Credit crisis, inflation threaten world growth, says Fukui

GLOBAL economic growth is under increasing threat from two fronts – the United States sub-prime crisis and soaring commodities prices that may push up inflation.

The warning came from Bank of Japan governor Toshihiko Fukui at a function in Singapore last night. He said the sub-prime turmoil could severely disrupt financial markets, which could then have a ripple effect on economic growth. The risk of inflation is just as potent, presenting a challenge to central bankers who will need to use monetary policy to maintain price stability amid strong growth, added Mr Fukui, who spoke as part of the Monetary Authority of Singapore Lecture series.

 

Inflation expectations have been ‘generally contained’ in many markets. But rising oil prices, driven by high economic growth worldwide, especially in oil-hungry emerging markets, have increased the ‘risk of a rise in inflation expectations in the longer term’, Mr Fukui said.

 

Rising commodity prices will also ‘inevitably impair terms of trade for oil-consuming countries’, he added. Mr Fukui acknowledged that ‘downside risks for the US economy’ persisted, but the risk of stagflation – stagnant growth accompanied by high inflation – in the US and other economies was ‘muted compared to the 1990s’.

 

The credit market turmoil, linked to high-risk sub-prime home loans, was actually the result of many years of favourable growth and benign conditions in the world economy.

 

‘The crux of the problem, as I understand it, is that risk evaluation had become too lax under those benign conditions, and this has led to a correction through market forces,’ said Mr Fukui.

 Financial imbalances were allowed to accumulate that, in turn, triggered corrections and posed a risk to economic stability.

Central bankers, like goalkeepers in football teams, must, therefore, defend against turbulence arising from the increasing complexity in the international flow of funds, he said. They must accurately read the risks of the global economy and financial markets to ‘stabilise the market when it is under pressure’. Source: The Straits Times 16 Nov 07

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