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Technology capital and the U.S. current account

  • Ellen R. McGrattan
  • Edward C. Prescott

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) estimates the return on investments of foreign subsidiaries of U.S. multinational companies over the period 1982?2006 averaged 9.4 percent annually after taxes; U.S. subsidiaries of foreign multinationals averaged only 3.2 percent. Two factors distort BEA returns: technology capital and plant-specific intangible capital. Technology capital is accumulated know-how from intangible investments in R&D, brands, and organizations that can be used in foreign and domestic locations. Used abroad, it generates profits for foreign subsidiaries with no foreign direct investment (FDI). Plant-specific intangible capital in foreign subsidiaries is expensed abroad, lowering current profits on FDI and increasing future profits. We develop a multicountry general equilibrium model with an essential role for FDI and apply the BEA?s methodology to construct economic statistics for the model economy. We estimate that mismeasurement of intangible investments accounts for over 60 percent of the difference in BEA returns.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its series Staff Report with number 406.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmsr:406
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  1. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Hélène Rey, 2007. "From World Banker to World Venture Capitalist: U.S. External Adjustment and the Exorbitant Privilege," NBER Chapters, in: G7 Current Account Imbalances: Sustainability and Adjustment, pages 11-66 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Ellen R. McGrattan & Edward C. Prescott, 2007. "Openness, technology capital, and development," Working Papers 651, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  3. Ellen R. McGrattan & Edward C. Prescott, 2005. "Taxes, regulations, and the value of U.S. and U.K. corporations," Staff Report 309, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  4. Edward Prescott & Ellen McGrattan, 2007. "Technology Capital and the U.S. Current Account," 2007 Meeting Papers 90, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  5. Maurice Obstfeld & Kenneth Rogoff, 2007. "The Unsustainable U.S. Current Account Position Revisited," NBER Chapters, in: G7 Current Account Imbalances: Sustainability and Adjustment, pages 339-376 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Alessandra Fogli & Fabrizio Perri, 2006. "The "Great Moderation" and the US External Imbalance," NBER Working Papers 12708, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Carol Corrado & Charles Hulten & Daniel Sichel, 2005. "Measuring Capital and Technology: An Expanded Framework," NBER Chapters, in: Measuring Capital in the New Economy, pages 11-46 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Mendoza, Enrique G & Quadrini, Vincenzo & Ríos-Rull, José-Víctor, 2007. "Financial Integration, Financial Deepness and Global Imbalances," CEPR Discussion Papers 6149, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Ellen R. McGrattan & Edward C. Prescott, 2003. "Average Debt and Equity Returns: Puzzling?," Levine's Working Paper Archive 506439000000000367, David K. Levine.
  10. Caballero, Ricardo J. & Farhi, Emmanuel & Gourinchas, Pierre-Olivier, 2008. "An Equilibrium Model of "Global Imbalances" and Low Interest Rates," Scholarly Articles 3229094, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  11. David Backus & Espen Henriksen & Frederic Lambert & Chris Telmer, 2005. "Current Account Fact and Fiction," 2005 Meeting Papers 115, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  12. Benjamin Bridgman, 2009. "Do Intangible Assets Explain High U.S. Foreign Direct Investment Returns?," 2009 Meeting Papers 373, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  13. Stephanie E. Curcuru & Tomas Dvorak & Francis E. Warnock, 2008. "Cross-Border Returns Differentials," NBER Working Papers 13768, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Demsetz, Harold, 1979. "Accounting for Advertising as a Barrier to Entry," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(3), pages 345-60, July.
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  21. repec:nbr:nberbk:corr05-1 is not listed on IDEAS
  22. Stephanie E. Curcuru & Tomas Dvorak & Francis E. Warnock, 2008. "Cross-Border Returns Differentials," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(4), pages 1495-1530.
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