The U.S. Federal Reserve risks triggering “panic and turmoil” in emerging markets if it opts to raise rates at its September meeting and should hold fire until the global economy is on a surer footing, the World Bank’s chief economist has warned.
Rising uncertainty over growth in China and its impact on the global economy meant a Fed decision to raise its policy rate next week, for the first time since 2006, would have negative consequences, Kaushik Basu told the Financial Times.
His warning highlights the mounting concern outside the U.S. over the Fed’s potential “lift-off.” It follows similar advice from the International Monetary Fund where anxieties have also grown in recent weeks about the potential repercussions of a September rate rise.
That means that if the Fed’s policymakers were to decide next week to raise rates they would be doing so against the counsel of both of the institutions created at Bretton Woods as guardians of global economic stability.
Such a decision could yield a “shock” and a new crisis in emerging markets, Mr. Basu told the FT, especially as it would come on the back of concerns over the health of the Chinese economy that have grown since Beijing’s move last month to devalue its currency.
He said that, even though it had been well-advertised by the Fed, any rise would lead to “fear capital” leaving emerging economies as well as to sharp swings in their currencies. The likely strengthening in the dollar would also hamper U.S. growth, he said.
“I don’t think the Fed lift-off itself is going to create a major crisis but it will cause some immediate turbulence,” Mr. Basu said. “It is the compounding effect of the last two weeks of bad news with that [China devaluation] . . . In the middle of this it is going to cause some panic and turmoil.
“The world economy is looking so troubled that if the U.S. goes in for a very quick move in the middle of this I feel it is going to affect countries quite badly,” he said.
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