Eastern Europe, Latin America, and parts of Asia are in a massive currency contagion. Talk has surfaced that the IMF may need to “print money” as crisis spreads.

The International Monetary Fund may soon lack the money to bail out an ever growing list of countries crumbling across Eastern Europe, Latin America, Africa, and parts of Asia, raising concerns that it will have to tap taxpayers in Western countries for a capital infusion or resort to the nuclear option of printing its own money.

The Fund is already close to committing a quarter of its $200bn (£130bn) reserve chest, with a loans to Iceland ($2bn), Ukraine ($16.5bn), and talks underway with Pakistan ($14.5bn), Hungary ($10bn), as well as Belarus and Serbia.

Neil Schering, emerging market strategist at Capital Economics, said the IMF’s work in the great arc of countries from the Baltic states to Turkey is only just beginning. “When you tot up the countries across the region with external funding needs, you get to $500bn or $600bn very quickly, and that blows the IMF out of the water.

The IMF, led by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has the power to raise money on the capital markets by issuing `AAA’ bonds under its own name. It has never resorted to this option, preferring to tap members states for deposits.

The nuclear option is to print money by issuing Special Drawing Rights, in effect acting as if it were the world’s central bank. This was done briefly after the fall of the Soviet Union but has never been used as systematic tool of policy to head off a global financial crisis.

Hungary was forced to raise interest rates last week by 3 percentage points to 11.5pc to defend its currency peg in Europe’s Exchange Rate Mechanism. Even Denmark has had to tighten by a half point, raising fears that every country on the fringes of the eurozone will have resort to a deflationary squeeze.

The root problem is that Eastern Europe and Russia have together borrowed $1,600bn from foreign banks in euros and dollars to fund their catch-up growth spurt over the last five years, according to data from the Bank for International Settlements. These loans are now coming due at an alarming pace. Even rock-solid companies are having trouble rolling over debts.

Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said over the weekend that his country would not “darken its future by bowing to the wishes of the IMF”, but it is unclear how long Ankara can maintain its defiant stand as capital flight drains reserves.

Pakistan – now facing imminent bankruptcy – has also raised political hackles, balking at IMF demands for deep cuts in military spending as a condition for a standby loan. Diplomats say it is unlikely that the West will let the nuclear-armed Islamic state slip into chaos.

AAA rated IMF nuclear printing. Now there’s a joke. Who gets to make that rating call? What printing presses are backing up the IMF printing press?

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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