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Tuesday, 1 July 2008

BIS: Global economy could face deeper downturn

By George Frey, AP Business Writer
Central banks' banker says world economy could see deeper, longer downturn than most expect

BASEL, Switzerland (AP) -- The global economy could face a deeper downturn than many currently expect amid rising inflation and the turmoil on financial markets, the Bank for International Settlements said at its annual meeting Monday.

"In the aftermath of a long credit-driven boom, it would not be surprising to see turmoil in financial markets, slowing real growth and temporarily rising inflation," the BIS said in its annual report.

"While difficult to predict, their interaction does appear to point to a deeper and more protracted global downturn than the consensus view seems to expect."

The Basel-based bank added that the current "consensus view is still that the global economy will slow only modestly further in 2008" and that growth continued to be strong in the euro zone, Japan, and major emerging market economies.

Often called the central bank of central banks, the BIS said during its last fiscal year central banks worldwide reacted to the financial and monetary policy situation differently, and that given their countries' different economic situations, a "one size fits all" monetary policy can't necessarily be predicted or suggested.

The bank said that with inflation rising, a global bias toward higher interest rates was probably appropriate. Higher interest rates can cool inflation, but run the risk of lower growth.

The bank warned against a cookie-cutter approach to interest rates from country to country, and warned than an excessive tightening exacerbated by the credit contraction caused by the crisis over mortgage-backed securities in the United States could worsen any downturn.

"Unfolding developments at the core of the global financial system have, however also created great uncertainty about the future economic prospects," the bank said. "Banks in several advanced industrial economies have been tightening lending standards, and thus a generalized squeeze in the availability of credit remains a distinct possibility."

The European Central Bank has indicated it could raise its key interest rate from the current 4 percent "by a small amount" as soon as this week, in an effort to combat rising inflation in the 15-nation euro zone, which is well above its preferred level of at or near 2 percent.

The BIS said it would have been best to avoid the large buildup of loose credit in the first place and urged new regulatory frameworks to prevent a recurrence.

The BIS is a center for economic and monetary research, and coordinates regulations in the fields of financial services to promote international financial stability. All of BIS' capital is held by central banks BIS' customers include international central banks, as well as international organizations..

The BIS board of directors has 20 members and is currently chaired by Jean-Pierre Roth of the Swiss National Bank. Six non official directors are the central bank governors of Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom as well as the chairman of the Board of Governors of the U.S. Federal Reserve System.

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