IMF says Asia to lead world recovery but warns on hot money

16:11 | 21/10/2010
JAKARTA, October 21, 2010 - Asia is leading the global recovery but must beware of inflation and "excessively easy" domestic finance fuelled by foreign capital inflows, the International Monetary Fund said Thursday.

The Fund's latest economic outlook for the Asia-Pacific region said growth would moderate in 2011 in the advanced economies while remaining "particularly strong" in China, India and Indonesia.

It also said "greater exchange rate appreciation" may be needed to shield countries from hot money inflows.

"Greater exchange rate flexibility offers an important buffer against the risk posed by large capital inflows," the report said.

China's allegedly undervalued yuan has been the target of strong complaints from the United States and Europe, who say Beijing is unfairly gaining a trade advantage by cheapening its exports.

Global currency wars are expected to be high on the agenda at a Group of 20 finance ministers' and central bankers' meeting in South Korea this weekend.

A draft communique issued ahead of the meeting promises a more "market-determined exchange-rate system", reflecting an often-used US expression meant to discourage countries from intervening in currency markets.

The IMF called on Asia to boost investment in infrastructure to encourage private sector investment and underpin domestic demand, which would be key to the region's long-term growth.

It said exports would slow from the very high rates of 2009 and early 2010, helping to at least narrow some of the international trade gaps that have given rise to fears of protectionism and currency wars.

Asia’s current account surplus would shrink to about 3.0 percent of regional GDP in 2010 and 2011, from about 5.0 percent in 2007, making a "modest contribution to the narrowing of global imbalances," the IMF said.

But it added: "The relatively limited reduction in projected surpluses over the medium term would contribute to global imbalances remaining elevated."

Asia's strong economic expansion and growing signs of inflation suggested the region had "reached the threshold to normalise policy stances across the region".

"Many economies have started to take steps in this direction," it said, two days after Beijing announced its first interest rate rise in three years.

Other Asian countries such as India, Singapore and Thailand have also increased the cost of borrowing recently to curb rising consumer prices.

Chinese consumer prices rose at their fastest pace in nearly two years in September, official data showed Thursday.

Monetary tightening and other measures would also help reduce the risk of overheating as foreign capital, seeking better returns than currently available in Europe and the United States, pours into the region, the Fund said.

"Continued capital inflows may also pose risks to financial stability if they are associated with excessively easy domestic financial conditions," the report said.


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