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Current Account Sustainability and Relative Reliability

In: NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2008

  • Stephanie E. Curcuru
  • Charles P. Thomas
  • Francis E. Warnock

The sustainability of the large and persistent U.S. current account deficits is one of the biggest issues currently being confronted by international macroeconomists. Some very plausible theories suggest that the substantial global imbalances can continue in a benign manner, other equally plausible theories predict a disorderly resolution, and in general it is very difficult to discern between competing theories. To inform the debates, we view competing theories through the perspective of the relative reliability of the data the theories rely on. Our analysis of the dark matter theory is cursory; from a relative reliability perspective, it fails as it is built on the assumption that an item that is largely unmeasured is the most accurate component of the entire set of international accounts. Similarly, the best data currently available suggest that U.S. returns differentials are much smaller than implied by the exorbitant privilege theory. Our analysis opens up questions about potential inconsistencies in the international accounts, which we address by providing rough estimates of various holes in the accounts.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Jeffrey Frankel & Christopher Pissarides, 2009. "NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2008," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number fran08-1, 07.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 8232.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:8232
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    1. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Hélène Rey, 2007. "From World Banker to World Venture Capitalist: U.S. External Adjustment and the Exorbitant Privilege," NBER Chapters, in: G7 Current Account Imbalances: Sustainability and Adjustment, pages 11-66 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Lane, Philip R. & Milesi-Ferretti, Gian Maria, 2009. "Where did all the borrowing go? A forensic analysis of the U.S. external position," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 177-199, June.
    3. Gian M Milesi-Ferretti & Philip R. Lane, 2005. "Financial Globalization and Exchange Rates," IMF Working Papers 05/3, International Monetary Fund.
    4. Frankel, Jeffrey, 2006. "Global Imbalances and Low Interest Rates: An Equilibrium Model vs. A Disequilibrium Reality," Working Paper Series rwp06-035, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    5. Owen A. Lamont & Jeremy C. Stein, 2004. "Aggregate Short Interest and Market Valuations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 29-32, May.
    6. John Kitchen, 2007. "Sharecroppers or Shrewd Capitalists? Projections of the US Current Account, International Income Flows, and Net International Debt," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(5), pages 1036-1061, November.
    7. Stephanie E. Curcuru & Tomas Dvorak & Francis E. Warnock, 2008. "Cross-Border Returns Differentials," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(4), pages 1495-1530.
    8. Pavlova, Anna & Rigobon, Roberto, 2010. "An asset-pricing view of external adjustment," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(1), pages 144-156, January.
    9. 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.
    10. Sebastian Edwards, 2005. "Is the U.S. Current Account Deficit Sustainable? And If Not, How Costly is Adjustment Likely To Be?," NBER Working Papers 11541, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Ralph H. Kozlow, 2006. "Statistical Issues Related to Global Economic Imbalances: Perspectives on "Dark Matter"," BEA Papers 0068, Bureau of Economic Analysis.
    12. Michele Cavallo & Cedric Tille, 2006. "Could capital gains smooth a current account rebalancing?," 2006 Meeting Papers 252, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    13. Guy M Meredith, 2007. "Debt Dynamics and Global Imbalances; Some Conventional Views Reconsidered," IMF Working Papers 07/4, International Monetary Fund.
    14. Carol C. Bertaut & Steven B. Kamin & Charles P. Thomas, 2008. "How long can the unsustainable U.S. current account deficit be sustained?," International Finance Discussion Papers 935, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    15. John D. Burger & Francis E. Warnock, 2006. "Local Currency Bond Markets," NBER Working Papers 12552, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Christopher M. Meissner & Alan M. Taylor, 2006. "Losing our Marbles in the New Century? The Great Rebalancing in Historical Perspective," NBER Working Papers 12580, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Carol C. Bertaut & Ralph W. Tryon, 2007. "Monthly estimates of U.S. cross-border securities positions," International Finance Discussion Papers 910, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    18. John Ammer & Sara B. Holland & David C. Smith & Francis E. Warnock, 2006. "Look at Me Now: What Attracts U.S. Shareholders?," NBER Working Papers 12500, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    19. Ricardo Hausmann & Federico Sturzenegger, 2007. "The missing dark matter in the wealth of nations and its implications for global imbalances," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 22, pages 469-518, 07.
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