In the March 2018 general election, two Italian political parties (the League and the Five Star Movement) that eventually formed the current government campaigned against many of the structures that are the foundation of the European Union. One part of their agreed policy program, a proposal that resurfaced in the past week, concerns the possibility of issuing mini-BOTs (which stands for Buoni del Tesoro). These would be small denomination “bonds”—non-interest-bearing, tradeable securities—issued by the Italian government to pay debts and usable to pay taxes or purchase goods and services provided by the state. Printed in the size and shape of currency notes, recipients could view them as a new means of exchange.
In this post, we discuss the possibility of Italy leaving the European Monetary Union, and why there is an increased incentive for the government to plan for an abrupt and unanticipated exit. The strategic analogy is to the appearance of a first-strike capacity that undermines nuclear peace. In our view, however, that appearance is misleading: any attempt to exit would not only be a disaster for Italy, as we explained in our post from a year ago, it would be the “mother of all financial crises” …. Read More
After years of relative calm, in recent months several emerging economies have found the cost of attracting foreign funding is going up. Faced with a halt of external financing, Argentina obtained a three-year financing deal worth $50 billion from the IMF, while funds also appear to be flowing out of Brazil, Turkey, and elsewhere. And, recent bond market turbulence in Italy suggests the possibility that political risks are triggering outflows there.
In this post, we explain balance-of-payments (BoP) crises—the sudden stops or capital flow reversals—that compel countries to restore their external balance between exports and imports or, in the case of capital flight, shift to export surpluses. In addition to describing common features of BoP crises, and characterizing sources of vulnerability that make them more likely, we examine one emerging-market example—the Asian crisis of 1997-98—and one advanced-economy episode—the crisis of the euro-area periphery from 2010 to 2012…. Read More
During the 2016 campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump discussed his broad experience with debt. He would bring the skills and sensibilities of a real estate mogul to government debt management, and the result would be a better deal for the American public. He even broached the idea of renegotiating the obligations of the U.S. Treasury.
Well, the day of reckoning has arrived. The Treasury has announced that by the end of September, it will face a shortfall. Without the authority to issue additional debt, the government will not be able to pay all of its bills—including the interest on the outstanding debt. In response, President Trump has threatened the Congress: either fund the wall along the Mexican border, or he will shut down the government.
If the U.S. government fails to meet its obligations for any significant period, we will all be big losers. A government that cares about the people—both now and in the future—would never willingly inflict such a wound. Read More
For decades a number of emerging markets have been evolving into advanced economies. They have improved their financial systems, property rights, policy frameworks, and growth models. As it turns out, however, the evolution was going the other way, too: advanced economies were becoming more like emerging markets, too. Debt was accumulating on household, corporate and bank balance sheets. Booms in real estate and parts of the corporate sector added to financial vulnerability. And policymakers were inattentive to the risks or lacked consensus on how to address them... Read More
Some forecasters are confidently predicting a large further rise in the U.S. dollar against key currencies like the euro and the yen. And a few ominously warn of impending currency wars where central banks outside the United States will manipulate their currencies to gain a global trade advantage.
Not so fast. First, currency forecasting is a hazardous business. And second, even if (as widely projected) the dollar were to rise substantially, its appreciation would seem consistent with relative growth prospects, not currency management by policymakers. Read More
In the past few years, the U.S. current account deficit has shrunk from over 6% of GDP in mid-2006 to less than 3% today. Since these current account deficits reflect capital account surpluses, many people view them as a symptom of the problems that led to the crisis. That is, funds from abroad were fueling the credit boom in the United States, which in turn fed the boom in housing prices, etc.
Over the past three decades the U.S current account has been in surplus only briefly in the first half of 1990. Since then, it has been continuously in deficit. How is it that the United States can keep borrowing without a collapse in the currency or a surge in borrowing costs? Is there some sort of limit? Read More