For those of you with the time to browse through 246 pages (gasp!), this heavy report from the IMF offers a tremendous overview of global financial markets up to the beginning of October 2008. It provides an amazing overview of global indicators, and puts the current crisis in full perspective.
My largest takeaway from having read the first chapter (70 pages), is that we are probably close to a bottom in economic terms. The research dissects data in a variety of ways, and offers a number of excellent charts many of which I am posting here as a resource for others in the blogosphere.
Another takeaway is that I have changed my opinion from earlier posts that suspending fair value, (also known as mark-to-market accounting) would be a good idea. Chapter three researches FV methods over business cycles, and makes a compelling argument for why suspending them would not be worthwhile. However there is an acknowledgment that some tweaks would be worthwhile.
An excerpt from the conclusion on FV accounting methods is below:
The chapter finds that, despite concerns about volatility and measurement difficulties, FVA is the appropriate direction forward and can provide a measure that best reflects a financial institution’s current financial condition, though various enhancements are needed to allow FVA to reinforce good risk management techniques and improved prudential norms. Nevertheless, the application of FVA makes more transparent the effects of economic volatility on balance sheets that, under certain risk management frameworks, could exacerbate cyclical movements in asset and liability values. Exaggerated profits in good times create the wrong incentives. Conversely, more uncertainty surrounding valuation in downturns may translate into overly tight credit conditions, and negatively affect growth at a time when credit expansion is most needed. This is not to say that alternative accounting frameworks such as historical cost accounting avoid such fluctuations, but rather that FVA recognizes them as they develop. Regardless, accounting frameworks are not meant to address the market-wide or systemic outcomes of their application, as they are applied only to individual institutions. Nevertheless, much of the controversy surrounding FV stems more from the risk management and investment decision rules using FV outcomes, rather than the framework itself. The interaction of FV estimates with other decision rules should be delinked from specific covenants such as sales triggers, margin calls or additional collateral requirements during downturns, or compensation tied to short-term profits during upturns.
You can download the full report from the IMF by clicking on the cover image below:
The charts below have been gratuitously clipped from the report. I hope that these charts may be helpful to further the dialogue.