IMF may need to “print money” as crisis spreads

The International Monetary Fund may soon lack the money to bail out an ever growing list of countries crumbling across Eastern Europe, Latin America, Africa, and parts of Asia, raising concerns that it will have to tap taxpayers in Western countries for a capital infusion or resort to the nuclear option of printing its own money.

IMF's work in countries such as Turkey is only just beginning
IMF’s work in countries such as Turkey is only just beginning

The Fund is already close to committing a quarter of its $200bn (£130bn) reserve chest, with a loans to Iceland ($2bn), Ukraine ($16.5bn), and talks underway with Pakistan ($14.5bn), Hungary ($10bn), as well as Belarus and Serbia.

Neil Schering, emerging market strategist at Capital Economics, said the IMF’s work in the great arc of countries from the Baltic states to Turkey is only just beginning.

“When you tot up the countries across the region with external funding needs, you get to $500bn or $600bn very quickly, and that blows the IMF out of the water. The Fund may soon have to start calling on the West for additional funds,” he said.

Brad Setser, an expert on capital flows at the Council for Foreign Relations, said Russia, Mexico, Brazil and India have together spent $75bn of their reserves defending their currencies this month, and South Korea is grappling with a serious banking crisis.

“Right now the IMF is too small to meet the foreign currency liquidity needs of the larger emerging economies. We’re in a dangerous situation and there is the risk of extreme moves in the markets, as we have seen with the Brazilian real. I hope policy-makers understand how serious this is,” he said.

The IMF, led by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has the power to raise money on the capital markets by issuing `AAA’ bonds under its own name. It has never resorted to this option, preferring to tap members states for deposits.

The nuclear option is to print money by issuing Special Drawing Rights, in effect acting as if it were the world’s central bank. This was done briefly after the fall of the Soviet Union but has never been used as systematic tool of policy to head off a global financial crisis.

“The IMF can in theory create liquidity like a central bank,” said an informed source. “There are a lot of ideas kicking around.”

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Russian default risk tops Iceland as crisis deepens

Russia’s financial crisis is escalating with lightning speed as foreigners pull funds from the country and the debt markets start to price a serious risk of sovereign default.


S&P has cut its outlook for Russia, which has been propping up the rouble: a man on a phone passes a board displaying currency exchange rates in Moscow Photo: Reuters

Russia’s financial crisis is escalating with lightning speed as foreigners pull funds from the country and the debt markets start to price a serious risk of sovereign default.

The cost of insuring Russian bonds against bankruptcy rocketed to extreme levels yesterday. Spreads on credit default swaps (CDS) reached 1,123, higher than Iceland’s debt before it sought a rescue from the International Monetary Fund.

Moves by Hungary, Ukraine and Belarus to seek emergency loans from the IMF have now set off a dangerous chain reaction across Eastern Europe.

Romania had to raise overnight interest rates to 900pc on Wednesday to stem capital flight, recalling the wild episodes of Europe’s ERM crisis in 1992. The CDS spreads on Ukraine’s debt have topped 2,800, signalling total revulsion by investors.

Rating agency Standard & Poor’s issued a downgrade alert on Russian bonds yesterday, warning that a series of state rescue packages worth $200bn (£124bn) could start to erode the credit-worthiness of the state.

Read moreRussian default risk tops Iceland as crisis deepens

Crisis spreads to Eastern Europe as Ukraine, Hungary and Serbia call IMF

Ukraine, Hungary, and Serbia are all in emergency talks with the International Monetary Fund, raising fears that an exodus of foreign investors will set off a systemic crisis across Eastern Europe.

A team of IMF trouble-shooters rushed to Kiev on Wednesay to draw up a possible standby loan to help Ukraine stabilize its bank after a panic run on deposits this month.

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Financial crisis: Countries at risk of bankruptcy from Pakistan to Baltics

A string of countries face the risk of “going bust” as financial panic sweeps Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America, raising the spectre of a strategic crisis in some of the world’s most dangerous spots.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan is bleeding foreign reserves at an alarming rate leading to fears that it could default on its loans.

There are mounting fears that Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Argentina could all now slide into a downward spiral towards bankruptcy, while western banks exposed to property bubble across Eastern Europe have seen their share price crushed.

The markets are pricing an 80pc risk that Ukraine will default, based on five-year credit default swaps (CDS) – an insurance policy on a country being able to pay its debts.

The country’s banking system has begun to break down after years of torrid credit growth; its steel mills are shutting as demand collapses; and the political crisis is going from bad to worse.

Read moreFinancial crisis: Countries at risk of bankruptcy from Pakistan to Baltics

Russia, Indonesia, Ukraine Shut Exchanges as Stock Rout Worsens

Oct. 8 (Bloomberg) — Russia, Indonesia, Ukraine and Romania shut their stock exchanges after shares plummeted in the worst week for emerging-markets in at least two decades.

Russia’s Micex Index dropped 14 percent, having already slumped 20 percent this week, before trading stopped at 11:05 a.m. in Moscow. The exchange won’t reopen until Oct. 10 unless the Federal Financial Markets Service says otherwise, Micex spokesman Alexei Gerasyuk said by phone. The Jakarta Composite index fell 21 percent in its biggest weekly slump in at least 25 years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Investors are fleeing on concern the worsening global credit crisis will cause more banks to collapse and push the global economy into recession, lowering the price of the commodities that drive developing nation economies. The benchmark MSCI Emerging Markets index is headed for its worst weekly decline since it was established in 1987 after falling 21 percent.

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Vladimir Putin set to bait US with nuclear aid for Tehran

Russia is considering increasing its assistance to Iran’s nuclear programme in response to America’s calls for Nato expansion eastwards and the presence of US Navy vessels in the Black Sea delivering aid to Georgia.

The Kremlin is discussing sending teams of Russian nuclear experts to Tehran and inviting Iranian nuclear scientists to Moscow for training, according to sources close to the Russian military.

Moscow has been angered by Washington’s promise to give Georgia £564m in aid following the Russian invasion of parts of the country last month after Tbilisi’s military offensive. Kremlin officials suspect the US is planning to rearm the former Soviet republic and is furious at renewed support for attempts by Georgia and Ukraine to join Nato.

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Japan’s Hunger Becomes a Dire Warning for Other Nations

MARIKO Watanabe admits she could have chosen a better time to take up baking. This week, when the Tokyo housewife visited her local Ito-Yokado supermarket to buy butter to make a cake, she found the shelves bare.

“I went to another supermarket, and then another, and there was no butter at those either. Everywhere I went there were notices saying Japan has run out of butter. I couldn’t believe it – this is the first time in my life I’ve wanted to try baking cakes and I can’t get any butter,” said the frustrated cook.

Japan’s acute butter shortage, which has confounded bakeries, restaurants and now families across the country, is the latest unforeseen result of the global agricultural commodities crisis.

A sharp increase in the cost of imported cattle feed and a decline in milk imports, both of which are typically provided in large part by Australia, have prevented dairy farmers from keeping pace with demand.

While soaring food prices have triggered rioting among the starving millions of the third world, in wealthy Japan they have forced a pampered population to contemplate the shocking possibility of a long-term – perhaps permanent – reduction in the quality and quantity of its food.

A 130% rise in the global cost of wheat in the past year, caused partly by surging demand from China and India and a huge injection of speculative funds into wheat futures, has forced the Government to hit flour millers with three rounds of stiff mark-ups. The latest – a 30% increase this month – has given rise to speculation that Japan, which relies on imports for 90% of its annual wheat consumption, is no longer on the brink of a food crisis, but has fallen off the cliff.

According to one government poll, 80% of Japanese are frightened about what the future holds for their food supply.

Last week, as the prices of wheat and barley continued their relentless climb, the Japanese Government discovered it had exhausted its ¥230 billion ($A2.37 billion) budget for the grains with two months remaining. It was forced to call on an emergency ¥55 billion reserve to ensure it could continue feeding the nation.

“This was the first time the Government has had to take such drastic action since the war,” said Akio Shibata, an expert on food imports, who warned the Agriculture Ministry two years ago that Japan would have to cut back drastically on its sophisticated diet if it did not become more self-sufficient.In the wake of the decision this week by Kazakhstan, the world’s fifth biggest wheat exporter, to join Russia, Ukraine and Argentina in stopping exports to satisfy domestic demand, the situation in Japan is expected to worsen.

Read moreJapan’s Hunger Becomes a Dire Warning for Other Nations

NATO ‘direct threat’ to Russia, says Putin

MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin lashed out at NATO plans to continue its eastward expansion, saying Russia would see the induction of Ukraine and Georgia as an “immediate threat” to its security and react accordingly.

“The presence of a powerful military bloc on our borders, whose members are guided by Article 5 of the Washington Treaty will be seen as direct threat to our national security,” Mr. Putin said at a news conference after the NATO-Russia Council meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Bucharest. It was Mr. Putin’s farewell interaction with the Western leaders. He steps down on May 7, when new President Dmitry Medvedev takes the oath.

NATO leaders refrained from granting a Membership Action Plan to Ukraine and Georgia on Thursday, but promised to do it later, insisting that the NATO doors were open for the two post-Soviet republics.

Warning that Russia would react strongly to the move, Mr. Putin said: “Let us be honest with each other – we will treat you as you treat us.”

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