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Sudden stops in the euro area

  • Silvia Merler
  • Jean Pisani-Ferry

The single currency was expected to make balance of payments irrelevant between the euro-area member states. This benign view has been challenged by recent developments, especially as imbalances between euro-area central banks have widened within the TARGET2 settlement system. Current-account developments can be misleading as indicators of financial account developments in countries that receive significant official support. Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain experienced significant private-capital inflows from 2002 to 2007-09, followed by unambiguously massive outflows. We show that such reversals qualify as â??sudden stopsâ??. Euro-area sudden-stop episodes were clustered in three periods: the global financial crisis, a period following the agreement of the Greek programme and summer 2011. The timeline suggests contagion effects were present. We find evidence of substitution of the private capital flows with public components. In particular, weak banks in distressed countries took up a major share of the central bank refinancing. The steady divergence of intra Eurosystem net balances mirrors this. In the short term, TARGET2 imbalances could be addressed by tightening collateral requirements for central bank liquidity. For the longer term, the evidence that the euro area has been subject to internal balance-of-payment crises should be taken as a strong signal of weakness and as an invitation to reform its structures.

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Paper provided by Bruegel in its series Policy Contributions with number 718.

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Date of creation: Mar 2012
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Handle: RePEc:bre:polcon:718
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  1. Sinn, Hans-Werner & Wollmershäuser, Timo, 2012. "Target loans, current account balances and capital flows: The ECB’s rescue facility," Munich Reprints in Economics 19556, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  2. Guillermo A. Calvo & Alejandro Izquierdo & Luis Fernando Mejía, 2004. "On the Empirics of Sudden Stops: The Relevance of Balance-Sheet Effects," Research Department Publications 4367, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
  3. Silvia Merler & Jean Pisani-Ferry, 2012. "Who's afraid of sovereign bonds?," Policy Contributions 695, Bruegel.
  4. Ulrich Bindseil & Philipp Johann König, 2012. "TARGET2 and the European Sovereign Debt Crisis," Credit and Capital Markets, Credit and Capital Markets, vol. 45(2), pages 135–174.
  5. Whittaker, John, 2011. "Intra-eurosystem debts," MPRA Paper 38368, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  6. Bindseil, Ulrich & Winkler, Adalbert, 2012. "Dual liquidity crises under alternative monetary frameworks: a financial accounts perspective," Working Paper Series 1478, European Central Bank.
  7. Jean Pisani-Ferry & André Sapir & Benedicta Marzinotto, 2010. "Two crises, two responses," Policy Briefs 392, Bruegel.
  8. Hans-Werner Sinn, 2012. "The European Balance of Payments Crisis: An Introduction," CESifo Forum, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 13(SPECIALIS), pages 03-10, 02.
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