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The Role of Foreign Currency Debt in Financial Crises: 1880-1913 vs. 1972-1997

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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 compare the 1880 to 1913 period to recent experience. We examine debt crises, currency crises, banking crises and the interrelation between these varieties of crises. We pay special attention to the role of hard currency debt, currency mismatches and debt intolerance. We find fairly robust evidence that high exposure to foreign currency debt does not necessarily lead to a high chance of having a debt crisis, currency crisis, or a banking crisis. A key finding is some countries do not suffer from great financial fragility despite high exposure to original sin. In the nineteenth century, the British offshoots and Scandinavia generally avoided severe financial meltdowns while today many advanced countries have high original sin but have had few financial crises. The common denominator in both periods is that currency mismatches matter. A strong reserve position or high exports relative to hard currency liabilities helps decrease the 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 discuss the robustness of these results and make some general comparisons based on this evidence from over 60 years of intense international capital market integration.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11897.

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Date of creation: Dec 2005
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Publication status: published as Bordo, Michael D. & Meissner, Christopher M., 2006. "The role of foreign currency debt in financial crises: 1880-1913 versus 1972-1997," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 30(12), pages 3299-3329, December.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11897

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  1. Reuven Glick & Michael M. Hutchison, . "Banking and Currency Crises: How Common Are Twins?," EPRU Working Paper Series 99-20, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  2. Obstfeld, Maurice & Taylor, Alan M, 2003. "Sovereign Risk, Credibility and the Gold Standard: 1870-1913 versus 1925-31," CEPR Discussion Papers 3688, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. 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.
  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.
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  11. Morris Goldstein & Philip Turner, 2004. "Controlling Currency Mismatches in Emerging Markets," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 373.
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  13. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff & Miguel A. Savastano, 2003. "Debt Intolerance," NBER Working Papers 9908, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    • Reinhart, Carmen & Rogoff, Kenneth & Savastano, Miguel, 2003. "Debt intolerance," MPRA Paper 13932, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  14. Andrew Berg & Catherine Pattillo, 1999. "Are Currency Crises Predictable? A Test," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 46(2), pages 1.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. Reuven Glick & Ramon Moreno & Mark Spiegel, 2001. "Financial crises in emerging markets," FRBSF Economic Letter, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue mar.23.
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  19. 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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