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Intertemporal Consumption Smoothing and Capital Mobility: Evidence from Australia

This paper examines the optimality of international capital flows to Australia, a persistent net importer of capital, during its post-capital controls period 1984-99. The evolution of Australia's current account balance is compared against a benchmark derived from an optimising model of intertemporal consumption smoothing. The consumption-smoothing approach to the determination of the current account implies that international capital flows act as a buffer to smooth aggregate consumption in the face of temporary shocks to the economic fundamentals: changes in national cash flow (that is, changes in the level of output, investment or government spending). It is found that in the early 1990s a structural break occurred in the relationship between consumption and national cash flow, which coincides with a switch from debt-financing to equity-financing of the current account deficit. In the decade of the 1990s following this structural break (and unlike the decade of the 1980s which preceded this break), international capital flows to Australia implied a path for consumption which was broadly consistent with expected-utility maximisation under the consumption-smoothing model of the current account. Copyright 2002 by Blackwell Publishers Ltd/University of Adelaide and Flinders University of South Australia

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Article provided by Wiley Blackwell in its journal Australian Economic Papers.

Volume (Year): 41 (2002)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: 82-98

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Handle: RePEc:bla:ausecp:v:41:y:2002:i:1:p:82-98
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