The growth of interest in crypto assets and the roller-coaster fluctuations in values of crypto-currencies could contribute to a weakened global financial system, says the International Monetary Fund in its key annual World Economic Outlook report published today.
“Cybersecurity breaches and cyber attacks on critical financial infrastructure represent an additional source of risk,” says the report, “because they could undermine cross-border payment systems and disrupt the flow of goods and services.”
The report, published ahead of the IMF’s annual meeting that takes place this week on the Indonesian island of Bali, argues that “continued rapid growth of crypto assets could create new vulnerabilities in the international financial system.”
Last week the IMF published its latest semiannual Global Financial Stability Report (GFSR) – described by the organisation as a “weather vane of sorts”… that spots “shifting trends that could pose risks to the global financial system”. The report also highlighted the risks that digital trading platforms and digital currencies could present.
While the GFSR recognized that the rapid development of crypto-currencies and blockchain-focused finch companies had “potential benefits”, it also pointed out that the “knowledge of… potential risks and how they might play out is still developing.”
“Increased cybersecurity risks” said the GFSR, “pose challenges for financial institutions, financial infrastructure, and supervisors. These developments should act as a reminder that the financial system is permanently evolving, and regulators and supervisors must remain vigilant to this evolution and ready to act if needed.”
The IMF’s head, Christine Lagarde, who has been both supportive and critical of the digital economy in the past, used the GFSR to say how concerned she was that the total value of public and private global debt has jumped by 60% in the decade since the financial crisis. The IMF notes that this now sits at an all-time high of $182 trillion, and “should serve as a wake-up call,” said Lagarde.
On the eve of its annual meeting, held at Bali’s Nusa Dua resort complex between October 12 and 14, the IMF has projected a global expansion of 3.7 percent this year and next. This is down from the 3.9 percent projected three months ago and is the first downgraded projection since July 2016.
The IMF is pointing to escalating trade tensions, especially between Beijing and Washington, and mounting weakness in emerging markets for the downgrade. These are the topics – as opposed to the possible threats of crypto-currencies – that are set to the dominate this week’s talks.