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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. Aart Kraay & Jaume Ventura, 2007. "The Dot-Com Bubble, the Bush Deficits, and the U.S. Current Account," NBER Chapters, in: G7 Current Account Imbalances: Sustainability and Adjustment, pages 457-496 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. 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.
  3. Reuven Glick & Kenneth Rogoff, 1992. "Global versus country-specific productivity shocks and the current account," Working Papers in Applied Economic Theory 92-06, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
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  7. Kenneth Rogoff & William Brainard & George Perry, . "Global Current Account Imbalances and Exchange Rate Adjustments," Working Paper 33687, Harvard University OpenScholar.
  8. Henning Bohn, 2005. "The Sustainability of Fiscal Policy in the United States," CESifo Working Paper Series 1446, CESifo Group Munich.
  9. Ricardo J. Caballero & Emmanuel Farhi & Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, 2006. "An Equilibrium Model of "Global Imbalances" and Low Interest Rates," NBER Working Papers 11996, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Gianluca Benigno & Christoph Thoenissen, 2002. "Equilibrium exchange rates and supply-side performance," Bank of England working papers 156, Bank of England.
  11. 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.
  12. Maurice Obstfeld and Kenneth Rogoff., 2000. "The Six Major Puzzles in International Macroeconomics: Is There a Common Cause?," Center for International and Development Economics Research (CIDER) Working Papers C00-112, University of California at Berkeley.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
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  16. David Backus & Espen Henriksen & Frederic Lambert & Chris Telmer, 2005. "Current Account Fact and Fiction," 2005 Meeting Papers 115, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  17. 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.
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  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. repec:tcd:wpaper:tep16 is not listed on IDEAS
  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. Richard H. Clarida & Manuela Goretti & Mark P. Taylor, 2007. "Are There Thresholds of Current Account Adjustment in the G7?," NBER Chapters, in: G7 Current Account Imbalances: Sustainability and Adjustment, pages 169-204 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. Kenneth Rogoff, 1996. "The Purchasing Power Parity Puzzle," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(2), pages 647-668, June.
  27. 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.
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