IMF Tells Regulators to Brace for Global ‘Liquidity Shock’

Financial engineering that preceded the last two financial crises is back, International Monetary Fund warns

An illusion of liquidity has beguiled financial markets across the world and spawned some of the worst excesses seen on Wall Street in modern times, the International Monetary Fund has warned.

Investors are borrowing money to buy shares on the US stockmarket at a torrid pace and are resorting to the same sorts of financial engineering that preceded the last two financial crises.

“Margin debt as a percentage of market capitalisation remains higher than it was during the late-1990s stock market bubble. The increasing use of margin debt is occurring in an environment of declining liquidity,” said the IMF in its Global Financial Stability Report.

“Lower market liquidity and higher market leverage in the US system increase the risk of minor shocks being propagated and amplified into sharp price corrections,” it said.

The report said there are clear signs that underwriting standards are deteriorating in a pervasive search for yield. So-called “covenant-light loans” with poor protection for creditors now make up two-thirds of all new leveraged loans in the US.

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