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  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Oxford Economics
  • Abstract: The financial crisis has forced a reappraisal of the regulatory architecture, globally and in the EU and its member states. Around the world, policymakers are proposing significant changes to rules governing the financial sector, with the goal of making the financial system more resilient. Given the large and visible costs of financial instability for Europe, it is natural for European policymakers to make the avoidance of financial crises a high priority. But it is also important to recognise that regulation carries a range of costs that can dilute the economic benefits of a competitive and dynamic financial services sector. The academic literature has robustly established that financial development is not only the consequence of economic growth but also a driver. If the EU is to achieve the ambitious goals for unleashing private enterprise and creating jobs set out within the Europe 2020 agenda, then it cannot afford to overlook the role of the financial system in fostering innovation and growth. As supervisory authorities consider a broad set of proposals to strengthen the regulatory infrastructure, a n important quest ion that arises is how to assess the aggregate impact of these various measures. Although each may look sensible in isolation, they could still impose a larger - than - expected burden on the financial system when take n in the aggregate. The focus of policy reforms should be on forcing financial institutions to internalise the social costs of their risk - taking decisions rather than suppressing financial innovation. Credible policies to allow the failure of financial institutions would encourage market monitoring of risk - taking, reducing the need for additional prudential regulation and minimising costs to the taxpayer in the event of bankruptcy. Policymakers should aim to put in place an objective, sustainable and flexible regulatory regime, as the design of the regulatory framework will play a significant role in the future development of both the financial industry and the wider economy. International consistency in the regulatory reform agenda is also important so as not to risk fragmentation of global capital markets, which bring significant economic benefits to companies and consumers alike. The economic and social purpose of financial markets is the efficient allocation of capital, and the regulatory agenda must be framed around this goal. At a time when the European economy is struggling to recover lost ground, changes to the regulatory regime should not unduly restrict the potential of the financial sector to contribute to the continents future prosperity.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Globalization, International Trade and Finance, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Publication Date: 02-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Oxford Economics
  • Abstract: Following the worst recession since the 1930s, the US, UK and Eurozone economies have all now returned to positive growth. With the boost from policy stimulus and the inventory cycle peaking, however, this raises questions about the sustainability of the current rebound. The analysis presented here suggests that the recoveries in both the US and Europe will be relatively muted compared to recent historical experience. The US is likely to be the growth leader, reflecting the more dynamic nature of its economy and financial sector. A key uncertainty relates to how labour markets will perform during the recovery phase. To date, the rise in US unemployment been particularly severe when compared to the experience of Europe. In light of the sharp falls in European productivity, we expect employment gains in Europe to be more muted in the recovery phase than in the US. The performance of residential real estate markets also remains important. Home prices in the US are now close to fair value by most metrics, suggesting that the correction in prices is likely to be bottoming out. In Europe, only Spain and Ireland appear to be in the midst of substantial housing market corrections. Commercial real estate markets are also facing ongoing corrections in many countries. While conditions in the US and Eurozone may deteriorate further, commercial property values appear to be stabilising in the UK following earlier sharp declines. The ability of the banking sector to finance the economic recoveries in the US and Europe remains a key risk to the growth outlook. As the process of absorbing credit losses and rebuilding capital is likely to be protracted, the normalisation of lending standards is likely to take longer than following recent recessions. This is a particular concern for the Eurozone, where bank funding is more important for companies. Whether domestic demand in the US and Europe recovers will also depend on whether private sector deleveraging has further to run. The destruction of household net wealth in the US suggests that the personal savings rate has further to rise, whereas there no longer appears to be a pressing need for households in the UK and Eurozone to consolidate their balance sheets. In contrast, non-financial corporations in the US are in a stronger financial position than their European peers, having not increased debt levels as rapidly during the credit boom. Risks around public finances have received the most attention in recent weeks. In particular, the adjustments underway in Greece pose a risk of potential contagion from sovereign credit risk that could threaten growth on both sides of the Atlantic.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, United Kingdom, Europe
  • Publication Date: 02-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Oxford Economics
  • Abstract: Greece has slid into a serious fiscal crisis over the last few months. A ballooning budget deficit and high levels of government debt have raised questions in the minds of investors about the sustainability of the country's public finances. The level of concern among investors can be seen from developments in Greek borrowing costs relative to those in Germany. At the beginning of 2008, the yield on Greek 10-year bonds was only around 0.3% higher than on equivalent German securities, but this gap has now risen to over 3%. This yield spread is at its widest for more than a decade and is by far the largest within the Eurozone. The root cause of Greece's problems is a long period of fiscal indiscipline. In 2009, after years of heavy spending, the budget deficit rose to almost 13% of GDP and the public debt to GDP ratio is set to reach 125% this year. The deteriorating fiscal position has led to a slew of ratings downgrades, and outside the Eurozone Greece's credit rating would probably be in 'junk' territory. On top of the fiscal problems, Greece also suffers from weak external competitiveness. The real exchange rate has appreciated substantially since Greece joined the Eurozone, contributing to a sharp widening in the current account deficit to around 12% of GDP last year. On some estimates, the real effective exchange rate is now around 20% overvalued. As a result Greece now faces a series of policy choices all of which look unpalatable. Within the Eurozone, the only realistic orthodox option is a combination of massive fiscal retrenchment and 'internal devaluation' – forcing down costs relative to those of Greece's competitors. But fiscal cutbacks and cost deflation on the scale required could plunge the country into a deep and prolonged recession and might prove politically and socially unsustainable. The Greek economy is already showing signs of serious stress, with GDP down 2.6% on the year in 2009Q4. The extreme alternatives are default and/or leaving the Eurozone and enacting devaluation. But the political barriers to such moves are immense, and while default and devaluation could ease budgetary and external imbalance problems, they would also cause massive economic and financial disruption and probably a deeper recession in the near-term. Default and devaluation would also risk huge negative contagion effects on the Eurozone and the wider global economy. With Greece's debt approaching €300 billion a default would be the largest sovereign collapse since WWII, dwarfing those in Russia and Argentina. Eurozone banks could face losses of up to €100 billion on top of the heavy writedowns already suffered, risking a renewed Europe-wide credit squeeze. There could also be collapses in demand for the debt of other weaker Eurozone members such as Spain, Portugal and Ireland. World markets for equities, corporate bonds and emerging market debt would also likely be badly affected. There could also be pressure for the major economies to accelerate their fiscal adjustment efforts, given the impact on investor confidence and the scale of their budget deficits. Our estimation results suggest that a Greek default could be a real threat to the progress of the global recovery, cutting growth in the major economies by around 1% per annum compared to our baseline forecast and world growth by 0.6%. Given the potential massive consequences of a Greek default, the pressure for a bailout has been growing. Although there are questions about the legality of such a move, we believe it is possible if the political will exists. Estimation results using the Oxford Model suggest a bailout would be likely to be less economically damaging than a default, even assuming some negative impact from higher bond yields in the core Eurozone countries. The costs of a bailout could rise rapidly, however, if it extended beyond Greece to other troubled countries. A bailout would create a big risk of moral hazard, perhaps inducing fiscal misbehaviour among other Eurozone members or being used by Greece to sidestep the necessary adjustment. To avoid this, any bailout would have to incorporate strict conditionality, perhaps raising serious questions about fiscal sovereignty within the Eurozone. Over the last two weeks, the other EU countries have taken a relatively hard line with Greece, stopping short of announcing explicit financial support and pushing for strong fiscal adjustment measures. Although a bailout remains the most likely outcome if Greece struggles to refinance its debts, there are some signs that political resistance to such a move is growing. The key risk period could be April-May, when a large volume of Greek debt matures.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Europe, Greece, Argentina
  • Publication Date: 03-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Oxford Economics
  • Abstract: Ten years after the introduction of the euro, the onset of deep recession in the Eurozone has triggered concern that the single currency might impose intolerable strains upon some members. With some countries hit hard by the impact of the credit crunch, there are mounting concerns about a possible debt default by one or more member states, which in turn might threaten the euro and even the existence of the Eurozone. With the Eurozone economy forecast to contract by 3.1% this year, unemployment is starting to climb steeply and fiscal deficits are soaring. This has raised concerns about deteriorating public finances in a number of countries, leading to sharply wider spreads on government bonds and credit rating downgrades for Greece, Spain and Portugal, with Ireland maybe facing a similar fate soon. And repercussions from the growing economic crisis in Central and Eastern Europe are adding to the problem, with Austria particularly exposed. Rising bond spreads were always intended to be the mechanism that would restrain public spending by more profligate Eurozone countries. But the question now is whether the weaker economies can withstand the strains that a lengthy period of recession will impose and, at the same time, adopt credible medium-term spending plans to ward off the worst of the downturn and retain market confidence. With fiscal deficits already rising as a result of bank bailouts, fiscal packages and recession will push budget deficits far above the 3% of GDP target – Ireland, facing a deficit of 12% of GDP, and Spain will be worst hit. And with rising deficits and higher bond spreads pushing up the cost of debt, countries face a sharp rise in their level of indebtedness, with Greece and Italy seeing debt/GDP ratios around 100%. This deterioration could lead to a further downward spiral if the recession is prolonged and will be a test of countries' euro commitment, which has remained strong thus far despite rising social tensions in some countries. At this stage, the problems remain manageable and the risk of default or of countries leaving the euro is still very low. Bond spreads are still much lower than during much of the 1990s, when countries were striving to qualify for euro membership, and the currency risks attached to leaving the euro would be substantial. Moreover, EU countries that have been exposed to considerable currency strain over the past year are anxious to join the Eurozone as soon as possible, to take advantage of the benefits of a stable currency. While some smaller countries may experience financial difficulties, it seems inevitable that the larger Eurozone members would step in to stabilise the situation – failure to do so would risk contagion spreading to other countries, which in turn would cause even deeper problems for the euro. More policy action also seems likely to counter this threat – although the German government will probably remain reluctant to countenance the scale of expansionary fiscal policy really needed at this time. Current policies inevitably mean a long hard slog back towards fiscal rectitude in the years ahead, with monetary policy also tightening and growth slower than previously expected. Fiscal federalism may also have to be on the agenda. All this will undoubtedly lead to ongoing strains within the Eurozone. And any measures by governments that appear to be protectionist – such as the support for the French car industry – will only fuel these tensions.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Regional Cooperation, Treaties and Agreements, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Europe, Germany
  • Publication Date: 10-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Oxford Economics
  • Abstract: The present recession, which had its origins in the global financial crisis that began to unfold in mid-2007, has hit London's economy hard. And in the face of ongoing financial sector constraints, a debt overhang and rising unemployment, a strong bounce in the immediate future – of the kind seen in the wake of the early1990s recession – cannot be realistically expected. Nevertheless, Oxford Economics' forecasts show the recovery in the capital gaining traction by 2011, with growth into the medium term matching the robust performance of the decade prior to the recession. We expect growth over the period 2011-2019 to outstrip that of the rest of the UK and of most comparable cities across the western world.
  • Topic: Economics, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United Kingdom, Europe, London