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External Imbalances and Financial Crises

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  • Alan M. Taylor

Abstract

In broad perspective, there have been essentially two competing views of the global financial crisis, albeit there are some complementarities among them. One view looks across the border: it mainly blames external imbalances, the large-scale mix of unprecedented pattern current account deficits and surpluses which entailed massive and growing net and gross international financial flows in the last decade. The alternative view looks within the border: it finds more fault in the domestic arena of the afflicted countries, attributing the problems to financial systems where risks originated in excessive credit booms in local banks. This paper uses the lens of macroeconomic and financial history to confront these dueling hypotheses with evidence. Of the two, the credit boom explanation stands out as the most plausible predictor of financial crises since the dawn of modern finance capitalism in the late nineteenth century. Historically, we find that global imbalances are not as important as a factor in financial crises as is often perceived, and they have much less correlation with subsequent episodes of financial distress compared to direct indicators like credit drawn from the financial system itself.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18606.

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Date of creation: Dec 2012
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18606

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  1. Moritz Schularick & Alan M. Taylor, 2012. "Credit Booms Gone Bust: Monetary Policy, Leverage Cycles, and Financial Crises, 1870-2008," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(2), pages 1029-61, April.
  2. Moritz Schularick & Paul Wachtel, 2012. "The Making of America’s Imbalances," INET Research Notes 8, Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET).
  3. Claessens, Stijn & Kose, M. Ayhan & Terrones, Marco E., 2012. "How do business and financial cycles interact?," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(1), pages 178-190.
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  5. Giovanni Dell'Ariccia & Pau Rabanal & Christopher W. Crowe & Deniz Igan, 2011. "Policies for Macrofinancial Stability," IMF Staff Discussion Notes 11/02, International Monetary Fund.
  6. Òscar Jordà & Moritz HP. Schularick & Alan M. Taylor, 2011. "When Credit Bites Back: Leverage, Business Cycles, and Crises," NBER Working Papers 17621, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Enrico Berkes & Ugo Panizza & Jean-Louis Arcand, 2012. "Too Much Finance?," IMF Working Papers 12/161, International Monetary Fund.
  8. Reinhart, Carmen & Kaminsky, Graciela, 1999. "The twin crises: The causes of banking and balance of payments problems," MPRA Paper 14081, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  9. Carmen M. Reinhart & Vincent R. Reinhart, 2010. "After the fall," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 17-60.
  10. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 8973.
  11. Mathias Drehmann & Claudio Borio & Kostas Tsatsaronis, 2011. "Anchoring countercyclical capital buffers: the role of credit aggregates," BIS Working Papers 355, Bank for International Settlements.
  12. Maurice Obstfeld, 2012. "Does the Current Account Still Matter?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(3), pages 1-23, May.
  13. Carmen M. Reinhart & Vincent R. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2012. "Debt Overhangs: Past and Present," NBER Working Papers 18015, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Stijn Claessens & Giovanni Dell'Ariccia & Deniz Igan & Luc Laeven, 2010. "Cross-country experiences and policy implications from the global financial crisis," Economic Policy, CEPR & CES & MSH, vol. 25, pages 267-293, 04.
  15. Òscar Jordà & Moritz Schularick & Alan M. Taylor, 2010. "Financial Crises, Credit Booms, and External Imbalances: 140 Years of Lessons," NBER Working Papers 16567, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Douglas Sutherland & Peter Hoeller, 2013. "Growth-promoting Policies and Macroeconomic Stability," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1091, OECD Publishing.
  2. Douglas Sutherland & Peter Hoeller, 2014. "Growth Policies and Macroeconomic Stability," OECD Economic Policy Papers 8, OECD Publishing.
  3. Christopher L. Colvin & Abe de Jong & Philip T. Fliers, 2013. "Predicting the Past: Understanding the Causes of Bank Distress in the Netherlands in the 1920s," Working Papers 0035, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).

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