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The U.S. current account deficit and the expected share of world output

Listed author(s):
  • Engel, Charles
  • Rogers, John H.

We investigate the possibility that the large current account deficits of the U.S. are the outcome of optimizing behavior. We develop a simple long-run world equilibrium model in which the current account is determined by the expected discounted present value of its future share of world GDP relative to its current share of world GDP. The model suggests that under some reasonable assumptions about future U.S. GDP growth relative to the rest of the advanced countries--more modest than the growth over the past 20 years--the current account deficit is near optimal levels. We then explore the implications for the real exchange rate. Under some plausible assumptions, the model implies little change in the real exchange rate over the adjustment path, though the conclusion is sensitive to assumptions about tastes and technology. Then we turn to empirical evidence. A test of current account sustainability suggests that the U.S. is not keeping on a long-run sustainable path. A direct test of our model finds that the dynamics of the U.S. current account--the increasing deficits over the past decade--are difficult to explain under a particular statistical model (Markov-switching) of expectations of future U.S. growth. But, if we use survey data on forecasted GDP growth in the G7, our very simple model appears to explain the evolution of the U.S. current account remarkably well. We conclude that expectations of robust performance of the U.S. economy relative to the rest of the advanced countries is a contender--though not the only legitimate contender--for explaining the U.S. current account deficit.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Monetary Economics.

Volume (Year): 53 (2006)
Issue (Month): 5 (July)
Pages: 1063-1093

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Handle: RePEc:eee:moneco:v:53:y:2006:i:5:p:1063-1093
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505566

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  1. Maurice Obstfeld & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2005. "The unsustainable U.S. current account position revisited," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Feb.
  2. Maurice Obstfeld & Kenneth Rogoff, 2001. "The Six Major Puzzles in International Macroeconomics: Is There a Common Cause?," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2000, Volume 15, pages 339-412 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Caballero, Ricardo J & Farhi, Emmanuel & Gourinchas, Pierre-Olivier, 2006. "An Equilibrium Model of "Global Imbalances" and Low Interest Rates," Center for International and Development Economics Research, Working Paper Series qt7xc0g8mm, Center for International and Development Economics Research, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
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  8. repec:tcd:wpaper:tep16 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Charles Engel & John H. Rogers, 2006. "The U.S. current account deficit and the expected share of world output," International Finance Discussion Papers 856, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  10. Reuven Glick & Kenneth Rogoff, 1992. "Global versus country-specific productivity shocks and the current account," Working Papers in Applied Economic Theory 92-06, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  11. Bohn, Henning, 2007. "Are stationarity and cointegration restrictions really necessary for the intertemporal budget constraint?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(7), pages 1837-1847, October.
  12. Richard H. Clarida & Manuela Goretti & Mark P. Taylor, 2007. "Are There Thresholds of Current Account Adjustment in the G7?," NBER Chapters, in: G7 Current Account Imbalances: Sustainability and Adjustment, pages 169-204 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  17. Gianluca Benigno & Christoph Thoenissen, 2002. "Equilibrium exchange rates and supply-side performance," Bank of England working papers 156, Bank of England.
  18. Hamid Faruqee & Douglas Laxton & Dirk Muir & Paolo Pesenti, 2005. "Smooth Landing or Crash? Model-Based Scenarios of Global Current Account Rebalancing," NBER Working Papers 11583, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Jonathan A. Parker, 2000. "Spendthrift in America? On Two Decades of Decline in the U.S. Saving Rate," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1999, Volume 14, pages 317-387 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Gourinchas, Pierre-Olivier & Rey, Hélène, 2005. "From World Banker to World Venture Capitalist: US External Adjustment and the Exorbitant Privilege," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Docweb) 0606, CEPREMAP.
  21. Luca Guerrieri & Christopher Erceg, 2004. "Productivity Growth and the Trade Balance in the 1990s: the Role of Evolving Perceptions," 2004 Meeting Papers 719, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  22. R. Glenn Hubbard & Eric M. Engen, 2004. "Federal Government Debt and Interest Rates," AEI Economics Working Papers 50018, American Enterprise Institute.
  23. Kenneth Rogoff, 1996. "The Purchasing Power Parity Puzzle," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(2), pages 647-668, June.
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  26. Sebastian Edwards, 2005. "Is the U.S. Current Account Deficit Sustainable? And If Not, How Costly is Adjustment Likely To Be?," NBER Working Papers 11541, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  27. Edwin M. Truman, 2005. "Postponing Global Adjustment: An Analysis of the Pending Adjustment of Global Imbalances," Working Paper Series WP05-6, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
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