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Dynamics of the trade balance and the terms of trade: the J-curve revisited

  • David Backus
  • Patrick Kehoe
  • Finn Kydland

We provide a new interpretation of the statistical relation between the trade balance and the terms of trade. This relation includes the J-curve, the tendency for trade balances to be negatively correlated with contemporaneous movements in the terms of trade, positively correlated with lagged movements. We document this property in international data and show that it arises, as well, in a two-country stochastic growth model. In the model trade dynamics result, in large part, from fluctuations in investment. A favorable productivity shock in the domestic economy leads to an increase in domestic output, a decrease in its relative price, and a rise in the terms of trade. The increase in domestic productivity also leads to a temporary investment boom. This boom results in an initial trade deficit, followed by future surpluses, and thus a J-curve. We also use the model to provide a new perspective on earlier theories of trade and price dynamics.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its series Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics with number 65.

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Date of creation: 1992
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmem:65
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  1. David K. Backus & Patrick J. Kehoe & Finn E. Kydland, 1991. "International real business cycles," Staff Report 146, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  2. Richard Baldwin & Paul R. Krugman, 1986. "Persistent Trade Effects of Large Exchage Rate Shocks," NBER Working Papers 2017, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:97:y:1982:i:2:p:251-70 is not listed on IDEAS
  4. Alan C. Stockman & Lars E.O. Svensson, 1985. "Capital Flows, Investment, and Exchange Rates," NBER Working Papers 1598, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Maurice Obstfeld, 1981. "Aggregate Spending and the Terms of Trade: Is There a Laursen-Metzler Effect?," NBER Working Papers 0686, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Stockman, Alan C & Tesar, Linda L, 1995. "Tastes and Technology in a Two-Country Model of the Business Cycle: Explaining International Comovements," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 168-85, March.
  7. John Whalley, 1984. "Trade Liberalization among Major World Trading Areas," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262231204, June.
  8. Rose, Andrew K. & Yellen, Janet L., 1989. "Is there a J-curve?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 53-68, July.
  9. Helen B. Junz & Rudolf R. Rhomberg, 1973. "Price competitiveness in export trade among industrial countries," International Finance Discussion Papers 22, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  10. Maurice Obstfeld, 1988. "Fiscal Deficits and Relative Prices in a Growing World Economy," NBER Working Papers 2725, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Svensson, Lars E O & Razin, Assaf, 1983. "The Terms of Trade and the Current Account: The Harberger-Laursen-Metzler Effect," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(1), pages 97-125, February.
  12. Mendoza, Enrique G, 1991. "Real Business Cycles in a Small Open Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(4), pages 797-818, September.
  13. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1982. "Time to Build and Aggregate Fluctuations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(6), pages 1345-70, November.
  14. Junz, Helen B & Rhomberg, Rudolf R, 1973. "Price Competitiveness in Export Trade Among Industrial Countries," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(2), pages 412-18, May.
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