Financial Globalization in Reverse?

WASHINGTON, DC – For three decades, financial globalization had seemed inevitable. New information technologies made it possible to conduct transactions halfway around the world in the blink of an eye. Savers gained the ability to diversify, while the largest borrowers could tap global pools of capital. As national financial markets grew more intertwined, cross-border capital flows rose from $0.5 trillion in 1980 to a peak of $11.8 trillion in 2007.

But the 2008 crisis exposed the dangers, with the globalized financial system’s intricate web of connections becoming a conduit for contagion. Cross-border capital flows abruptly collapsed. Almost five years later, they remain 60% below their pre-crisis peak.

This pullback in cross-border activity has been accompanied by muted growth in global financial assets (despite the recent rallies in stock markets around the world). Global financial assets have grown by just 1.9% annually since the crisis, down from 7.9% average annual growth from 1990 to 2007.

Should the world be worried by this decline in cross-border capital flows and slowdown in financing? Yes and no.