LARRY SUMMERS ADVISES HEED THE FEARS OF FINANCIAL MARKETS

 Larry Summers writes in a 10th January  FT article “policy makers should heed the fears of financial markets. They understood the gravity of the 2008 financial crisis well before the Federal Reserve.”

The article continues “…Because of China’s scale, its potential volatility and the limited room for conventional monetary manoeuvres, the global risk to domestic economic performance in the US, Europe and many emerging markets is as great as at any time I can remember. Policymakers should hope for the best and plan for the worst…

“…Policymakers who dismiss market moves as reflecting mere speculation often make a serious mistake. Markets understood the gravity of the 2008 crisis well before the Federal Reserve. They grasped the unsustainability of fixed exchange rates in the UK, Mexico and Brazil while the authorities were still in denial, and saw slowdown or recession well before forecasters in countless downturns. While markets do sometimes send false alarms and should not be slavishly followed, the conventional wisdom essentially never recognises gathering storms.“The Chinese financial services sector is about as large relative to gross domestic product as in Britain…

“…The Economist reports that, looking across all major countries over the past several decades, there were 220 instances in which a year of positive growth was followed by one of contraction. Not once did International Monetary Fund forecasts anticipate the recession in the April of the growth year…

“…Over the past year, about 20 per cent of China’s growth as reported in its official statistics has come from its financial services sector, which is now about as large relative to gross domestic product as in Britain, and Chinese debt levels are extraordinarily high. This is hardly a case of healthy or sustainable growth…

“…In recent years, China’s growth has come heavily from massive infrastructure investment; China poured more cement and concrete between 2011 and 2013 than the US did in the whole of the 20th century. This, too, is unsustainable. Even if it is replaced by domestic services, China’s contribution to demand for global commodities will fall… Because of China’s scale, its potential volatility and the limited room for conventional monetary policy the global risk to domestic economic performance in the US, Europe and many emerging markets is as great as at any time I can remember. Policymakers should hope for the best and plan for the worst…