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Financial Crises, 1880–1913: The Role of Foreign Currency Debt

In: The Decline of Latin American Economies: Growth, Institutions, and Crises

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  • Michael D. Bordo
  • Christopher M. Meissner

Abstract

What is the role of foreign currency debt in precipitating financial crises? In this paper we assemble data for nearly 30 countries between 1880 and 1913 and examine debt crises, currency crises, banking crises and twin crises. We pay special attention to the role of foreign currency and gold clause debt, currency mismatches and debt intolerance. We find fairly robust evidence that more foreign currency debt leads to a higher chance of having a debt crisis or a banking crisis. However, a key finding is that countries with noticeably different backgrounds, and strong institutions such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, and the US deftly managed their exposure to hard currency debt, generally avoided having too many crises and never had severe financial meltdowns. Moreover, a strong reserve position matched up to hard currency liabilities seems to be correlated with a lower likelihood of a debt crisis, currency crisis or a banking crisis. This strengthens the evidence for the hypothesis that foreign currency debt is dangerous when mis-managed. We also see that countries with previous default histories seem prone to debt crises even at seemingly low debt to revenue ratios. Finally we discuss the robustness of these results to local idiosyncrasies and the implications from this representative historical sample.

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This chapter was published in:

  • Sebastian Edwards & Gerardo Esquivel & Graciela Márquez, 2007. "The Decline of Latin American Economies: Growth, Institutions, and Crises," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number edwa04-1, May.
    This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 10655.

    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:10655

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    13. Meissner, Christopher M., 2005. "A new world order: explaining the international diffusion of the gold standard, 1870-1913," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 385-406, July.
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    Cited by:
    1. Chee-Keong Choong, 2012. "Does domestic financial development enhance the linkages between foreign direct investment and economic growth?," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 42(3), pages 819-834, June.
    2. Christopher M. Meissner & Alan M. Taylor, 2006. "Losing our marbles in the new century?: the great rebalancing in historical perspective," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 51.
    3. Michael Bordo & David Stuckler & Chris Meissner, 2009. "Foreign Currency Debt, Financial Crises and Economic Growth: A Long Run View," Working Papers 921, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
    4. Bordo, Michael & Hargreaves, David & Kida, Mizuho, 2011. "Global shocks, economic growth and financial crises: 120 years of New Zealand experience," Financial History Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 18(03), pages 331-355, December.
    5. Filippo Cesarano & Giulio Cifarelli & Gianni Toniolo, 2009. "Exchange Rate Regimes and Reserve Policy on the Periphery: The Italian Lira 1883-1911," Working Papers - Economics wp2009_11.rdf, Universita' degli Studi di Firenze, Dipartimento di Scienze per l'Economia e l'Impresa.
    6. Balteanu, Irina & Erce, Aitor, 2014. "Bank Crises and Sovereign Defaults in Emerging Markets: Exploring the Links," Globalization and Monetary Policy Institute Working Paper 184, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
    7. Michael D. Bordo & Alberto F. Cavallo & Christopher M. Meissner, 2007. "Sudden Stops: Determinants and Output Effects in the First Era of Globalization, 1880-1913," NBER Working Papers 13489, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Chiţu, Livia, 2012. "Was unofficial dollarisation/euroisation an amplifier of the 'Great Recession' of 2007-09 in emerging economies," Working Paper Series 1473, European Central Bank.

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