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IMF launches Global Housing Watch to keep track of markets across the world

Thursday, June 12th 2014 - 06:42 UTC
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IMF Deputy Managing Director Min Zhu linked understanding the drivers of house price cycles with economic stability IMF Deputy Managing Director Min Zhu linked understanding the drivers of house price cycles with economic stability

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) launched on Wednesday the Global Housing Watch, a webpage (www.imf.org/housing) dedicated to featuring its analysis on housing markets across the world. The page will provide a one-stop shop for the Fund’s Global House Price Index and other data on housing indicators.

 The launch is part of an initiative to highlight the IMF’s research on the housing sector and makes it accessible to all audiences. It also aims to promote cross-country collaboration in this field.

Housing is an essential sector of every country’s economy, but has also been a source of financial crises for institutions and countries.

“Understanding the drivers of house price cycles, and how to moderate these cycles, is important for economic stability. It is only by maintaining an open dialogue on these issues that we will gain a solid understanding of how policies can contain housing booms,” IMF Deputy Managing Director Min Zhu said in a blog post.

He added that while a recovery in the housing market is surely a welcome development, “we need to guard against another unsustainable boom. Housing is an essential sector of every country’s economy and has systemic implications, which is why we at the IMF are focusing on it not only in individual countries but on a cross-country basis”.

However the task is difficult for a couple of reasons. First, assessing when house prices are out of line with economic fundamentals is as much art as science. Second, the policy toolkit to manage housing cycles is still under construction.

The Global Housing Watch is a compilation of average housing prices in different countries that allows a global perspective and cross-country comparisons. It also includes charts that provide a benchmark comparison of house prices to incomes and rents.

The website will be updated regularly, including through a quarterly report starting in July that will feature other indicators and analysis. “This is the launch of an initiative, not the end point,” said Prakash Loungani, Advisor in the IMF Research Department in an IMF Survey Interview.

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