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Should Larger Reserve Holdings Be More Diversified?


  • Roland Beck
  • Sebastian Weber


The notable increase in international reserve holdings over the past decade and their use during the global financial crisis of 2008/2009 has sparked renewed interest in the analysis of the optimal level of reserve holdings, in particular in countries which are subject to sudden stops. Less attention has been given to the optimal composition of reserves and even less to the joint determination of level and composition. In light of current developments, we show that despite the common belief that higher reserve levels should go along with higher diversification to minimize the opportunity costs from holding reserves, the opposite may even be true. It depends on the factors that stand behind the increase in reserves whether increased diversification is optimal or not. We estimate for a panel of 20 countries the determinants of the currency composition of reserves and show how it is affected by the different motives of reserve accumulation. In line with the recent literature on reserve levels we find that reserve accumulation is primarily driven by precautionary motives, which in turn underpins the allocation of reserves to safe assets. While we find primarily evidence of the allocation being a function of precautionary motives, we also find some weak evidence for reserve accumulation to lead to more diversified portfolios if reserve accumulation is driven by other factors than precautionary motives. JEL Classification: F31, F33, E42, G11
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Suggested Citation

  • Roland Beck & Sebastian Weber, 2011. "Should Larger Reserve Holdings Be More Diversified?," International Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 14(3), pages 415-444, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:intfin:v:14:y:2011:i:3:p:415-444

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Filardo, Andrew J. & Siklos, Pierre L., 2013. "Prolonged reserves accumulation, credit booms, asset prices and monetary policy in Asia," BOFIT Discussion Papers 5/2013, Bank of Finland, Institute for Economies in Transition.
    2. Zhichao Zhang & Frankie Chau & Li Xie, 2013. "Accumulation of large foreign reserves in China: a behavioural perspective," Economic Change and Restructuring, Springer, vol. 46(1), pages 85-108, March.
    3. Seghezza, Elena & Morelli, Pierluigi & Pittaluga, Giovanni B., 2017. "Reserve accumulation and exchange rate policy in China: The authoritarian elite's aim of political survival," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 163-174.
    4. Cova, Pietro & Pagano, Patrizio & Pisani, Massimiliano, 2016. "Foreign exchange reserve diversification and the “exorbitant privilege”: Global macroeconomic effects," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 82-101.
    5. Zhichao Zhang & Li Ding & Fan Zhang & Zhuang Zhang, 2015. "Optimal Currency Composition for China's Foreign Reserves: A Copula Approach," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(12), pages 1947-1965, December.
    6. Marie Brière & Valérie Mignon & Kim Oosterlinck & Ariane Szafarz, 2016. "Towards greater diversification in central bank reserves," Journal of Asset Management, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 17(4), pages 295-312, July.
    7. Kathryn M.E. Dominguez & Rasmus Fatum & Pavel Vacek, 2013. "Do Sales of Foreign Exchange Reserves Lead to Currency Appreciation?," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 45(5), pages 867-890, August.
    8. Beck, Roland & Rahbari, Ebrahim, 2011. "Optimal reserve composition in the presence of sudden stops," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 30(6), pages 1107-1127, October.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F31 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Foreign Exchange
    • F33 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Monetary Arrangements and Institutions
    • E42 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Monetary Sytsems; Standards; Regimes; Government and the Monetary System
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions


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