As Global Bailout Efforts Increase, All Eyes on Washington

Even as nonstop efforts continue around the globe to contain the worldwide financial-credit crisis, there’s a sense of anticipation as the Group of Seven finance ministers and central bank heads meet in Washington starting today.In a press conference as talks began in D.C., IMF chief Dominic Strauss-Kahn called for a temporary guarantee of all interbank deposits. “This means not only retail bank deposits, but probably also interbank and money market deposits, so that activity may restart in these key markets.”Even so, hopes were not high that the G-7 would truly unify their efforts. The finance ministers of France and Germany both emphasized that market solutions will likely differ from country to country.The big ongoing story is the massive injections of funding by central banks into their nations’ troubled economies. The European Central Bank and Bank of England injected a combined $132 billion of short-term liquidity into that continent’s banking system. Here in the States, in its role as a lender of last resort, the Federal Reserve has been lending an average of $420 billion a day — a record — to commercial banks. The Bank of Japan injected a record 4.5 trillion yen ($45.5 billion) in same-day funding. Also in Japan, Yamato Life Insurance Co., established in 1889 and holding policies valued at more than 34 billion yen, filed for bankruptcy today.The Reserve Bank of Australia tried to get ahead of the curve by injecting A$2.63 billion ($1.8 billion) into the banking system, or about A$790 million more than the projected need. This crisis had long been foretold, at least since about 2004, by New York University economic professor Nouriel Roubini. He has been writing that the U.S. is vulnerable to financial collapse, based on excessive borrowing from overseas, rising oil prices and softening home values. In September 2006, he famously warned the International Monetary Fund that a plausible sequence of events could bring the U.S., and then the world’s, financial system to the brink of disaster.In one of his most recent warnings, Roubini wrote, “At this point severe damage is done and one cannot rule out a systemic collapse and a global depression. It will take a significant change in leadership of economic policy and very radical, coordinated policy actions among all advanced and emerging market economies to avoid this economic and financial disaster.” Some of the “urgent and immediate necessary actions” he listed:* Another prompt round of global policy rate cuts averaging at least 150 basis points. * A temporary blanket guarantee of all deposits. * “Triage” to separate “insolvent financial institutions that need to be shut down and distressed but solvent institutions that need to be partially nationalized with injections of public capital is made.” * A temporary freeze on all residential foreclosures.* Efforts to inject liquidity into solvent financial institutions and solvent parts of the corporate sector “to avoid a short-term debt refinancing crisis for solvent but illiquid corporations and small businesses.” * “Massive direct government fiscal stimulus packages” to include public works, infrastructure spending, unemployment benefits, tax rebates to lower-income households and grants to struggling state and local government. At least (so far) Roubini isn’t saying, “Told you so!” But the well-regarded economist clearly did.In advance of the G-7 meeting this afternoon, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was in bilateral talks this morning with Russia and other nations.In other developments, a statement from today’s meeting of the G-7 finance ministers is slated to be released at 6 p.m. Eastern time, and President Bush is scheduled to address the directors of the International Monetary Fund tomorrow.