G20 fears oil price may derail recovery

David Smith, Economics Editor

Finance ministers and central bankers of the G20 countries, who meet in London this week, will celebrate signs that the worst of the recession is over and that upturns have begun in some countries.

However, they will also warn of continued fragilities in the banking system and the need to remain vigilant against further crises. They will say that the rise in the oil price, currently $73 a barrel, poses a potential threat to recovery.

There will be pressure on surplus countries, notably China and Germany, to do more to boost their economies and help cure global imbalances, though both have shown stronger-than-expected growth recently, particularly China.

The G20 is likely to reinforce the message of this month’s meeting of central bankers at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which was that interest rates will need to remain low for a considerable time to allow the recovery to take hold.

They will also say that countries will need to have credible programmes in place to restore their fiscal positions once the immediate crisis is over.

The G20 gathering, to be held at the Treasury, will bring together finance ministers and central bankers from the large advanced economies but also key emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil.

It is intended to prepare the ground for the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh on September 24-25, the third during the global crisis.

Since the last talks, in April, most economies have shown signs of stabilisation or modest recovery and stock markets have risen strongly, with the MSCI Global index up by nearly 60% from its lows in early March. Pressure for a further fiscal boost to help economies out of recession has abated.

This week’s meeting will also consider bank bonuses, financial stability and a boost to the resources of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy, having negotiated a deal with French banks to limit their bonus payments and to make more of them in the form of shares, is seeking an international “cap and tax” agreement on bonuses.

He has won the support of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, though the plan is likely to run into opposition from America. Alistair Darling, the chancellor, has signalled that he favours a tougher stance on bonuses but believes the best way to control them is by imposing tougher capital and regulatory requirements.

The new Financial Stability Board, agreed at the April meetings and a successor to the Financial Stability Forum, is expected to propose tougher capital requirements on international banks.

In April, the G20 agreed to treble the resources of the IMF from $250 billion to $750 billion but the deal to do so has yet to be put in place. The hope is that agreement will be reached on national contributions to the extra resources, intended to give the IMF scope to engage in more rescues of crisis-hit economies, by the time of the organisation’s annual meeting in the autumn.

They will also review the progress since April on clamping down on tax havens. Since then a number of countries have signed tax accords and agreed on fuller disclosure.

Apart from the G20 gathering in London, attention this week will focus on America’s monthly employment report, due on Friday. Last month it showed a 247,000 drop in non-farm jobs, which was smaller than expected, and a surprise fall in the unemployment rate to 9.4%.

In Britain attention will focus on the purchasing managers’ surveys for the manufacturing, construction and service sectors. These have suggested that the economy is recovering more quickly than in the official figures. (David Smith, The Sunday Times) http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/economics/article6814934.ece

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