Friday, December 02, 2011

The IMF’s Assessment of the Chinese Financial Sector

Bloomberg: IMF Sees 'Buildup' of China Bank Risk Needing More Oversight
Hindustan Times: China's Financial System Vulnerable, Warns IMF
The Independent: IMF Alert on Banks Adds to Fears About Dangers in China
Irish Times: IMF Warns China Must Relax Grip on Banks and Rates
NYT: IMF Warns China on State Control of Banking
Xinhau Net: IMF Reports on China's Financial System "Generally Objective": PCOB

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently completed its inaugural evaluation of the Chinese financial sector as part of the IMF’s periodic look at the twenty-five most important economies in the world. While the report found that China’s financial sector is sound, it also noted several vulnerabilities that need to be addressed and reforms that need to occur.

The report identified many things the Chinese financial sector is doing well, including a trend towards policies the IMF favors. Among these strengths is the Chinese Government’s trend away from state-controlled economic decisions towards a regime where market forces have a greater effect on the economy’s direction. The IMF also applauded China’s increased legal regulation and additional safeguards placed on the financial market, such as interest and exchange rate reforms. Despite the positive movements, the IMF warned that additional regulations are still required.

Chief among IMF concerns is the lack of risk management and regulation in the financial sector, which makes the country vulnerable to asset bubbles, especially within the housing market. Adding to this problem is the artificially low interest rate set by the Chinese Government through the People’s Bank of China. The artificially low interest rates have resulted in increased loans to Chinese citizens giving them more access to money. The increased availability of capital has increased consumer demand, which leads to higher prices in many markets, especially the housing market. This bubble will likely burst when interest rates for consumer loans increase because fewer people will be able to afford the higher loan payments associated with higher interest. Demand for houses will then decrease based on a reduction of potential buyers, and ultimately the price of houses will fall. The IMF is also concerned that extending credit to Chinese consumers will result in loans to less credit-worthy individuals who have a higher chance of default.

The Chinese financial sector also suffers from “shadow banking,” which is unregulated and lightly supervised distributions of capital that occur outside the formal financial market. These transactions, which the Chinese Government cannot adequately track or tax, can lead to financially risky investment decisions that the Government is not aware of and, therefore, cannot prevent or later correct. China also needs to improve its financial accounting oversight system to recognize and proactively stop accounting scandals. Finally, the IMF is concerned that China’s banking system favors state-owned companies over private and foreign corporations by giving Chinese companies easier access to capital—often at lower interest rates. The sum of the above problems has led to inefficiencies in the Chinese financial market.

According to the IMF, China should address these issues by first increasing privatization of the banking system, which the IMF believes will allow the financial sector to react to market trends faster and make more efficient capital allocation decisions. China is likely to retain more state control than the IMF would prefer, however, as state control is the basis of the Chinese financial model. This belief is furthered by China’s relatively successful past operation of state-run companies.

China’s response to the IMF report stated that it believes the report is objective and generally positive, but that the suggested timelines and priorities of certain projects do not reflect the reality of the Chinese economy. As China’s economy continues to move forward, many investors and countries will be following whether China implements the IMF’s recommendations.

1 comment:


I heard on the news that the chinese banking system is very weak.