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Explaining the global pattern of current account imbalances

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  • Joseph W. Gruber
  • Steven B. Kamin
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    Abstract

    This paper assesses some of the explanations that have been put forward for the global pattern of current account imbalances that has emerged in recent years: in particular, the large U.S. current account deficit and the large surpluses of the Asian developing economies. Based on the approach developed by Chinn and Prasad (2003), we use data for 61 countries during 1982-2003 to estimate panel regression models for the ratio of the current account balance to GDP. We find that a model that includes as its explanatory variables the standard determinants of current accounts proposed in the literature-–per capita income, relative growth rates, the fiscal balance, demographic variables, and economic openness-–can account for neither the large U.S. deficit nor large Asian surpluses of the 1997-2003 period. However, when we include a variable representing financial crises, which might be expected to restrain domestic demand and boost the current account balance, the model explains much of developing Asia’s swing into surplus since 1997. Even so, the model cannot explain why the capital outflows associated with Asia’s current account surpluses were channeled primarily into the U.S. economy. Observers have pointed to strong growth performance and a favorable institutional environment as elements attracting foreign investment into the United States, and we found strong evidence that good performance in these areas significantly reduces the current account balance. While a model incorporating these factors still fails to predict the large U.S. current account deficit (and, in fact, predicts a slight surplus), it does predict a U.S. current account balance that is relatively weaker than the aggregate balance of developing Asia.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series International Finance Discussion Papers with number 846.

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    Date of creation: 2005
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    Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgif:846

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    Keywords: Balance of payments ; Capital movements ; International finance;

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    References

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    1. Christopher Erceg & Luca Guerrieri, 2005. "Expansionary Fiscal Shocks and the Trade Deficit," Computing in Economics and Finance 2005 128, Society for Computational Economics.
    2. Lane, Philip R. & Milesi-Ferretti, Gian Maria, 1999. "The External Wealth of Nations: Measures of Foreign Assets and Liabilities for Industrial and Developing Countries," CEPR Discussion Papers 2231, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Reuven Glick & Kenneth Rogoff, 1993. "Global versus country-specific productivity shocks and the current account," International Finance Discussion Papers 443, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    4. Michael Dooley & David Folkerts-Landau & Peter Garber, 2005. "An essay on the revived Bretton Woods system," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Feb.
    5. Menzie D. Chinn & Eswar S. Prasad, 2000. "Medium-Term Determinants of Current Accounts in Industrial and Developing Countries: An Empirical Exploration," NBER Working Papers 7581, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Chinn, Menzie, 2002. "Incomes, Exchange Rates and the U.S. Trade Deficit, Once Again," Center for Global, International and Regional Studies, Working Paper Series qt0tc442fc, Center for Global, International and Regional Studies, UC Santa Cruz.
    7. Steven Kamin, 2005. "The revived Bretton Woods system: does it explain developments in non-China developing Asia?," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Feb.
    8. Reinhart, Carmen & Kaminsky, Graciela & Lizondo, Saul, 1998. "Leading Indicators of Currency Crises," MPRA Paper 6981, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Olivier Blanchard & Francesco Giavazzi, 2002. "Current Account Deficits in the Euro Area: The End of the Feldstein Horioka Puzzle?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 33(2), pages 147-210.
    10. Catherine L. Mann, 1999. "Is the U.S. Trade Deficit Sustainable?," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 47, July.
    11. Alan G. Ahearne & William L. Griever & Francis E. Warnock, 2000. "Information costs and home bias: an analysis of U.S. holdings of foreign equities," International Finance Discussion Papers 691, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    12. Gruber, Joseph W., 2004. "A present value test of habits and the current account," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(7), pages 1495-1507, October.
    13. Edwin Truman, 2005. "Budget and external deficits: not twins but the same family," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Feb.
    14. William R. Cline, 2005. "United States as a Debtor Nation, The," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 3993, July.
    15. Menzie D. Chinn & Hiro Ito, 2005. "Current Account Balances, Financial Development and Institutions: Assaying the World "Savings Glut"," NBER Working Papers 11761, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Bussière, Matthieu & Fratzscher, Marcel & Müller, Gernot J., 2004. "Current accounts dynamics in OECD and EU acceding countries - an intertemporal approach," Working Paper Series 0311, European Central Bank.
    17. Sebastian Edwards, 2005. "Is the U.S. Current Account Deficit Sustainable? And If Not, How Costly is Adjustment Likely To Be?," NBER Working Papers 11541, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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