Shanghai will host a gathering of G20 gathering of finance ministers and central bank governors this month. Photo: Corbis

Calls for coordinated G20 front on global economic challenges

With global currency volatility spiking and equities markets turning bearish, calls are growing for the biggest economies to coordinate a response.

While the Group of Seven, and broader Group of 20, have on occasion issued joint commitments that helped support investor confidence, this time round the complexity of the challenges may make it harder to agree on a path that includes policy action.

In the run-up to the G20 gathering of finance ministers and central bank governors in Shanghai later this month, some analysts at investment banks have called for an agreement such as the 1985 Plaza Accord to address currency volatility.

Xinhua said this week in a commentary that the policies of advanced economies like the US had created spillover effects to others, which then reverberated across the world. It urged coordination and reforms of global economic governance.

For now, it’s unilateral action that has dominated the headlines.

A “smoothing” operation that had the acquiescence of other major countries, particularly the US, could still be something that could help break the present market mindset, according to Masaaki Kanno, chief Japan economist at JPMorgan Chase in Tokyo, who previously had jobs at the Bank of Japan including as a foreign-exchange manager.

China’s hosting of the G20 gathering puts an even brighter spotlight on the nation’s policymakers, who have faced calls from the International Monetary Fund and others to be clearer in communicating policy intentions.

While some emerging markets are facing sell-offs in their currencies, others have seen relative stability. China may prefer a cheaper currency, though has proven unwilling to allow rapid declines. In the rich world, divergent moves among the major currencies have seen the Japanese and some Europeans signal their exchange rates are appreciating too much.

A move toward even easier monetary policies or the provision of dollars by the US Federal Reserve could potentially help some emerging-market currencies stop falling, though any associated US dollar depreciation would not be welcome in Japan or Europe, where interest rates are already below zero.