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What Can Account for Fluctuations in the Terms of Trade?

  • Marianne Baxter


    (Institute for Economic Development, Boston University)

  • Michael A. Kouparitsas

    (Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago)

Fluctuations in the terms of trade the price of a country’s exports relative to the price of its imports are a source of perennial concern to policymakers in developing countries and industrialized nations alike. Terms of trade growth is extremely volatile and can lead to sudden changes in a country’s economic health. This paper seeks to understand the sources of fluctuations in the terms of trade. We decompose a country’s terms of trade volatility into a component stemming from differences in the composition of import baskets and export baskets, which we define as a goods price effect, and a component due to cross-country differences in the price of a particular class of goods, which we call a country price effect. We ask whether the decomposition depends in a clear way on country characteristics-developed vs. less-developed; exporter of manufactured goods vs. exporter of fuels or other commodities? Our goal in this paper is twofold. First, we provide new evidence on the sources of terms of trade volatility that should be of use to policymakers, Seconds, the stylized facts that emerge from this analysis will provide guidance for economists seeking to build better models of interdependent economies.

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Paper provided by Boston University - Department of Economics in its series Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series with number dp-112.

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Length: 27 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2000
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bos:iedwpr:dp-112
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  1. Rogers, J.H. & Jenkins, M.A., 1993. "Haircuts or Hysteresis? Sources of Movements in Real Exchange Rates," Papers 4-93-6, Pennsylvania State - Department of Economics.
  2. Engel, C., 1996. "Accounting for U.S. Real Exchange Rate Changes," Working Papers 96-02, University of Washington, Department of Economics.
  3. Engel, Charles, 1993. "Real exchange rates and relative prices : An empirical investigation," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 35-50, August.
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  5. Charles Engel & John H. Rogers, 1994. "How Wide is the Border?," NBER Working Papers 4829, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. David Backus & Patrick J. Kehoe & Finn E. Kydland, 1992. "Dynamics of the Trade Balance and the Terms of Trade: The S-Curve," NBER Working Papers 4242, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Hodrick, Robert J & Prescott, Edward C, 1997. "Postwar U.S. Business Cycles: An Empirical Investigation," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 29(1), pages 1-16, February.
  8. Knetter, Michael M, 1993. "International Comparisons of Price-to-Market Behavior," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 473-86, June.
  9. Backus, David K. & Crucini, Mario J., 2000. "Oil prices and the terms of trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 185-213, February.
  10. Michael A. Kouparitsas, 1996. "North-South business cycles," Working Paper Series, Macroeconomic Issues WP-96-9, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  11. In-Moo Kim & Prakash Loungani, 1991. "The role of energy in real business cycle models," Working Paper Series, Macroeconomic Issues 91-6, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  12. Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg & Michael M. Knetter, 1997. "Goods Prices and Exchange Rates: What Have We Learned?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(3), pages 1243-1272, September.
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