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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. Obstfeld, Maurice & Rogoff, Kenneth S, 2005. "The Unsustainable US Current Account Position Revisited," Center for International and Development Economics Research, Working Paper Series qt4f63x50j, Center for International and Development Economics Research, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  2. Kenneth Rogoff & William Brainard & George Perry, . "Global Current Account Imbalances and Exchange Rate Adjustments," Working Paper 33687, Harvard University OpenScholar.
  3. Reuven Glick & Kenneth Rogoff, 1993. "Global Versus Country-Specific Productivity Shocks and the Current Acocount," Boston University - Institute for Economic Development 31, Boston University, Institute for Economic Development.
  4. Philip Lane & Gian Maria Milesi-Ferreti, 2005. "A Global Perspective on External Positions," Trinity Economics Papers tep16, Trinity College Dublin, Department of Economics.
  5. Gourinchas, Pierre-Olivier & Rey, Hélène, 2005. "From World Banker to World Venture Capitalist: US External Adjustment and The Exorbitant Privilege," CEPR Discussion Papers 5220, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. 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.
  7. Gianluca Benigno & Christoph Thoenissen, 2003. "Equilibrium Exchange Rates and Supply-Side Performance," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(486), pages C103-C124, March.
  8. Richard H. Clarida & Manuela Goretti & Mark P. Taylor, 2006. "Are There Thresholds of Current Account Adjustment in the G7?," NBER Working Papers 12193, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. 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.
  10. Olivier Blanchard & Francesco Giavazzi & Filipa Sa, 2005. "The U.S. Current Account and the Dollar," NBER Working Papers 11137, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Maurice Obstfeld & Kenneth Rogoff & Ben Bernanke & Kenneth Rogoff, . "The Six Major Puzzles in International Macroeconomics: Is there a Common Cause?," Working Paper 32326, Harvard University OpenScholar.
  12. Charles Engel & John H. Rogers, 2006. "The U.S. Current Account Deficit and the Expected Share of World Output," NBER Working Papers 11921, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Hamid Faruqee & Douglas Laxton & Dirk Muir & Paolo Pesenti, 2005. "Smooth landing or crash? model based scenarios of global current account rebalancing," Proceedings, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  14. William G. Gale & Peter R. Orszag, 2004. "Budget Deficits, National Saving, and Interest Rates," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 35(2), pages 101-210.
  15. Eric M. Engen & R. Glenn Hubbard, 2004. "Federal Government Debt and Interest Rates," NBER Working Papers 10681, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Henning Bohn, 2005. "The Sustainability of Fiscal Policy in the United States," CESifo Working Paper Series 1446, CESifo Group Munich.
  17. 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.
  18. R. Glenn Hubbard & Eric M. Engen, 2004. "Federal Government Debt and Interest Rates," Working Papers 50018, American Enterprise Institute.
  19. Maurice Obstfeld & Kenneth Rogoff, 2001. "Perspectives on OECD Economic Integration: Implications for US Current Account Adjustment," International Trade 0012004, EconWPA.
  20. 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.
  21. Henning Bohn, 1998. "The Behavior Of U.S. Public Debt And Deficits," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(3), pages 949-963, August.
  22. repec:tcd:wpaper:tep16 is not listed on IDEAS
  23. David Backus & Espen Henriksen & Frederic Lambert & Christopher Telmer, 2009. "Current Account Fact and Fiction," NBER Working Papers 15525, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. 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.
  25. Bohn, Henning, 2007. "Are stationarity and cointegration restrictions really necessary for the intertemporal budget constraint?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(7), pages 1837-1847, October.
  26. Kenneth Rogoff, 1996. "The Purchasing Power Parity Puzzle," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(2), pages 647-668, June.
  27. 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.
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