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Sovereign external assets and the resilience of global imbalances

  • Gabriel Enrique Alberola

    ()

    (Banco de España)

  • José María Serena

    ()

    (Banco de España)

Sovereign external assets (SEAs) comprise foreign exchange reserves and sovereign wealth funds (SWFs). The global stock of reserves reached 7 $trn in the second quarter of 2008, but data on SWF are rather elusive. Our estimation puts the SWFs at around 2,5 $trn dollars by 2007 and in the last years they have grown at a high pace, fostered by high commodity prices. Therefore, SEAs have surpassed the 10 $trn mark (around 5% of global assets and 15% of global GDP). This paper argues that reserves and SWF assets should be jointly considered for the assessment of global imbalances. Both are official capital outflows from developing to developed countries, both hinder internal adjustment in current account surplus countries, both help to cover the financing needs of deficit countries, in particular in the US, and, therefore, both contribute to sustain global imbalances. The importance of SEAs in financing the external imbalances of the US has been widely recognised but scantly measured. Our rule-of-thumb calculations suggests that they have greatly increased their importance in the last years, having surpassed the US$ trillion increase in 2007; relative to US financing needs, this amount represents around a 135% and 50% of net and gross needs, respectively, in 2007. Reserves have in the last years contributed 80% and SWFs 20%.Looking ahead, two main conclusions can be put forward: 1) the relative importance SWFs in the financing of the US deficits and global imbalances is set to increase (also relative to reserves), but this is conditional to commodity prices remaining at high levels. On the one hand, the economic motivation of SWFs -intertemporal smoothing- is more palatable than that of reserves (exchange rate management), despite political concerns on SWFs; on the other hand, SWFs do not have significant internal costs, contrary to reserves, whose monetary and fiscal costs are increasing in the margin; 2) SEAs can well buttress US financial needs in the years ahead, providing resilience to the global imbalances. Dramatic shifts in the pace of SEAs accumulation -due for instance to an adjustment of commodity prices- or in the investment allocation would jeopardise these prospects.

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File URL: http://www.bde.es/f/webbde/SES/Secciones/Publicaciones/PublicacionesSeriadas/DocumentosTrabajo/08/Fic/dt0834e.pdf
File Function: First version, February 2009
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Paper provided by Banco de Espa�a in its series Banco de Espa�a Working Papers with number 0834.

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Length: 32 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bde:wpaper:0834
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  1. Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan & Laura Alfaro & Vadym Volosovych, 2003. "Why doesn’t Capital Flow from Rich to Poor Countries? An Empirical Investigation," Working Papers 2003-01, Department of Economics, University of Houston.
  2. Edwin M. Truman, 2007. "Sovereign Wealth Funds: The Need for Greater Transparency and Accountability," Policy Briefs PB07-6, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
  3. Chhaochharia, Vidhi & Laeven, Luc, 2008. "Sovereign Wealth Funds: Their Investment Strategies and Performance," CEPR Discussion Papers 6959, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Roland Beck & Michael Fidora, 2008. "The impact of sovereign wealth funds on global financial markets," Occasional Paper Series 91, European Central Bank.
  5. Enrique Alberola & José María Serena, 2007. "Global financial integration, monetary policy and reserve accumulation. Assessing the limits in emerging economies," Banco de Espa�a Working Papers 0706, Banco de Espa�a.
  6. Romain Ranciere & Olivier Jeanne, 2006. "The Optimal Level of International Reserves for Emerging Market Countries; Formulas and Applications," IMF Working Papers 06/229, International Monetary Fund.
  7. M S Mohanty & Philip Turner, 2005. "Intervention: what are the domestic consequences?," BIS Papers chapters, in: Bank for International Settlements (ed.), Foreign exchange market intervention in emerging markets: motives, techniques and implications, volume 24, pages 56-81 Bank for International Settlements.
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