IMF warns on funding and new Fed easing awaited
LONDON (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund underlined the scale of the global economic crisis on Wednesday, saying it risked running out of money, while investors awaited the U.S. central bank's latest efforts to get credit flowing.
But in the latest sign in recent days that households and financial markets may be developing some resilience to the crisis, surveys showed consumers in France and Germany shrugging off some of their pessimism while investors looked past the widespread business gloom to buy shares.
The IMF released revised forecasts on Wednesday, slashing its projection for 2009 global growth to just 0.5 percent -- the weakest since World War II -- from a November estimate of 2.2 percent. It warned that deflation risks were rising and that toxic assets -- high-risk debt accumulated in the global credit boom that went bust 17 months ago -- needed to be removed from the banking system.
Earlier IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn said the fund would struggle if it had to meet all potential claims on its resources and that the stability of the euro zone could be in danger if its governments did not coordinate more closely.
"Several states are already queuing at our doors," he told German weekly newspaper Die Zeit. "At the moment, we have enough money. But if we actually have to help them, the lion's share of our resources will be consumed in 6 to 8 months. That's why I'm already asking member states for additional funds, and Japan has already given its consent."
The U.S. Federal Reserve will resume a key meeting later to review options of how to kick-start growth with its traditional interest rate policy tool already almost at zero.
Policy-makers, who will issue a statement around 7:15 p.m. British time, are expected to focus on credit-easing measures that have already doubled the size of the Fed's balance sheet to over $2 trillion (1.4 trillion pounds), while assuring investors they can keep Fed borrowing costs very low for a long time.
The United Nations agency, the International Labour Organisation, said that if the global recession deepened in 2009 another 51 million jobs worldwide could be lost this year in a worst-case scenario.
WEAKER INFLATION HELPS
The struggle to raise business funding has helped drive confidence among leaders of the world's top companies to a new low, according to a poll of more than 1,100 CEOs that set a grim backdrop for the annual meeting of the world's business and political elite in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.
Yet in France, a survey showed consumer confidence rose in January to its strongest since April last year, although it remained heavily negative and a separate report showed industrial companies expected demand for goods to continue to fall in the first quarter.
In Germany, market research group GfK's forward-looking sentiment gauge, based on a survey of 2,000 Germans, showed morale should hold steady in February. That beat expectations and suggested that a collapse in global commodity prices since the world economy tipped into a steep downturn may be easing at least one of the pressures on consumers.
"The strong rise in consumers' readiness to buy is mainly due to us having a very low inflation rate at the moment," said Rolf Buerkl, senior research consultant at GfK.
Other data indicated a deepening recession in Europe.
The Conference Board's Leading Economic Index for the euro zone fell 0.9 percent in December to 93.3 points after declines in November and October, the research group said.
The index "indicates that there is no improvement in sight," said Jean-Claude Manini, the Conference Board's senior economist for Europe after the index's first release for the euro zone.
And in Italy, business sentiment fell in January for the eighth month running to its lowest on record.
Economists say the U.S. central bank will hold the official borrowing costs target in a range of zero to 0.25 percent and repeat a commitment made last month to maintain "exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate for some time."
The Fed is expected to discuss unconventional measures to improve financial market operations, having already said it is weighing the benefits of major purchases of long-dated U.S. government securities.
In the world's second largest economy, Japan, Prime Minister Taro Aso vowed earlier on Wednesday to create 1.6 million new jobs, reiterating that Japan would try to be the first country in the world to pull out of recession.
(Additional reporting by by Lesley Wroughton in Washington; Dave Graham and Brian Rohan in Berlin, Anna Willard in Paris, Deepa Babington in Rome, Jan Strupczewski in Brussels and Alister Bull in Washington; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)
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