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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, 07.
  • 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. Richard Portes & Helene Rey, 1998. "The Emergence of the Euro as an International Currency," NBER Working Papers 6424, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. 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).
    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. Menzie Chinn & Jeffrey Frankel, 2005. "Will the Euro Eventually Surpass the Dollar as Leading International Reserve Currency?," NBER Working Papers 11510, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Barry Eichengreen, 2004. "Global Imbalances and the Lessons of Bretton Woods," NBER Working Papers 10497, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Hélène Rey, 2007. "International Financial Adjustment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115(4), pages 665-703, 08.
    7. Lane, Philip R. & Milesi-Ferretti, Gian Maria, 2001. "The external wealth of nations: measures of foreign assets and liabilities for industrial and developing countries," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(2), pages 263-294, December.
    8. Barry Eichengreen & Muge Adalet, 2005. "Current Account Reversals: Always a Problem?," NBER Working Papers 11634, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. John Y. Campbell, 1998. "Asset Prices, Consumption, and the Business Cycle," NBER Working Papers 6485, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. 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.).
    11. 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.
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