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The global economy is in a vulnerable state – IMF

The pace of global economic activity remains weak, and financial markets expect rates to stay lower for longer than anticipated in early 2019. Financial conditions have eased even more, helping contain downside risks and support the global economy in the near term.

But loose financial conditions come at a cost: they encourage investors to take more chances in a quest for higher returns, so risks to financial stability and growth remain high in the medium term. According to International Monetary Fund IMF, elevated vulnerabilities in the corporate and non-bank financial sectors could amplify the impact of a shock, such as an intensification of trade tensions or a no-deal Brexit, posing a threat to economic growth.

This situation poses a dilemma for policymakers. On the other hand, they may want to keep financial conditions easy to counter deterioration in the economic outlook. On the other hand, they must guard against a further build-up of vulnerabilities. IMF report stresses that some policy recommendations, including deploying and developing, as needed, new macro prudential tools for non-bank financial firms.

Since the last edition of Global Financial Stability Report GFSR in April, global financial markets have been buffeted by the twists and turns of trade tensions and significant policy uncertainty. A deterioration in business sentiment, weakening economic activity, and intensifying downside risks to the outlook, according to the report, have prompted central banks across the globe, including the European Central Bank and the Federal Reserve, to ease policy.

The report says investors have interpreted central bank actions and communications as a turning point in the monetary policy cycle. About 70 per cent of economies, weighted by Gross Domestic Product GDP, have adopted a more accommodative monetary stance. The shift has been accompanied by a sharp decline in longer-term yields; in some major economies, interest rates are deeply negative. Remarkably, the amount of governments and corporate bonds with negative yields has increased to about 15 Trillion US Dollars.

Further, the report indicate that the result is even easier financial solutions but also a continued build-up of financial vulnerabilities, particularly in the corporate sector and among non-bank financial institutions. It says corporations in eight major economies are taking on more debt, and their ability to service it is weakening. ‘’We look at the potential impact of a material economic slowdown- one that is as half as severe as the global financial crisis of 2007-08.

Our conclusion is sobering: debt owed by firms unable to cover interest expenses with earnings, which we call corporate debt-at-risk, could rise to 19 Trillion. That is almost 40 per cent of total corporate debt in the economies we studied, which include the United States, China, and some European economies’’.

According to the report, among non-bank financial institutions, vulnerabilities have risen since April and are now elevated in 80 per cent of economies, by GDP, with systematically important financial sectors- a level similar to the height of the global financial crisis. Very low rates have prompted institutional investors like insurance companies, pension funds, and asset managers to reach for yield and take on risker and less liquid securities to generate targeted returns. For example, pension funds have increased their exposure to alternative asset classes like private equity and real estate.

What are the possible consequences? Similarities in portfolios of investment funds could amplify a market sell-off, and illiquid investments by pension funds could constrain their traditional stabilizing role in markets. In addition, the report says, cross-border investments by life insurers could provoke spill overs across markets.

Further, it noted that external debt is rising among emerging and frontier economies as they attract capital flows from advanced economies, where interest rates are lower. Median external debt has risen to 160 per cent of exports from 100 per cent in 2008 among emerging market economies. A sharp tightening in financial conditions and higher borrowing costs would make it harder for them to service their debts. Adding to that, the report underlined that stretched asset valuations in some markets are also contributing to financial stability risks.

Equity markets appear to be overvalued in the United States and Japan. In major bond markets, credit spread- the compensation investors demand to bear credit risk- also seem to be too compressed relative to fundamentals. A sharp, sudden tightening in financial conditions, as indicated in the report, could unmask these vulnerabilities and put pressure on asset price valuations. So, what should policy-makers do to tackle these risks?

What tools can be deployed or developed to address the specific vulnerabilities identified in this report? Corporate debt-at-risk: stricter supervisory and macro prudential oversight, including targeted stress testing of banks and prudential tools for highly levered firms, while for institutional investors, there is a need for strengthened oversight and enhanced disclosures, including steeped-up efforts to mitigate leverages and other balance-sheet mismatches.

Emerging and frontier markets: prudent sovereign-debt management practices and frameworks. With financial conditions still easy so late in the cycle, and with vulnerabilities building, policymakers should act quickly to avoid putting growth at risk in the medium term, this is according to the report. Uncertainty may reign today- but sound policy decisions, adopted soon, could help avoid the most dangerous outcomes, the report concluded.

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Matsheka seeks raise bond program ceiling to P30 billion

14th September 2020
Dr Matsheka

This week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka approached parliament seeking lawmakers approval of Government’s intention to increase bond program ceiling from the current P15 Billion to P30 billion.

“I stand to request this honorable house to authorize increase in bond issuance program from the current P15 billion to P30 billion,” Dr Matsheka said. He explained that due to the halt in economic growth occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic government had to revisit options for funding the national budget, particularly for the second half of the National Development Plan (NDP) 11.

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Lucara sits clutching onto its gigantic stones with bear claws in a dark pit

14th September 2020
Lesedi La Rona

Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) has this week revealed a gloomy picture of diamond mining newcomer, Lucara, with its stock devaluated and its entire business affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A BSE survey for a period between 1st January to 31st August 2020 — recording the second half of the year, the third quarter of the year and five months of coronavirus in Botswana — shows that the Domestic Company Index (DCI) depreciated by 5.9 percent.

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Botswana Diamonds issues 50 000 000 shares to raise capital

14th September 2020
Diamonds

Botswana Diamond PLC, a diamond exploration company trading on both London Stock Exchange Alternative Investment Market (AIM) and Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) on Monday unlocked value from its shares to raise capital for its ongoing exploration works in Botswana and South Africa.

A statement from the company this week reveals that the placing was with existing and new investors to raise £300,000 via the issue of 50,000,000 new ordinary shares at a placing price of 0.6p per Placing Share.

Each Placing Share, according to Botswana Diamond Executives has one warrant attached with the right to subscribe for one new ordinary share at 0.6p per new ordinary share for a period of two years from, 7th September 2020, being the date of the Placing Warrants issue.

In a statement Chairman of Botswana Diamonds, John Teeling explained that the funds raised will be used to fund ongoing exploration activities during the current year in Botswana and South Africa, and to provide additional working capital for the Company.

The company is currently drilling kimberlite M8 on the Marsfontein licence in South Africa and has generated further kimberlite targets which will be drilled on the adjacent Thorny River concession.

In Botswana, the funds will be focused on commercializing the KX36 project following the recent acquisition of Sekaka Diamonds from Petra Diamonds. This will include finalizing a work programme to upgrade the grades and diamond value of the kimberlite pipe as well as investigating innovative mining options.

Drilling is planned for the adjacent Sunland Minerals property and following further assessment of the comprehensive Sekaka database more drilling targets are likely. “This is a very active and exciting time for Botswana Diamonds. We are drilling the very promising M8 kimberlite at Marsfontein and further drilling is likely on targets identified on the adjacent Thorny River ground,” he said.

The company Board Chair further noted, “We have a number of active projects. The recently acquired KX36 diamond resource in the Kalahari offers great potential. While awaiting final approvals from the Botswana authorities some of the funds raised will be used to detail the works we will do to refine grade, size distribution and value per carat.”

In addition BOD said the Placing Shares will rank pari passu with the Company’s existing ordinary shares. Application will be made for the Placing Shares to be admitted to trading on AIM and it is expected that such admission will become effective on or around 23 September 2020.

Last month Botswana Diamond announced that it has entered into agreement with global miner Petra Diamonds to acquire the latter’s exploration assets in Botswana. Key to these assets, housed under Sekaka Diamonds, 100 % subsidiary of Petra is the KX36 Diamond discovery, a high grade ore Kimberlite pipe located in the CKGR, considered Botswana’s next diamond glory after the magnificent Orapa and prolific Jwaneng Mines.

The acquisition entailed two adjacent Prospecting Licences and a diamond processing plant. Sekaka has been Petra’s exploration vehicle in Botswana for year and holds three Prospecting Licenses in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (Kalahari) PL169/2019, PL058/2007 and PL224/2007, which includes the high grade KX36 kimberlite pipe.

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