World Economy

No Magic Bullet at G20

No Magic Bullet at G20No Magic Bullet at G20

Investors hoping for a grand plan from the world’s top financial officials to stabilize shaky markets are set for disappointment, insiders say, when finance ministers and central bankers gather this week (Feb. 26-27) in Shanghai to discuss the troubled global economy.

Stubbornly weak demand, falling equity markets and currency volatility pose a challenge to the Group of 20 major economies that some are comparing to its April 2009 meeting, at the height of the global financial crisis, when ministers agreed on coordinated stimulus to avert a worldwide depression, Reuters reported.

Many G20 members are urging stimulus and better policy coordination, but with no convergence about what to do, a deal along the lines of the 1985 Plaza Accord, which reversed a detribalizing surge in the dollar, appears unlikely.

“Financial markets need something refreshing, but we are not expecting a ‘Plaza’-like policy accord,” said a Japanese official. “There’s no magic bullet.”

With divergent monetary policies exacerbating currency market volatility, China, the G20 chair in 2016, has said strengthening policy coordination and reducing “negative spillovers” from domestic policy measures was a “pressing task”.

Others, including the United States and Japan, are planning to urge G20 states to do more to counter market turmoil and use fiscal policy to support the global economy.

“The global picture is less rosy than it was a year ago,” said an Italian official, who declined to be identified, adding the Feb. 26-27 meeting was “unlikely to produce any short-term crisis responses”.

  Pointless Movie Sequel

In 1985, the Plaza Accord was struck among just five industrialized countries. Today, the divergent interests between the major developed and big emerging economies that make up the G20 makes agreement on strong, coordinated action much harder, analysts say.

“There is a risk that a G20 outcome that has no specificity will get the same reviews as a pointless movie sequel, but cause more financial stress and further asset market selling,” Citi said in a research note this week.

“However we think they can give enough indications that policy is not dead to give modest support to asset markets.”

China will likely attempt to set minds at ease about its ability to manage its slowest growth in a quarter century and plans to reform its economy—and by extension China’s ability to offset weak consumer demand in developed economies.

“We’re concerned that if you have sustained financial turmoil, increasing risk aversion, further falls in risk assets, further turbulence, particularly in China, that could be enough to tip the global economy over the edge into recession territory,” said Charles Collyns, chief economist at the Institute of International Finance.

One concern for China has been the rate of capital outflows, which has prompted some economists to suggest Beijing should temporarily back-pedal on liberalizing reforms and tighten capital controls.

China’s yuan currency has been losing value against the dollar since 2014, weakened by factors including a renewed enthusiasm for dollar assets, falling interest rates and concerns about capital flight. A surprise currency devaluation in August 2015 accelerated the decline.

To slow the slide, the People’s Bank of China has intervened heavily to support the exchange rate, moved to stem speculative capital outflows and said it was not planning further currency devaluation.

Another worry among international investors is whether the Chinese government is up to the task of managing an increasingly complex economy. Botched attempts to arrest falling stock markets last year dented confidence and caused overseas markets to shudder.

China is not seen as the only country with communications problems, however. In the developed world, the apparent lack of monetary policy coordination between the United States, Japan and Europe will also factor, insiders said, with International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde urging G20 policymakers to think about the “spillovers” from their policies.