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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. 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.
  2. Frankel, Jeffrey A. & Rose, Andrew K., 1996. "Currency crashes in emerging markets: An empirical treatment," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(3-4), pages 351-366, November.
  3. Ricardo Caballero & Kevin Cowan & Jonathan Kearns, 2004. "Fear of Sudden Stops: Lessons from Australia and Chile," NBER Working Papers 10519, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. 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.
  5. Barry Eichengreen & Ricardo Hausmann, 1999. "Exchange rates and financial fragility," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 329-368.
  6. repec:nbr:nberwo:11173 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. 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.
  8. Luis Felipe Cespedes & Roberto Chang & Andres Velasco, 2000. "Balance Sheets and Exchange Rate Policy," NBER Working Papers 7840, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Michael D. Bordo & Marc Flandreau, 2001. "Core, Periphery, Exchange Rate Regimes, and Globalization," NBER Working Papers 8584, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Catherine A. Pattillo & Andrew Berg, 1998. "Are Currency Crises Predictable? a Test," IMF Working Papers 98/154, International Monetary Fund.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Morris Goldstein & Philip Turner, 2004. "Controlling Currency Mismatches in Emerging Markets," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 373.
  14. Flandreau, Marc, 2003. "Crises and Punishment: Moral Hazard and the Pre-1914 International Financial Architecture," CEPR Discussion Papers 3742, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  15. 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.
  16. Michael D. Bordo & Lars Jonung, 1996. "Monetary Regimes, Inflation And Monetary Reform: An Essay in Honor of Axel Leijonhufvud," Departmental Working Papers 199407, Rutgers University, Department of Economics.
  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.
  18. repec:rus:hseeco:124089 is not listed on IDEAS
  19. 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.
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