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Current Account Deficits in Industrial Countries: The Bigger They Are, The Harder They Fall?

In: G7 Current Account Imbalances: Sustainability and Adjustment

  • Caroline Freund
  • Frank Warnock

There are a number of worrisome features of the U.S. current account deficit. In particular, its size and persistence, the extent to which it is financing consumption as opposed to investment, and the reliance on debt inflows raise concerns about the likelihood of a sharp adjustment. We examine episodes of current account adjustment in industrial countries to assess the validity of these concerns. Our main findings are (i) larger deficits take longer to adjust and are associated with significantly slower income growth (relative to trend) during the current account recovery than smaller deficits, (ii) consumption-driven current account deficits involve significantly larger depreciations than deficits financing investment, and (iii) there is little evidence that deficits in economies that run persistent deficits, have large net foreign debt positions, experience greater short-term capital flows, or are less open are accommodated by more extensive exchange rate adjustment or slower growth. Our findings are consistent with earlier work showing that, in general, current account adjustment tends to be associated with slow income growth and a real depreciation. Overall, our results support claims that the size of the current account deficit and the extent to which it is financing consumption matter for adjustment.

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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, September.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 0130.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:0130
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    1. 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.
    2. Maurice Obstfeld & Kenneth Rogoff, 2004. "The Unsustainable US Current Account Position Revisited," NBER Working Papers 10869, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. John D. Burger & Francis E. Warnock, 2004. "Foreign participation in local-currency bond markets," International Finance Discussion Papers 794, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    4. Barry Eichengreen & Ricardo Hausmann, 1999. "Exchange Rates and Financial Fragility," NBER Working Papers 7418, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Menzie David Chinn & Eswar S Prasad, 2000. "Medium-Term Determinants of Current Accounts in Industrial and Developing Countries; An Empirical Exploration," IMF Working Papers 00/46, International Monetary Fund.
    6. Gian Maria Milesi Ferretti & Assaf Razin, 2000. "Current Account Reversals and Currency Crises: Empirical Regularities," NBER Chapters, in: Currency Crises, pages 285-323 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. C. Fred Bergsten & John Williamson (ed.), 2004. "Dollar Adjustment: How Far? Against What?," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number sr17.
    8. Frankel, Jeffrey A. & Rose, Andrew K., 1996. "Currency crashes in emerging markets: An empirical treatment," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(3-4), pages 351-366, November.
    9. Francis E. Warnock & Veronica Cacdac Warnock, 2006. "International Capital Flows and U.S. Interest Rates," NBER Working Papers 12560, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Barry Eichengreen & Muge Adalet, 2005. "Current Account Reversals: Always a Problem?," NBER Working Papers 11634, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Philip R. Lane & Gian Maria Milesi-Ferretti, 2005. "Financial Globalisation and Exchange Rates," The Institute for International Integration Studies Discussion Paper Series iiisdp044, IIIS.
    12. Guy Debelle & Gabriele Galati, 2007. "Current Account Adjustment and Capital Flows," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(5), pages 989-1013, November.
    13. Caroline L. Freund, 2000. "Current account adjustment in industrialized countries," International Finance Discussion Papers 692, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    14. Hilary Croke & Steven B. Kamin & Sylvain Leduc, 2005. "Financial market developments and economic activity during current account adjustments in industrial economies," International Finance Discussion Papers 827, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    15. Freund, Caroline, 2005. "Current account adjustment in industrial countries," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 24(8), pages 1278-1298, December.
    16. Sebastian Edwards, 2002. "Does the Current Account Matter?," NBER Chapters, in: Preventing Currency Crises in Emerging Markets, pages 21-76 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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