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Action needed to boost confidence in global economy, IMF says

(L-R) Germany's Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, Swiss Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, China's Central Bank Governor Zhou Xiao
(L-R) Germany's Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, Swiss Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, China's Central Bank Governor Zhou Xiao

By Lesley Wroughton and Krista Hughes

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Global finance officials on Saturday said monetary policy alone was not enough to restore confidence in the shaky global economy as they urged countries to take other steps to reinvigorate growth and create jobs.

"We need to act decisively to nurture a sustainable recovery and restore the resilience of the global economy," the International Monetary Fund's steering committee said at the conclusion of the world lender's spring meeting.

Central banks in the biggest economies should continue their accommodative monetary policies amid an uneven and weak economic recovery, the International Monetary and Financial Committee said in a communiqué.

Easy-money initiatives alone, however, cannot be counted upon to provide sufficient stimulus, it said as it called for "credible" plans to tighten budgets over time and structural reforms to make economies more productive.

"The commodity that is in shortest supply now is confidence," Singaporean Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, chairman of the IMFC, told a news conference.

But in order to shore-up confidence, a range of policy actions were needed to nurse the recovery, he said.

"There is strong and common recognition that achieving growth and jobs cannot rest on one policy alone - there is no single bullet that will get us to normal growth and some normality with regard to jobs," said Tharman.

MINDING THE CENTRAL BANKS

Aggressive stimulus from central banks in the United States, Britain, the euro zone and now Japan has so far failed to spark a reliable recovery, and questions are already being raised over how much more monetary policy can - or should - do.

The head of China's central bank, Zhou Xiaochuan, told the IMF panel that "the marginal benefits and costs" of central bank policies in rich nations needed to be re-evaluated.

"Unconventional monetary policies alone cannot solve the structural problems faced by advanced economies," he said.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde told reporters the extraordinary efforts by these central banks were appropriate for now, but acknowledged the concerns of emerging countries about the potential for destabilizing capital flows and upward pressure on their currencies.

"We affirm our commitment to refrain from competitive devaluations and any form of trade and investment protectionism," the IMFC said, echoing a line from a communiqué issued on Friday by the Group of 20 leading economies.

Worries nations may try to seek a trade advantage by lowering the value of their currencies have been heightened by Japan's recent efforts to overcome years of deflation.

The Bank of Japan earlier this month pledged to pump $1.4 trillion into its economy, some of which is expected to find its way into emerging markets. In the days following the BOJ's announcement, for example, the Mexican peso jumped 2.5 percent against the dollar to its strongest level in 20 months.

Lagarde said the IMF would step up its efforts to monitor the spillover effects on emerging nations from the extraordinary monetary easing in the developed world to guard against the risk of asset bubbles forming in poorer countries.

"Prolonged easing could exacerbate the financial vulnerabilities and affect the stability of the international monetary system," Zhou warned the IMF committee.

(Writing by Dan Burns and Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Tim Ahmann)

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