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Financial Crises, 1880-1913: The Role of Foreign Currency Debt

In: The Decline of Latin American Economies: Growth, Institutions, and Crises

  • Michael D. Bordo
  • Christopher M. Meissner

What is the role of foreign currency debt in precipitating financial crises? In this paper we assemble data for nearly 30 countries between 1880 and 1913 and examine debt crises, currency crises, banking crises and twin crises. We pay special attention to the role of foreign currency and gold clause debt, currency mismatches and debt intolerance. We find fairly robust evidence that more foreign currency debt leads to a higher chance of having a debt crisis or a banking crisis. However, a key finding is that countries with noticeably different backgrounds, and strong institutions such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, and the US deftly managed their exposure to hard currency debt, generally avoided having too many crises and never had severe financial meltdowns. Moreover, a strong reserve position matched up to hard currency liabilities seems to be correlated with a lower likelihood of a debt crisis, currency crisis or a banking crisis. This strengthens the evidence for the hypothesis that foreign currency debt is dangerous when mis-managed. We also see that countries with previous default histories seem prone to debt crises even at seemingly low debt to revenue ratios. Finally we discuss the robustness of these results to local idiosyncrasies and the implications from this representative historical sample.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Sebastian Edwards & Gerardo Esquivel & Graciela Márquez, 2007. "The Decline of Latin American Economies: Growth, Institutions, and Crises," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number edwa04-1, July.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 10655.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:10655
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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    1. Michael D. Bordo & Marc Flandreau, 2001. "Core, Periphery, Exchange Rate Regimes, and Globalization," NBER Working Papers 8584, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Eichengreen, Barry, 1997. "The Baring Crisis in a Mexican Mirror," Center for International and Development Economics Research, Working Paper Series qt81j7s02s, Center for International and Development Economics Research, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
    3. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff & Miguel A. Savastano, 2003. "Debt Intolerance," NBER Working Papers 9908, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Andrew Berg & Catherine Pattillo, 1999. "Are Currency Crises Predictable? A Test," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 46(2), pages 1.
    5. Charles W. Calomiris, 1992. "Greenback Resumption and Silver Risk: The Economics and Politics of Monetary Regime Change in the United States, 1862-1900," NBER Working Papers 4166, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Barry Eichengreen & Muge Adalet, 2005. "Current Account Reversals: Always a Problem?," NBER Working Papers 11634, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. John Komlos, . "Financial Innovation and the Demand for Money in Austria-Hungary, 1867-1913," Articles by John Komlos 33, Department of Economics, University of Munich.
    8. Obstfeld, Maurice & Taylor, Alan M., 2003. "Sovereign Risk, Credibility and the Gold Standard: 1870-1913 versus 1925-31," CEPR Discussion Papers 3688, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. repec:rus:hseeco:124089 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Barry Eichengreen & Ricardo Hausmann, 1999. "Exchange Rates and Financial Fragility," NBER Working Papers 7418, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Tattara, Giuseppe, 2003. "Paper money but a gold debt: Italy on the gold standard," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 122-142, April.
    12. Jeffrey A. Frankel & Andrew K. Rose, 1996. "Currency crashes in emerging markets: an empirical treatment," International Finance Discussion Papers 534, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    13. Meissner, Christopher M., 2005. "A new world order: explaining the international diffusion of the gold standard, 1870-1913," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 385-406, July.
    14. Flandreau, Marc & Jobst, Clemens, 2005. "The Ties that Divide. A Network Analysis of the International Monetary System," CEPR Discussion Papers 5129, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    15. Jonathan Kearns & Ricardo J. Caballero & Kevin Cowan, 2004. "Fear of Sudden Stops: lessons from Australia and Chile," Econometric Society 2004 Latin American Meetings 185, Econometric Society.
    16. Bordo, Michael D. & Jonung, Lars, 1994. "Monetary Regimes, Inflation and Monetary Reform: An Essay in Honor of Axel Leijonhufvud," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 16, Stockholm School of Economics.
    17. Luis Felipe Cespedes & Roberto Chang & Andres Velasco, 2000. "Balance Sheets and Exchange Rate Policy," NBER Working Papers 7840, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Flandreau, Marc & Le Cacheux, Jacques & Zumer, Frédéric, 1998. "Stability Without a Pact? Lessons from the European Gold Standard 1880-1914," CEPR Discussion Papers 1872, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    19. Zamagni Vera, 1999. "Una rettifica," Rivista di storia economica, Società editrice il Mulino, issue 3, pages 339-342.
    20. Barry Eichengreen & Ricardo Hausmann & Ugo Panizza, 2003. "Currency Mismatches, Debt Intolerance and Original Sin: Why They Are Not the Same and Why it Matters," NBER Working Papers 10036, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    21. Michael A. Clemens & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2004. "Wealth bias in the first global capital market boom, 1870-1913," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(495), pages 304-337, 04.
    22. Michael Bordo & Barry Eichengreen & Daniela Klingebiel & Maria Soledad Martinez-Peria, 2001. "Is the crisis problem growing more severe?," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 16(32), pages 51-82, 04.
    23. Michael D. Bordo & Christopher Meissner & Angela Redish, 2003. "How "Original Sin" was Overcome: The Evolution of External Debt Denominated in Domestic Currencies in the United States and the British Dominions," NBER Working Papers 9841, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    24. repec:rus:hseeco:123922 is not listed on IDEAS
    25. John Komlos & Marc Flandreau, . "Core or Periphery? The Credibility of the Austro-Hungarian Currency, 1867-1913," Articles by John Komlos 4, Department of Economics, University of Munich.
    26. Morris Goldstein & Philip Turner, 2004. "Controlling Currency Mismatches in Emerging Markets," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 373.
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