonesia) will have major elections in 2014. As they still remain vulnerable to sudden stops in capital flows, their macroeconomic performance will depend on the calibration of their macroeconomic policies and on political risks.

The bottom line is this: there is room for optimism about the global economy in 2014. The key is to temper this with caution given that the success of the global economy will hinge on policymakers’ ability to strike the right balance in several key parts of the world.

Otaviano Canuto is Senior Adviser and a former Vice-President of the World Bank Group.

(Posted on Huffington Post, Roubini Global Economics, Seeking Alpha, and Growth and Crisis blog – World Bank)


My published works (2009-2013) – with links

Books, Chapters, Articles, Policy Papers and Blog Posts (by Themes)

1. Emerging Market Economies and the Crisis

ü  How to Ascend After Declining?

ü  The Day After Tomorrow: Growth Switchover

ü  Moving past the commodity supercycle: are we there yet?

ü  QE tapering as a wake-up call for emerging markets

ü  Emerging markets sell-off – what’s next?

ü  Development Banks and Post-Crisis Blues in Investment Finance

ü  China – The Morphing Dragon

ü  Growing After the Crisis: Boosting Productivity in Developing Countries

ü  Euro Area Sovereign Debt Crisis: Putting the House in Order

ü  Managing Economic Policy in a Multipolar World

ü  Whither the U.S. Dollar

ü  Growing After the Crisis: Boosting Productivity in Developing Countries

ü  Recoupling or Switchover June 2nd, 2010

ü  Decoupling, Reverse Coupling and All That Jazz September 2nd, 2009

ü  The Developing World in a Post-Bubble Economy April 9th, 2009


2. Middle-Income Growth Trap

ü  The East Asian Miracle 2.0


3. Natural Resource-Led Development

ü  Resource-backed investment finance in LDCs (w/ Havard Halland)

ü  Diamonds May Be Forever, Natural Resource Wealth Is Not

ü  The Day After Tomorrow: Commodities And Uncomfortable Natural Riches

ü  ·  Don’t Blame Mother Nature January 12th, 2010

4. Monetary Policy and Prudential Regulation

ü  Brazil, Korea: two tales of a macroprudential regulation

ü  Elephants and macro-financial linkages

ü  Finance as an economic cholesterol

ü  Marrying Monetary Policy and Financial Regulation

ü  Goodbye Financial Engineers, Hello Political Wonks

ü  Capital Account Liberalization: Are There Lessons to be Learned?

ü  Is Shadow Banking Dangerous for You?

ü  Shifting Tectonic Plates Under Global Banking

ü  A Marriage of Convenience

ü  The Cost of Financial Reform for Emerging Markets

ü  The Day After Tomorrow: Macro-Financial Policy Catches Up With Reality

ü  What Can We Learn From Islamic Finance?

ü  ·  The Arrival of Asset Prices in Monetary Policy October 20th, 2009

5. Fiscal Policy and Public Sector Management

  • Fiscal Policy for Growth and Development” with Milan Brahmbhatt. (PDF)
    Economic Premise No. 91. World Bank. Washington D.C. October 2012.
  • “Overview – Fiscal Policy for Growth and Development”, with Milan Brahmbhatt,In Moreno-Dodson, B. (ed.), Is Fiscal Policy the Answer? A Developing Country Perspective, Washington: World Bank, 2013 (p.1-22)
  • Corporate Finance International, Fiscal Policy Redux, Spring 2013

6. Subnational Debt, Debt Restructuring

ü  Bankrupt Sovereigns: Is There an Orderly Way Out?

ü  Until Subnational Debt Do Us Part

ü  Procrastination Is Costly, Action Is Priceless


 7. Sovereign Ratings


 8. Gender Equality and Economic Growth

ü  Gender Equality Pays Off in Brazil

ü  International Women’s Day: A Time for Concern, Not Complacency

ü  How Do Women Weather Economic Shocks?

ü  Gender and Trade

ü  My Own View on Women March 12th, 2010

 9. Brazil

ü  Brazil: Chasing Animal Spirits

ü  Brazilian Competitiveness: Folia and Hangover

ü  Vulnerability, Exchange Rate and International Reserves: Whither Brazil? With Bruno Saraiva, September 21st, 2009


10. Trade, Services, Technology, and Regional Integration

ü  South-South trade through value-added glasses

ü  What It Takes for Trade to Reduce Poverty in Africa

ü  Trade: The World Is Not Flat Yet

ü  Revolutionary Services

ü  Trade and Climate Change: Handle with Care

ü  Connecting Wagons: Why and How to Help Lagging Regions Catch Up

ü  Facilitating Trade, Facilitating Development

ü  Distorted Prices in Commodity Markets

ü  Collaborative Border Management: A New Approach to an Old Problem

ü  Connected to Compete? Not as Much as We Could Be

ü  The Doha Round: Much More Than Market Access

ü  Trade Finance and the Financial Crisis

ü  Economic Integration: A Quasi-Common Economy Approach

ü  Who SEZ One Size Fits All?

ü  Diversify, Diversify, Diversify

ü  Sophisticated Exports

ü  South-South Trade Is the Answer

ü  The Day After Tomorrow: A Different Kind of Trade

ü  The Day After Tomorrow: If You Want to Grow, Learn

ü  ·  The Doha Trade Round is Worth Fighting For December 1st, 2009

 11. Human Rights and Economics

ü  Freedom and Development: Something Worth Fighting For

ü  How Human Rights Have Contributed to Development

12. Jobs, Poverty and Equity, Migration

ü  Mobilizing Development via Mobile Phones

ü  It’s Jobs, Stupid!

ü  Jobs as a Gateway to Prosperity

ü  Jobs as a Scorecard

ü  Sewing Success: How Textile Jobs Help Reduce Poverty

ü  Emerging Markets Lead in Job Recovery

ü  Are Emerging Markets Leading the Way in Job Creation?

ü  Small Is Beautiful in Job Creation

ü  Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

ü  South Asia and the Geography of Poverty

ü  Is Europe as Unequal as the U.S.?

ü  Bucking the Trend: Poverty Reduction and Inequality in Latin America

ü  Less Poor but More Unequal

ü  Money Can’t Buy Equality

ü  The Day After Tomorrow: The Final Battle in the War Against Poverty

ü  Do the Poor Really Benefit From Labor Migration?

ü  Remittances Rebound But Pressures Persist


13. Development Aid

14. Food Prices

ü  Should We Still Worry About Food Prices?

ü  Food Prices and the 7 Billionth Baby

ü  Food Prices, Financial Crisis and Droughts

ü  The Food Price Threat to Poor Continues

ü  The Poor Are Paying the Price of the Food Cost Spike


15. Natural Disasters, Climate Change

ü  Climate Change: Get Ready to Adapt!

ü  An Inconvenient Truth for Latin America

ü  Macro-Disasters

ü  To Address Climate Change We Need to Measure Poverty Better

16. Others

ü  Drugging Development