US retreat from global financial system
Borrowers now have access to the savings of the entire world if they can show lenders that they can make effective use of their money. It should also mean that lenders can search, on a global level for the opportunities that give them the best return for the risk with which they are most comfortable. The following should benefit both lenders and borrowers.
For borrowers, the cost of a capital loan should be lower than that on offer in smaller domestic markets. On the other hand, creditors’ returns should be far more attractive since they have more options for where to put their money to work. Since the global financial crises, there has been some negativity in the air. This negativity has greatly increased in recent months. Some regulators and financiers moved away from embracing globalization, further claiming that it led to the crisis. However, there is potential for a turnaround; especially if less developed nations and financial markets can improve the way they allocate capital.
Leading up to the crisis, capital inflows and outflows moved in obstructive ways. It transitioned from higher growth emerging markets to slower growth developed markets. Much of these flows went into US Treasuries to strengthen reserves in the aftermath of the 1997-1998 crises. Those capital flows to the US and to the dollar, the world’s reserve currency, meant that Americans could pay for larger properties with money that was cheaper than it once was. European banks continued to borrow those dollars in wholesale markets rather than relying on deposits to fund their own activities. This resulted in what international bankers are calling “the transatlantic banking glut”.
Globalization, all in all, meant poor capital allocation of debt and a huge accumulation of unsustainable debt. This resulted in a rolling crises as investors sought high returns in short-term securities, whether in emerging markets, the US, or Europe.
Central banks in developed nations responded to the crises by implementing easy monetary policies. Thus, triggering an artificial rise of asset prices, which led to an increase in capital outflows into emerging markets as yields were driven down at home. “The Fed should remember that when it makes monetary policy it should take into consideration the impact on the rest of the world,” stated Gao Xiqing, the former head of the Chinese sovereign wealth fund. A decline in globalization would result in a retreat from the dollar and from the US-centralized global financial system. The U.S. had advocated for policies regarding this that would in effect extend US control beyond its shores, especially as the new administration is attempting to limit terror financing and money laundering. The rules have become so burdensome for foreign banks that some have closed their US branches.
There is no better depiction of US policies putting a strain on the global economy than in recent Federal Reserve Board actions regarding “swap lines.” A swap line is another term for a temporary reciprocal currency arrangement between central banks. The central banks of two nations agree to keep a supply of each country's currency available to trade to the other central bank at the going exchange rate. The Fed maintains lines with Japan, the Eurozone, the UK, Switzerland and Canada.
As the US steps back, we see an emergence of other developed nations are filling the role. China, the economic powerhouse, is taking a greater role on the global financial stage. The rest of the world is trying to circumvent the uncertainty of central bankers, US regulators, and politicians.
Although large companies will always have access to global markets, cross-border investment has become increasingly more difficult due to protectionist measures. As a result, this is expected to produce a smaller demand for capital intensive goods and services. If companies are forced to look domestically for funding, that could be a good thing if governments are more effective in making sure capital is properly allocated. However, there is currently little evidence this will be the case.
This and other articles originally published on Keith Knutsson's Blog