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The financial crisis and sizable international reserves depletion: From 'fear of floating' to the 'fear of losing international reserves'?

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  • Joshua Aizenman
  • Yi Sun

Abstract

In this paper we study the degree to which Emerging Markets (EMs) adjusted to the global liquidity crisis by drawing down their international reserves (IR). Overall, we find a mixed and complex picture. Intriguingly, only about half of the EMs depleted their IR as part of the adjustment mechanism. To gain further insight, we compare pre-crisis demand for IR of countries that experienced sizable IR depletion, to that of countries that did not, and find different patterns between the two groups. Trade related factors (such as trade openness, primary goods export ratio, especially large oil export) seem to play a significant role in accounting for the pre-crisis IR/GDP level of countries that experienced a sizable IR depletion during the first phase of crisis. Our findings suggest that countries that internalized their large exposure to trade shocks before the crisis, used their IR as a buffer stock in the first phase of the crisis. Their reserves losses followed an inverted logistical curve. After a rapid initial depletion of reverses, within seven months they reached a markedly declining rate of IR depletion, losing not more than one-third of their pre crisis IR. On the contrary, in case of countries that refrained from a sizable IR depletion during the first phase of crisis, financial factors seem more important than trade factors in explaining the initial IR/GDP level. Our results indicate that the adjustment of EMs was constrained more by their fear of losing IR than by their fear of floating.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15308.

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Date of creation: Oct 2009
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Publication status: published as “The financial crisis and sizable international reserves depletion: From 'fear of floating' to the 'fear of losing international reserves'?” (with Y. Sun) International Review of Economics and Finance, 2012, 24, pp. 250-269.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15308

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  1. Aizenman, Joshua & LEE, JAEWOO, 2005. "International Reserves: Precautionary versus Mercantilist Views, Theory and Evidence," Santa Cruz Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt44g3n2j8, Department of Economics, UC Santa Cruz.
  2. Guillermo A. Calvo & Carmen M. Reinhart, 2002. "Fear Of Floating," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(2), pages 379-408, May.
  3. Joshua Aizenman & Jaewoo Lee, 2008. "Financial versus Monetary Mercantilism: Long-run View of Large International Reserves Hoarding," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 31(5), pages 593-611, 05.
  4. Dani Rodrik, 2006. "The Social Cost of Foreign Exchange Reserves," NBER Working Papers 11952, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Sebastian Edwards, 1998. "Capital Flows, Real Exchange Rates, and Capital Controls: Some Latin American Experiences," NBER Working Papers 6800, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Kevin Cowan & José De Gregorio, 2007. "International Borrowing, Capital Controls, and the Exchange Rate: Lessons from Chile," NBER Chapters, in: Capital Controls and Capital Flows in Emerging Economies: Policies, Practices and Consequences, pages 241-296 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Guillermo A. Calvo, 1998. "Capital Flows and Capital-Market Crises: The Simple Economics of Sudden Stops," Journal of Applied Economics, Universidad del CEMA, vol. 0, pages 35-54, November.
  8. Yin-Wong Cheung & Xingwang Qian, 2009. "Hoarding of International Reserves: Mrs Machlup's Wardrobe and the Joneses," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 17(4), pages 824-843, 09.
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