IMF: Global Credit Losses Could Top $4 Trillion

Global losses tied to bad loans and securitized assets linked to them could top $4.1trn by the end of next year, as the specter of a global recession looms, the International Monetary Fund said in a semi-annual report released Tuesday morning. The report highlights problems that likely lie ahead for the world’s financial system, and the U.S. financial markets in particular. For assets originated in the U.S., losses are now estimated to total $2.7trn, up from the roughly $2.2trn projected in an interim report in January by the IMF. The $2.7trn total represents roughly 10 percent of the $27trn in assets originated in the U.S., and incorporates losses already recognized and those the IMF expects yet to come this year, the group said in a statement. The larger loss total of $4.1trn comes as the IMF has incorporates loans and securities originated in Europe and Japan for the first time, which added roughly $1.3trn to the overall write-down estimate. Roughly $1 trillion in writedowns have already been recognized thus far, the IMF said — ominously, the meaning here is that we’ve yet to get 25% of the way through a now-global credit crisis. Banks will likely bear about two-thirds of the $4.1trn in writedowns, the IMF projected, which together with their exposure to emerging markets, is about $2.8trn in actual and potential writedowns. Writedowns will also be borne by other financial institutions, including pension funds and insurance companies, the IMF report said. Read the full report. While policy responses in the U.S. and abroad are having an impact, the dour IMF report argued that further government intervention would likely be needed, echoing a sentiment put forth earlier in the week by researchers at JP Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM), who projected that another $400bn in U.S. bank write-downs had yet to be recognized. Using a ratio of tangible common equity to tangible assets, the IMF forecast that further capital injections totaling at least $875bn would be necessary for banks located in the United States and Europe, with $275 billion coming in the U.S. (TCE is essentially total equity, less preferred shares and intangible assets, while TA reflects loans and other common bank assets less intangible assets such as a goodwill that cannot be measured or counted.) All of which means the results of the Treasury’s much-publicized “stress tests” likely just became much more interesting. Results are scheduled to be released the first week in May. “Overall, further decisive and effective policy actions will be needed to stabilize the international financial system,” IMF researchers Peter Dattels and Laura Kodres said. “The global response to date has been rapid, but often piecemeal and insufficient to bolster public confidence.” Write to Paul Jackson at Disclosure: The author held no relevant investment positions when this story was published. Indirect holdings may exist via mutual fund investments.

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