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From World Banker to World Venture Capitalist: U.S. External Adjustment and the Exorbitant Privilege

In: G7 Current Account Imbalances: Sustainability and Adjustment

  • Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas
  • Hélène Rey

Does the center country of the International Monetary System enjoy an “exorbitant privilege” that significantly weakens its external constraint as has been asserted in some European quarters? Using a newly constructed dataset, we perform a detailed analysis of the historical evolution of US external assets and liabilities at market value since 1952. We find strong evidence of a sizeable excess return of gross assets over gross liabilities. Interestingly, this excess return increased after the collapse of the Bretton Woods fixed exchange rate system. It is mainly due to a “return discount”: within each class of assets, the total return (yields and capital gains) that the US has to pay to foreigners is smaller than the total return the US gets on its foreign assets. We also find evidence of a “composition effect”: the US tends to borrow short and lend long. As financial globalization accelerated its pace, the US transformed itself from a World Banker into a World Venture Capitalist, investing greater amounts in high yield assets such as equity and FDI. We use these findings to cast some light on the sustainability of the current global imbalances.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Richard H. Clarida, 2007. "G7 Current Account Imbalances: Sustainability and Adjustment," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number clar06-2, October.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 0121.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:0121
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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    1. Gourinchas, Pierre-Olivier & Rey, Hélène, 2005. "International Financial Adjustment," Center for International and Development Economics Research, Working Paper Series qt124628cx, Center for International and Development Economics Research, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
    2. Olivier Blanchard & Francesco Giavazzi & Filipa Sa, 2005. "International Investors, the U.S. Current Account, and the Dollar," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 36(1), pages 1-66.
    3. Michael P. Dooley & David Folkerts-Landau & Peter Garber, 2003. "An Essay on the Revived Bretton Woods System," NBER Working Papers 9971, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Chinn, Menzie David & Frankel, Jeffrey A., 2006. "Will the Euro Eventually Surpass the Dollar As Leading International Reserve Currency?," Santa Cruz Center for International Economics, Working Paper Series qt4hz4n9pb, Center for International Economics, UC Santa Cruz.
    5. Barry Eichengreen, 2005. "Global imbalances and the lessons of Bretton Woods," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Feb.
    6. G Alogoskoufis & R Portes & H Rey, 1998. "The Emergence of the Euro as an International Currency," CEP Discussion Papers dp0388, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    7. Muge Adalet & Barry Eichengreen, 2007. "Current Account Reversals: Always a Problem?," NBER Chapters, in: G7 Current Account Imbalances: Sustainability and Adjustment, pages 205-246 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Cedric Tille, 2003. "The impact of exchange rate movements on U.S. foreign debt," Current Issues in Economics and Finance, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, vol. 9(Jan).
    9. Sarah A. Hooker & John F. Wilson, 1989. "A reconciliation of flow of funds and Commerce Department statistics on U.S. international transactions and foreign investment position," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 84, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    10. Campbell, John Y., 1999. "Asset prices, consumption, and the business cycle," Handbook of Macroeconomics, in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 19, pages 1231-1303 Elsevier.
    11. Lane, Philip R. & Milesi-Ferretti, Gian Maria, 1999. "The External Wealth of Nations: Measures of Foreign Assets and Liabilities for Industrial and Developing Countries," CEPR Discussion Papers 2231, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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