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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

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  • Caroline Freund
  • Frank Warnock

Abstract

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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Suggested Citation

  • Caroline Freund & Frank Warnock, 2007. "Current Account Deficits in Industrial Countries: The Bigger They Are, The Harder They Fall?," NBER Chapters,in: G7 Current Account Imbalances: Sustainability and Adjustment, pages 133-168 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:0130
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Burger, John D. & Warnock, Francis E., 2007. "Foreign participation in local currency bond markets," Review of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 291-304.
    2. Chinn, Menzie D. & Prasad, Eswar S., 2003. "Medium-term determinants of current accounts in industrial and developing countries: an empirical exploration," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(1), pages 47-76, January.
    3. Maurice Obstfeld & Kenneth Rogoff, 2007. "The Unsustainable U.S. Current Account Position Revisited," NBER Chapters,in: G7 Current Account Imbalances: Sustainability and Adjustment, pages 339-376 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    5. 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.
    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.
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    9. 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.).
    10. Barry Eichengreen & Ricardo Hausmann, 1999. "Exchange rates and financial fragility," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 329-368.
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    12. Francis E. Warnock & Veronica C. Warnock, 2005. "International Capital Flows and U.S. Interest Rates," The Institute for International Integration Studies Discussion Paper Series iiisdp103, IIIS.
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    16. 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.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F3 - International Economics - - International Finance
    • F4 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance

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