Echoes of '07 as markets flirt with risk

The Washington-based Institute of International Finance (IIF) on Tuesday issued an unusually blunt warning that global financial markets could again be in danger of "underpricing risk" in a manner reminiscent of the run-up to the global financial crisis that began in 2007.

The alert by the influential body, whose members include the world's leading banks and other financial institutions, comes at a time when stock and property markets are surging on the back of a sea of global liquidity, and could send a tremor through global markets.

It also comes as fresh concerns emerge in parts of the eurozone - Spain and Italy especially - over whether the financial crisis there has been laid to rest or may be ready to re-emerge.

Abundant liquidity created by central banks' monetary easing strategies - with Japan now joining the US and the eurozone in this regard - has "changed investor sentiment away from 'risk-off' to 'risk-on' mode", the IIF noted in its latest monthly Capital Markets Monitor.

January data reports "confirm the rebalancing of fund flows away from safe haven assets (US Treasuries, Bunds, UK Gilts etc) to riskier assets including equities and high-yield bonds", said the IIF.

"This has raised the question of whether credit risk is being underpriced again, as in the period prior to the 2007-2009 financial crisis," the institute said, using unusually pointed language.

Former undersecretary of the US Treasury for international affairs Tim Adams took over as managing director of the IIF at the beginning of this month and some are likely to see the warnings as reflecting official concern over the possible replay of a financial crisis.

Mr Adams, who was managing director of the Lindsey Group after leaving the government, succeeded Charles Dallara as IIF managing director.

Mr Adams noted at the time that he was appointed that the IIF "has developed a key role in many areas of global finance, and I am confident is poised to expand that role over the coming years as we face a period of unprecedented change".

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