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The role of savings and investment in balancing the current account: some empirical evidence from the United States

  • Giovanni P. Olivei

Current account deficits ultimately reflect a disparity between a country's national savings and investment. As such, the issue of how current account balance is achieved in practice can be viewed in terms of whether it is savings or investment that adjusts to an external deficit. In this article, the author examines empirically how savings and investment have responded to current account imbalances in the United States over the past 40 years. The main finding is that, on average, investment was largely responsible for rebalancing the current account in the long run. The finding that investment has borne the largest fraction of the external adjustment conforms with the view that, in the long run, the national savings rate constrains a country's rate of investment. Thus, in a situation with outstanding net external debt, low levels of national savings ultimately imply low levels of domestic investment. To the extent that one views net additions of capital as essential for a country's future growth prospects, low savings may signify a reduction in future standards of living.

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Article provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Boston in its journal New England Economic Review.

Volume (Year): (2000)
Issue (Month): Jul ()
Pages: 3-14

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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedbne:y:2000:i:jul:p:3-14
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  1. Obstfeld, Maurice & Rogoff, Kenneth, 1995. "The intertemporal approach to the current account," Handbook of International Economics, in: G. M. Grossman & K. Rogoff (ed.), Handbook of International Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 34, pages 1731-1799 Elsevier.
  2. Ahmed, S. & Rogers, J.H., 1993. "Government Budget Deficits and Trade Deficits: Are Present Value Constraints Satisfied in Long-Term Data?," Papers 5-93-6, Pennsylvania State - Department of Economics.
  3. Henning Bohn, . "Budget Balance Through Revenue or Spending Adjustments ? Some Historical Evidence for the United States (Reprint 013)," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 03-91, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  4. Martin Feldstein & Charles Horioka, 1979. "Domestic Savings and International Capital Flows," NBER Working Papers 0310, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Martin Feldstein, 1992. "The Budget and Trade Deficits Aren't Really Twins," NBER Working Papers 3966, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Reuven Glick & Kenneth Rogoff, 1992. "Global Versus Country-Specific Productivity Shocks and the Current Account," NBER Working Papers 4140, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Sidney S. Alexander, 1952. "Effects of a Devaluation on a Trade Balance," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 2(2), pages 263-278, April.
  8. Catherine L. Mann, 1999. "Is the U.S. Trade Deficit Sustainable?," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 47, March.
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