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Expert's View
Special> G20 London Summit> Expert's View
UPDATED: March 7, 2009 NO. 10 MAR. 12, 2009
CRISIS FOCUS: The Next Blows?

The unfolding global financial crisis is arousing jitters about another round of heavy blows to the world economy, which may be intensified by the possible U.S. government takeover of Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. Tao Dong, Chief Economist of the Asia-Pacific region for Credit Suisse First Boston (Hong Kong ) Ltd., published an article in the Securities Market Weekly, warning about five other major crashes that might dampen global economic recovery. Edited excerpts follow.

The features of the worldwide financial tsunami are abruptness and the huge extent of its impact. The incidences of the unexpected could happen at any time. Even though a Lehman Brothers-style explosion is less likely, the breeding ground for crises still remains. In my opinion, at least five crises might flare up in 2009.

The credit default swap (CDS) market is at risk. (A CDS is a credit derivative contract between two counterparties. The buyer makes periodic payments to the seller, and in return receives a payoff if an underlying financial instrument defaults.) Banks are still hesitant to make loans to companies, which will eventually collapse if they cannot get financing. As a result, these companies will be unable to pay back the piling corporate debt they owed to investors when business looked promising. The CDS market has contracts of as much as $62 trillion, making itself the biggest credit derivatives market in the financial system. The explosion of the CDS market could be as destructive as an atomic bomb.

Emerging markets, overly dependent on foreign debt, are caught in the same liquidity trap-and the problems confronting Russia and eastern European countries are most typical. The economic stability of raw material exporters, who tended to believe that energy and commodity prices would only rise, also have been undermined by fiscal predicaments, when governments overestimated tax revenue. Currency depreciation in eastern European countries is most critical at the moment.

European banks are also exposed to the possibility of a new crisis. They progressed proactively in eastern Europe and made huge loans to the emerging economies there in an attempt to gain a windfall. But those emerging economies might become European banks' subprime mortgage pitfalls if they fail to pay back their loans should the global economic recession worsen.

Doubts about the euro would intensify. The inborn defects of the euro-a currency system that respects currency equality but ignores fiscal policy disparities-would intensify and explode. The sovereign ratings of Spain and Portugal have been downgraded, and France is facing the same destiny. The real economy in Europe is going down faster than analysts' expectations. The prospect of the euro would meet with stiff headwinds in the markets, and its value might slump.

The U.S. treasury bond bubble might burst. The Barack Obama government would have to raise as much as $3 trillion to rescue the U.S. economy from crumbling. But investors have started to question U.S. government solvency, and if they find that treasury bonds are not worth buying, they might swiftly sell the ones they have, which would eventually lead to a collapse of the treasury bond market.

The above-mentioned are foreseeable risks as far as I am concerned, and there will be more. If two of these occur simultaneously, a new round of financial crisis will be unavoidable. If the world is swept up in a new financial tsunami, people will question not only the credibility of banks, but also the credibility of nations.

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