U.S. Markets

IMF deputy managing director warns on uncertain U.S. policy, rising protectionism

FILE PHOTO - Mitsuhiro Furusawa speaks in front of screens showing markets information during an interview with Reuters at the Finance Ministry in Tokyo April 12, 2013. REUTERS/Issei Kato

TOKYO (Reuters) - Questions remain over the United States’ growth outlook due to uncertainty over the new administration’s policies, while rising protectionism in advanced economies could affect Asia’s prosperity, a senior International Monetary Fund official said.

Asia continues to perform strongly and the near-term outlook remains strong, but it faces risks, Mitsuhiro Furusawa, an IMF deputy managing director told a seminar in Tokyo on Thursday.

“Uncertainties could contribute to financial volatility in the coming months,” Furusawa said, calling for governments to maintain flexible exchange rates, use macro-prudential policies and keep stronger reserves buffers to cope with capital flow volatility.

Global markets became buoyant after Trump’s victory in November on expectations for his reflationary policy to boost U.S. economy, but investors have grown cautious recently as his protectionist views cloud the outlook for global trade.

In mid-January, the IMF raised its forecasts for U.S. growth to 2.3 percent this year, instead of 2.2 percent, and 2.5 percent in 2018, from 2.1 percent previously. But these forecasts remain uncertain, said Furusawa, a former Japanese vice finance minister for international affairs.

China’s reliance on policy stimulus is another risk, he added, even as the IMF revised up its 2017 growth projection for the world’s second largest economy - to 6.5 percent from 6.2 percent - on expectations of continued fiscal policy support.

While China’s stimulus helps sustain near-term growth, it entails a continued rise in the credit-to-gross domestic product ratio, he said.

Furusawa said there are also “upside risks” relating to the ongoing rebalancing of China’s economy towards consumption and services.

Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Chang-Ran Kim and Richard Borsuk