Page last updated at 23:13 GMT, Wednesday, 6 August 2008 00:13 UK

Credit crunch: Around the world

Man studying share prices on screen
Not every country's economy has been affected by the credit crunch

One year after the start of the global credit crunch, the various regions of the world are experiencing a range of different market conditions.

Some countries are struggling to cope with economic slowdown and avoid recession, while others are virtually unscathed.

We asked BBC correspondents in key cities to tell us about the most important economic factors in their regions and to give us an idea of the local mood.


A strange thing is happening on Wall Street. As the first anniversary of the credit crunch approaches, investors have stopped battering financial stocks and started buying them again.

Merrill Lynch building
Merrill's last set of write-downs were on Thursday, 17 July

The share price of Bank of America has nearly doubled in a matter of days. And it's not as though the news coming out of the US banks is getting any better.

Last month, Merrill Lynch announced another write-down, this time of more than $4bn, and the sale of all its investments backed by toxic mortgages.

According to veteran Wall street trader Teddy Weisberg, of Seaport Securities, "Merrill Lynch is crying uncle," American slang for giving up or surrendering.

But by confessing to the full extent of their losses, Merrill and other US banks may, at long last, have succeeded in drawing a line under the sub-prime debacle and moving on.

Short-term credit markets freeze up after French bank BNP Paribas suspends three investment funds worth 2bn euros
The bank cited problems in the US sub-prime mortgage sector
During the following months, US and European banks report losses totalling hundreds of billions of dollars
The European Central Bank pumps 95bn euros into the eurozone banking system to ease the sub-prime credit crunch
The US Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan take similar steps

Mr Weisberg says: "The banks are telling us: Yeah, we've got problems. But they're under control and we're not going out of business."

The revival of financial stocks has been mirrored by a sharp fall in the oil price. Oil is no longer regarded by investors as a one-way bet. Demand in the US has fallen.

The market is now on red alert for any signs that China's appetite for oil may be faltering too.

And, despite some dire predictions, the US economy has not fallen into recession. It grew at an annual rate of nearly 2% in the second quarter, as exports boomed on the back of a weak dollar.

Confidence remains extremely brittle. Another banking collapse or renewed tensions over Iran's nuclear programme could break it in an instant.

But the mood on Wall Street has undoubtedly changed. It's not one of optimism. More a sense that - one year on - the worst of the credit crunch is behind us.


It is becoming apparent that the effects of the credit crunch on Europe may be even more profound than on the US.

The financial sector has been worst hit. Many major European banks had exposure to the US mortgage market and according to the Institute of International Finance, the European banking sector lost more money last year than American banks.

In Denmark and the UK, governments have stepped in to stop Roskilde and Northern Rock banks going out of business.

The real fear is that is that if one major European bank goes under, others will follow.

Peter Spencer, an economist at Britain's Item Club, speaks of the "virus-like" effect of the credit crunch. "We do not know how long the contagion is going to run," he told the BBC.

One result of the financial crisis has been a reluctance by banks to lend money to each other and to their customers.

European Central Bank
The ECB has been applauded for its response to the credit crisis

To counter this lack of liquidity, the European Central Bank (ECB) has poured massive amounts of money into the markets to prevent them seizing up altogether.

Many European countries now face the threat of recession, particularly the Irish Republic and Spain. Denmark is already in recession.

That is not entirely down to the credit crunch. Rising food and oil prices and falling house prices have all had an impact.

However, national governments as well as institutions such as the European Commission and the European Central Bank are finding it hard to respond.

In fact, they are appealing to the financial and business communities to help.

But those sectors have profound problems of their own and are finding it difficult to find the funds or the motivation to come to the rescue of Europe's faltering economy.


When Mizuho Financial admitted it had lost more than $6bn on investments in the US mortgage market, the Japanese bank earned the title of Asia's biggest sub-prime loser.

But just compare that to the more than $40bn written off by Citigroup, and more than $30bn apiece lost by Merrill Lynch and UBS, and you'll see how unscathed - relatively speaking - Asia's cautious bankers have been by the crisis.

In fact, in the financial world, you could say the credit crunch has shaken up the old order in Asia's favour.

Mizuho is Japan's second largest bank

Plunging stock prices on Wall Street mean the world's top two banks by market value - and three out of the top six - are Chinese.

Singapore's investment funds Temasek and GIC have used the turmoil to make massive investments in the Western banking sector.

They're now the biggest shareholders of Merrill Lynch and UBS. They are both sitting on big paper losses as values continue to fall, but they will tell you this was a unique opportunity to gain that sort of foothold on Wall Street.

And while we are focused on this week's one-year anniversary of the credit crunch, it is easy to forget that other anniversary we were marking last year - 10 years since the Asian financial crisis.

The irony of Asian money bailing out Western banks has not been lost on many in this part of the world.

A much bigger worry for many Asians, though, is the economic fallout of the credit crunch.

The US consumer is still the most important buyer for much of what industrialised Asia produces.

Japanese export giants like Sony and Nissan are already feeling the impact as Americans tighten their belts. And the weakness of the US dollar is only making Japanese goods less affordable.

In the "factory of the world", the manufacturing heartland of Southern China, they are also feeling the effects of weakening global demand, with plant closures and layoffs.

Not all export businesses are in panic mode, though. South Korean exports have been growing at their fastest rate in four years.

The likes of Samsung and Hyundai have long been poor relations to their Japanese arch-rivals. But they've been able to win new customers in emerging markets like Latin America, the Middle East and China.

According to one estimate, retail sales in China are growing by 20% a year. Perhaps that's been the biggest effect of the credit crunch - to underline how the shape of the world economy is changing.


India started the year with experts talking about how the country was "decoupled" from the global markets. But now, three-quarters into the year, itís clear that the problems are more complicated.

The country has been hit by three main worries this year - the impact of the global credit crunch, high oil prices and, more locally, rising inflation rates.

Inflation in India is running at a 13-year high, driven by the soaring cost of food and fuel. The countryís central bank has been aggressively increasing its key interest rate to try and control the rising inflation rates.

While some analysts have welcomed the move, some others feel higher interest rates could cause economic growth to slow further.

Indian labourer carries bag of rice in Delhi
The price of rice is a heavy burden for many Indians

The central bank has also repeatedly lifted the cash reserve ratio (CRR) - the level of minimum cash banks must keep in relation to customer deposits - in an attempt to discourage lending.

But manufacturers are already complaining that their profits have slumped as the price of raw materials is soaring, while consumers are simply not spending enough.

It has been a turbulent year for the markets as well. The Bombay Stock Exchange's benchmark Sensex has fallen more than 5,000 points and is now at last yearís levels.

But many global banks such as HSBC, GE Money and Standard Chartered are turning towards emerging markets like India and China to offset the global losses.

Many experts here feel the quality of credit is much better in India. But the global credit crunch has made institutions here more conservative, especially in consumer finance.

This is likely to hit Indian consumers, especially those looking to borrow to buy a new car or a new home.

Increasingly, there is rising public anger among the country's poor, who are the hardest hit by soaring prices.

In an effort to temper price rises, the Government has already cut import duties on edible oils and banned the export of pulses and most types of rice.

But with most of South Asia suffering from a food crisis, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are looking to India for rice imports.

This is worrying the Congress-led government, as nearly a dozen states are going to the polls this year and general elections are due by next year.


Not for the first time when it comes to economic indicators around the world, Brazil as a developing country is bucking the trend for a gloomy outlook.

Here, the news is less about a credit crunch and more about unprecedented opportunities for people to buy their own home or to purchase consumer goods that were previously out of reach.

International investment agencies and magazines have been quick to notice that Brazil has largely escaped the pain of the credit crunch, and have been pointing investors towards Latin America's largest economy as a safe bet.

Sao Paulo city centre
Brazil's economy has remained stable as other countries feel the strain

It is "business as normal" in Brazil, as one headline screamed. Foreign investors have taken note and are flooding into the country.

Newly-available mortgage finance has undoubtedly opened the housing market to younger home buyers who were previously excluded.

"I wouldn't have stood a chance to buy this flat five years ago," says Renato Guidolin, a 30-year-old graphic designer, who is about to close a deal on a new apartment in Sao Paulo.

"It is easier to get a mortgage. The economy is a lot more established, which I believe is making buying a lot easier - not only houses, but all sort of goods."

There is visible evidence in many parts of Sao Paulo of a booming housing market, with construction work on residential buildings continuing at a furious pace.

Sales seem to be happening at much the same speed - it often appears most apartments are sold before the work is completed.

TV is awash with advertisements for companies selling electronic goods offering long-term credit deals. Despite the final cost, many Brazilians are choosing to buy more expensive items which, for many in the past, would have been out of their reach.

All this is happening against the background of a much more secure economic situation in a country that used to be troubled by crippling inflation.

Brazil remains a country marked by great inequality, but the steadily-improving economy has moved many of its poorer citizens onto the lower rungs of the middle class.

There is certainly concern about the impact of rising food prices and Brazil is becoming a more expensive country in which to live - but for the moment, the mood is buoyant.


While the credit crunch has hit the European and US banking sector hard, in Nigeria the situation is exactly the reverse.

Banks are falling over themselves to lend money to people in ways that they have never done before.

Millions of Nigerians don't have an account, as in the past they lacked confidence in banks. They used to go under regularly, taking everyone's money with them.

But confidence has grown in banks since the government forced them to consolidate three years ago. Now there are fewer, stronger banks and they're expanding rapidly.

Even in some of the most remote villages, there are now branches with cashpoint machines.

Part of the boom was fuelled by bank share issues which were massively oversubscribed. Banks offered marginal trading loans to people to buy shares in other banks, prompting fears the stock market boom could turn into a bubble.

The Central Bank tightened regulations and banks have aggressively marketed personal loans instead. For the first time, individuals have been able to get loans and mortgages - albeit at interest rates of about 24%.

The lending market boom was fed by the government selling off thousands of houses it owned at knock-down prices.

Unlike Europe and America, the housing market in the capital, Abuja, is booming, with some investors rumoured to have made 400% profits on houses they bought from the government and sold on.

But in an economy that doesn't produce much except oil, it remains to be seen if the central bank can prevent future banking bubbles from bursting.

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