Nouriel Roubini, the New York University professor who predicted the credit crisis, said China and other emerging markets risk a “hard landing” as they start raising interest rates to fight inflation.
Some “emerging markets are overheating” and as inflation is accelerating, “they are behind the curve in terms of policy tightening,” Roubini said at a conference in Moscow on Thursday.
“In China, Russia and many other emerging-market economies that are emphasizing growth over fighting inflation, if inflation gets out of hand, they have to tighten more in the middle or later part of this year,” he said.
Global rate setters are growing more concerned that inflation is picking up as the world economy gathers strength and food and oil prices rise. Some developing--nation central banks in Asia and Latin America are slowing the pace of rate increases and seek to fight inflation by other means. They are aiming to fend off a flood of money seeking higher yields as rates in major economies remain at record lows.
Inflation is “a problem” as food and energy prices make up two-thirds of consumer-price baskets in some emerging markets, according to Roubini.
“There’s a risk of hard landing,” if growth heats up and prices spiral out of control, he said.
In Russia, where Russian President Dmitry Medvedev set an annual growth target of 8 percent to 10 percent in five years, the central bank opted to raise reserve requirements for banks to contain inflation without throttling the recovery. It surprised 12 of 16 economists in a Bloomberg survey by keeping the deposit rate unchanged.
China’s central bank has raised the amount of cash banks must set aside as reserves four times since October to help damp inflation. It also boosted interest rates twice in the fourth quarter, the first increases since 2007.
“Last year the biggest problem in emerging markets was this massive inflow of capital and how to deal with it, but at some point — we’ve seen this movie before — money could flow out if there are external shocks, a beginning of monetary tightening and exit in advanced economies, if there’s a return of risk aversion,” Roubini said. “Money is fickle, money is volatile, moves in or out of emerging markets. That’s still a danger.”
Emerging Europe will expand 3.6 percent, compared with 8.4 percent predicted for Asia’s developing economies, and 4.3 percent for Latin America, according to IMF forecasts released last month. China’s GDP will grow 9.6 percent, India will expand 8.6 percent and Russia 4.5 percent, the IMF said.