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The U.S. current account deficit and the expected share of world output

  • Charles Engel
  • John H. Rogers

We investigate the possibility that the large current account deficits of the U.S. are the outcome of optimizing behavior. We develop a simple long-run world equilibrium model in which the current account is determined by the expected discounted present value of its future share of world GDP relative to its current share of world GDP. The model suggests that under some reasonable assumptions about future U.S. GDP growth relative to the rest of the advanced countries -- more modest than the growth over the past 20 years -- the current account deficit is near optimal levels. We then explore the implications for the real exchange rate. Under some plausible assumptions, the model implies little change in the real exchange rate over the adjustment path, though the conclusion is sensitive to assumptions about tastes and technology. Then we turn to empirical evidence. A test of current account sustainability suggests that the U.S. is not keeping on a long-run sustainable path. A direct test of our model finds that the dynamics of the U.S. current account -- the increasing deficits over the past decade -- are difficult to explain under a particular statistical model (Markov-switching) of expectations of future U.S. growth. But, if we use survey data on forecasted GDP growth in the G7, our very simple model appears to explain the evolution of the U.S. current account remarkably well. We conclude that expectations of robust performance of the U.S. economy relative to the rest of the advanced countries is a contender -- though not the only legitimate contender -- for explaining the U.S. current account deficit.

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Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series International Finance Discussion Papers with number 856.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgif:856
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  1. Gourinchas, Pierre-Olivier & Rey, Hélène, 2005. "From World Banker to World Venture Capitalist: US External Adjustment and the Exorbitant Privilege," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Docweb) 0606, CEPREMAP.
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  3. Ricardo J. Caballero & Emmanuel Farhi & Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, 2008. "An Equilibrium Model of "Global Imbalances" and Low Interest Rates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 358-93, March.
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  8. David Backus & Espen Henriksen & Frederic Lambert & Christopher Telmer, 2009. "Current Account Fact and Fiction," NBER Working Papers 15525, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Engel, Charles & Rogers, John H., 2006. "The U.S. current account deficit and the expected share of world output," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(5), pages 1063-1093, July.
  10. Jonathan A. Parker, 1999. "Spendthrift in America? On Two Decades of Decline in the U.S. Saving Rate," NBER Working Papers 7238, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Aart Kraay & Jaume Ventura, 2005. "The Dot-Com Bubble, the Busch Deficits and the US Current Account," Working Papers 216, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  12. R. Glenn Hubbard & Eric M. Engen, 2004. "Federal Government Debt and Interest Rates," Working Papers 50018, American Enterprise Institute.
  13. Benigno, Gianluca & Christoph Thoenissen, 2002. "Equilibrium Exchange Rates and Supply Side Performance," Royal Economic Society Annual Conference 2002 19, Royal Economic Society.
  14. Obstfeld, Maurice & Rogoff, Kenneth, 2000. "Perspectives on OECD Economic Integration: Implications for US Current Account Adjustment," Center for International and Development Economics Research, Working Paper Series qt16z3s2s2, Center for International and Development Economics Research, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
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  21. repec:tcd:wpaper:tep16 is not listed on IDEAS
  22. Hamid Faruqee & Douglas Laxton & Dirk Muir & Paolo A. Pesenti, 2007. "Smooth Landing or Crash? Model-Based Scenarios of Global Current Account Rebalancing," NBER Chapters, in: G7 Current Account Imbalances: Sustainability and Adjustment, pages 377-456 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. 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.
  24. Eric M. Engen & R. Glenn Hubbard, 2004. "Federal Government Debt and Interest Rates," NBER Working Papers 10681, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  25. Luca Guerrieri & Christopher Erceg, 2004. "Productivity Growth and the Trade Balance in the 1990s: the Role of Evolving Perceptions," 2004 Meeting Papers 719, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  26. Edwin M. Truman, 2005. "Postponing Global Adjustment: An Analysis of the Pending Adjustment of Global Imbalances," Working Paper Series WP05-6, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
  27. Kenneth Rogoff, 1996. "The Purchasing Power Parity Puzzle," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(2), pages 647-668, June.
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