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Global current account imbalances narrowed in 2019, can narrow even further in 2020: IMF

Global current account imbalances narrowed in 2019, can narrow even further in 2020: IMF

WASHINGTON: The International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday that global current account imbalances narrowed in 2019 as trade slowed, and the coronavirus could narrow them further in 2020, but some commodity exporters and tourism-dependent countries will swing to current account deficits.

The IMF’s External Sector Report on currencies and imbalances for the world’s 30 largest economies showed that net current account balances fell by 0.2 percentage point to 2.9 percent of global GDP. The Fund projected a further narrowing by 0.3 percent of global GDP in 2020, partly due to massive fiscal and monetary stimulus by many countries and continued pressure on trade. “Major commodity exporters should see their current accounts going from significant surpluses to significant deficits,” IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath said in a webcast presentation of the report.

The IMF projected that Saudi Arabia, which had a 5.9 percent current account surplus in 2019, will see a deficit of 4.9 percent in 2018 due to the collapse of oil prices and demand. Tourism-dependent Thailand and Malaysia will see their surpluses shrink dramatically in 2020, the report showed.

The fund said the US dollar’s current account position in 2019, a deficit of 2.3 percent of GDP, was moderately weaker than warranted by economic fundamentals and would likely narrow to 2.0% in 2020. But it estimated that the dollar’s real effective exchange rate was overvalued by around 11 percent in 2019.

China’s current account surplus of 1.0 percent in 2019, projected to grow to 1.3 percent in 2020, was broadly in line with economic fundamentals, the IMF said in the report. It estimated that China’s yuan was undervalued by around 2 percent in 2019, largely due to trade tensions with the United States, but said the assessment was “subject to especially high uncertainty.”

China’s real effective exchange rate had appreciated by 1.8 percent from the 2019 average through May 2020, the report showed.