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World economy at risk of another financial crash, says IMF

Debt is above 2008 level and failure to reform banking system could trigger crisis

The floor of the New York stock exchange in September 2008.
The floor of the New York stock exchange in September 2008. Photograph: Richard Drew/AP

The world economy is at risk of another financial meltdown, following the failure of governments and regulators to push through all the reformsneeded to protect the system from reckless behaviour, the International Monetary Fund has warned.

With global debt levels well above those at the time of the last crash in 2008, the risk remains that unregulated parts of the financial system could trigger a global panic, the Washington-based lender of last resort said.

Much has been done to shore up the reserves of banks in the last 10 years and to put in place more rigorous oversight of the financial sector, but “risks tend to rise during good times, such as the current period of low interest rates and subdued volatility, and those risks can always migrate to new areas”, the IMF said, adding, “supervisors must remain vigilant to these unfolding events”.

A dramatic rise in lending by the so-called shadow banks in China and the failure to impose tough restrictions on insurance companies and asset managers, which handle trillions of dollars of funds, are highlighted by the IMF as causes for concern.

The growth of global banks such as JP Morgan and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China to a scale beyond that seen in 2008, leading to fears that they remain “too big fail”, also registers on the IMF’s radar.

The warning from the IMF Global Financial Stability report echoes similar concerns that complacency among regulators and a backlash against international agreements, especially from Donald Trump’s US administration, has undermined efforts to prepare for another downturn.

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