12 Oct 2008

Financial crisis sparks meeting of euro zone leaders

10:07 pm on 12 October 2008

Leaders of euro zone countries hold an emergency meeting in Paris on Sunday to try and establish a common approach to the financial crisis.

Government officials have suggested action rather than talk could emerge from the first such gathering of the so-called Eurogroup, hastily arranged by French President Nicolas Sarkozy after stock markets around the world plunged last week.

The meeting of the 15 countries which use the euro as their currency comes on the heels of a G7 summit of rich nations in Washington which offered no concrete, collective action but promised to do whatever was needed to unfreeze credit markets.

France's finance minister said their meeting would "follow up and execute upon" a five-point plan agreed by the group of seven industrialised nations.

Christine Lagarde said the summit would put "meat" on the plan's "skeleton".

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown is due to hold talks with Mr Sarkozy ahead of the eurozone summit, having promised Britain will "lead the way" through the global financial crisis.

As the UK has not adopted the euro, Mr Brown had not been due to take part in the meeting of eurozone leaders but a Downing Street spokesman said the French president had invited him to attend part of it.

IMF warns of financial meltdown

Earlier, the International Monetary Fund warned that debt-ridden banks are pushing the world's financial system to the brink of meltdown and rich nations had so far failed to restore confidence.

Finance leaders and private financiers from the 185-nation International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank have been holding their annual meetings.

Panic has swept through global markets in recent weeks, driving stocks to a five-year low on Friday and prompting banks to hoard cash.

That has choked off lending to businesses and households, threatening to turn a global economic slowdown into a dangerously deep recession.

"Intensifying solvency concerns about a number of the largest US-based and European financial institutions have pushed the global financial system to the brink of systemic meltdown," said IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

The IMF has claimed progress in implementing an agreed tightening of rules.

Bank of Italy governor Mario Draghi, who heads the Financial Stability Forum, said recommendations accepted in April this year by the Group of Seven industrialised countries are being pushed through despite the upheaval.

These include measures to strengthen standards and oversight of bank capital and liquidity, risk management, and valuation and accounting regimes.

"We must have less debt and more capital," Mr Draghi said at a news conference on Saturday.

Meanwhile, US President George Bush, who huddled with G7 economic chiefs and officials from the IMF and World Bank, said top industrial nations would work together to solve the crisis.

Mr Bush said Washington was working as fast as possible to implement a $US700 billion financial bailout package approved a week ago.

"As these actions take effect, they will help restore stability to our markets and confidence to our financial institutions."

US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson says the risks to the global economy are "the most serious and challenging in recent memory".

G7 issues brief statement

Finance ministers and central bankers from the rich Group of Seven industrialised countries met in Washington on Friday.

In a surprisingly brief statement after a meeting that lasted less than four hours, the G7 said the current situation calls for urgent and exceptional action.

They unveiled a five-point plan to counter the world financial crisis, including the use of "all available tools" to support key institutions.

The plan also calls for action, where appropriate, to restart secondary markets for mortgages and other securitised assets.

The G7 vowed to take all necessary steps to unfreeze credit markets and ensure banks can raise money, but its members offered no specifics on a collective course of action to avert recession.

They also stopped short of backing a British plan to guarantee lending between banks, something many on Wall Street saw as vital to end growing market panic.

The G7 talks came at the end of a week in which stock markets in Europe, Asia and the United States lost as much as 20% of their value.