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capital flows

International asset allocations and capital flows: the benchmark effect

Sergio Schmukler's picture

As financial intermediaries tracking benchmarks grow in importance around the world, the issue of which countries belong to relevant international benchmark indexes (such as the MSCI Emerging Markets) has generated significant attention in the financial world (Financial Times, 2015). The reason is that the inclusion/exclusion of countries from widely followed benchmarks has implications for the allocation of capital across countries.

As institutional investors become more passive, they follow benchmark indexes more closely. These benchmark indexes change over time, as index providers reclassify countries, implying that investment funds have to re-allocate their portfolio among the countries they target. The capital flows generated by these portfolio re-allocations are important because worldwide open-end funds that follow a few well-known stock and bond market indexes manage around 37 trillion U.S. dollars in assets (ICI, 2016).

Are capital flows fickle? And does the answer still depend on type?

Poonam Gupta's picture

According to conventional wisdom, capital flows are fickle. They are fickle more or less independent of time and place. But different flows exhibit different degrees of volatility: FDI is least volatile, while bank-intermediated flows are most volatile.  Other portfolio capital flows rank in between, and within this intermediate category debt flows are more volatile than equity-based flows. 

The effects of benchmarks on international capital flows: The problems of passive investing

Sergio Schmukler's picture

The categorisation of countries into relevant international benchmark indices affects the allocation of capital across borders. The reallocation of countries from one index to another affects not only capital flows into and out of that country, but also the countries it shares indices with. This column explains the channels through which international equity and bond market indices affect asset allocations, capital flows, and asset prices across countries. An understanding of these channels is important in preventing a widening share of capital flows being impacted by benchmark effects.

Handling volatile capital flows--the Indian experience

Poonam Gupta's picture
Capital flows to emerging economies are considered to be volatile. Influenced as much by global liquidity and risk aversion as by economic conditions in receiving countries, capital flows move in a synchronous fashion across emerging economies. There are periods of rapid capital inflows, fueling credit booms and asset price inflation; followed by reversals when exchange rates depreciate, equity prices decline, financial volatility increases, and GDP growth and investment slows down. These periods of extreme flows have unintended financial and real implications for the recipient countries.

Elephants and Macro-Financial Linkages

Otaviano Canuto's picture
Global financial integration and the linkages between the financial and the real sides of economies are sources of huge policy challenges. This is now beyond doubt, after what we saw in the run-up to and the unfolding of the 2008 global financial crisis.

In the long run, we all want to be alive, and thrive

Hans Timmer's picture

Ninety years ago, in his A Tract on Monetary Reform Keynes famously wrote “In the long run we are all dead”. That observation recently stirred a lot of debate for all the wrong reasons, after Niall Ferguson obnoxiously claimed that Keynes did not care about the future because he was childless. Whether Keynes cared about the long-term future or not (and whether he had children or not) is completely irrelevant in this context, as many (e.g. Brad DeLong and Paul Krugman) have pointed out.

The actual context in which Keynes wrote this observation was a discussion about the quantity theory of money, which states that doubling the supply of money will only double the prices, but will have no consequences for other parts of the economy. This is the classical dichotomy between real and nominal variables. Keynes argued: “Now in the long run this is probably true”. But “In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is long past the ocean is flat again.”  So, Keynes’ point was obviously not that the future doesn’t matter. His point was that simple theories that might describe long-term relationships are just not good enough to deal with current issues. In the short run, changes in money supply can have all kinds of important consequences beyond the price levels. Economists will have to make their hands dirty and delve into the complicated dynamics of the here and now.

Prospects Weekly: Latest bout of G3 monetary stimulus is likely to increase capital flows to developing countries

Global Macroeconomics Team's picture

The latest bout of G3 monetary stimulus is likely to increase capital flows to developing countries, but may be limited by lingering economic uncertainty, and lower interest rate spreads. Notwithstanding the recent easing of financial market tensions, the anticipated rebound in real-side activity is lagging behind.

Managing Capital Flows

Shahrokh Fardoust's picture

With sluggish growth in advanced economies, much investment money is heading south to more favorable climates. And while capital flows can provide greater opportunities for emerging and developing economies to pursue economic development and growth, capital inflows can also pose some serious policy challenges for macroeconomic management and financial sector supervision. Recently, large capital inflows in some middle-income countries have placed undue  upward pressure on their currencies, adversely affecting  macroeconomic and financial system stability as well as export competitiveness in a number of  these countries. Furthermore, the pro-cyclical nature of global capital flows to emerging and developing economics can serve to aggravate these risks.


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