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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, octubre-d.
    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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    1. Maurice Obstfeld & Alan M. Taylor, 2002. "Sovereign Risk, Credibility and the Gold Standard: 1870-1913 versus 1925-31," NBER Working Papers 9345, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Ricardo J. Caballero & Kevin Cowan & Jonathan Kearns, 2005. "Fear of Sudden Stops: Lessons from Australia and Chile," Research Department Publications 4363, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
    3. John Komlos, . "Financial Innovation and the Demand for Money in Austria-Hungary, 1867-1913," Articles by John Komlos 33, Department of Economics, University of Munich.
    4. Michael D. Bordo & Marc Flandreau, 2003. "Core, Periphery, Exchange Rate Regimes, and Globalization," NBER Chapters, in: Globalization in Historical Perspective, pages 417-472 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Tattara, Giuseppe, 2003. "Paper money but a gold debt: Italy on the gold standard," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 122-142, April.
    6. Bordo, Michael D. & Jonung, Lars, 1994. "Monetary Regimes, Inflation and Monetary Reform: An Essay in Honor of Axel Leijonhufvud," Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 16, Stockholm School of Economics.
    7. Muge Adalet & Barry Eichengreen, 2007. "Current Account Reversals: Always a Problem?," NBER Chapters, in: G7 Current Account Imbalances: Sustainability and Adjustment, pages 205-246 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Charles W. Calomiris, 1992. "Greenback Resumption and Silver Risk: The Economics and Politics of Monetary Regime Change in the United States, 1862-1900," NBER Working Papers 4166, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Michael A. Clemens & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2004. "Wealth bias in the first global capital market boom, 1870-1913," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(495), pages 304-337, 04.
    10. Flandreau, Marc & Le Cacheux, Jacques & Zumer, Frédéric, 1998. "Stability Without a Pact? Lessons from the European Gold Standard 1880-1914," CEPR Discussion Papers 1872, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    11. Michael D. Bordo & Christopher Meissner & Angela Redish, 2003. "How "Original Sin" was Overcome: The Evolution of External Debt Denominated in Domestic Currencies in the United States and the British Dominions," NBER Working Papers 9841, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Jeffrey A. Frankel & Andrew K. Rose, 1996. "Currency crashes in emerging markets: an empirical treatment," International Finance Discussion Papers 534, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    13. Barry Eichengreen., 1997. "The Baring Crisis in a Mexican Mirror," Center for International and Development Economics Research (CIDER) Working Papers C97-084, University of California at Berkeley.
    14. John Komlos & Marc Flandreau, . "Core or Periphery? The Credibility of the Austro-Hungarian Currency, 1867-1913," Articles by John Komlos 4, Department of Economics, University of Munich.
    15. Flandreau, Marc & Jobst, Clemens, 2005. "The Ties that Divide. A Network Analysis of the International Monetary System," CEPR Discussion Papers 5129, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    16. Michael Bordo & Barry Eichengreen & Daniela Klingebiel & Maria Soledad Martinez-Peria, 2001. "Is the crisis problem growing more severe?," Economic Policy, CEPR & CES & MSH, vol. 16(32), pages 51-82, 04.
    17. Luis Felipe Cespedes & Roberto Chang & Andres Velasco, 2000. "Balance Sheets and Exchange Rate Policy," NBER Working Papers 7840, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Morris Goldstein & Philip Turner, 2004. "Controlling Currency Mismatches in Emerging Markets," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 373.
    19. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff & Miguel A. Savastano, 2003. "Debt Intolerance," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 34(1), pages 1-74.
    20. 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.
    21. Barry Eichengreen & Ricardo Hausmann & Ugo Panizza, 2003. "Currency Mismatches, Debt Intolerance and Original Sin: Why They Are Not the Same and Why it Matters," NBER Working Papers 10036, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:
    1. Bordo, Michael D. & Cavallo, Alberto F. & Meissner, Christopher M., 2010. "Sudden stops: Determinants and output effects in the first era of globalization, 1880-1913," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(2), pages 227-241, March.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. Michael D. Bordo & David Hargreaves & Mizuho Kida, 2010. "Global shocks, economic growth and financial crises: 120 years of New Zealand experience," NBER Working Papers 16027, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.

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