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Is the U.S. Current Account Deficit Sustainable? And If Not, How Costly is Adjustment Likely To Be?

  • Sebastian Edwards

In this paper I analyze the relationship between the U.S. dollar and the U.S. current account. I deal with issues of sustainability, and I discuss the mechanics of current account adjustment. The analysis presented in this paper differs from other work in several respects: First, I emphasis the dynamics of the current account adjustment, going beyond computations of the "required" real depreciation of the dollar to achieve sustainability. I show that even if foreigners' (net) demand for U.S. assets continues to increase significantly, the current account deficit is likely to experience a large decline in the (not too distant) future. Second, I rely on international evidence to explore the likelihood of an abrupt decline in capital flows into the U.S. And third, I analyze the international evidence on current account reversals, to investigate the potential consequences of a (possible) sudden stop of capital flows into the U.S. This analysis suggests that the future adjustment of the U.S. external accounts is likely to result in a significant reduction in growth.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11541.

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Date of creation: Aug 2005
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Publication status: published as Edwards, Sebvastian. "Is The U.S. Current Account Deficit Sustainable? If Not, How Costly Is Adjustment Likely To Be?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, 2005, v2005(1), 211-288.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11541
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  1. Lane, Philip R. & Milesi-Ferretti, Gian Maria, 2001. "The external wealth of nations: measures of foreign assets and liabilities for industrial and developing countries," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(2), pages 263-294, December.
  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. Cavallo, Eduardo A. & Frankel, Jeffrey A., 2008. "Does openness to trade make countries more vulnerable to sudden stops, or less? Using gravity to establish causality," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 27(8), pages 1430-1452, December.
  4. Choi, Chi-Young & Mark, Nelson C. & Sul, Donggyu, 2006. "Unbiased Estimation of the Half-Life to PPP Convergence in Panel Data," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 38(4), pages 921-938, June.
  5. Jeffrey D. Sachs & Andrew Warner, 1995. "Economic Reform and the Process of Global Integration," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 26(1, 25th A), pages 1-118.
  6. Sebastian Edwards, 2003. "Debt Relief and the Current Account: An Analysis of the HIPC Initiative," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 26(4), pages 513-531, 04.
  7. Guillermo A. Calvo & Alejandro Izquierdo & Luis-Fernando Mejía, 2004. "On the empirics of Sudden Stops: the relevance of balance-sheet effects," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Jun.
  8. Helene Rey & Pierre Olivier Gourinchas, 2005. "International Financial Adjustment," 2005 Meeting Papers 169, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  9. Caroline L. Freund, 2000. "Current account adjustment in industrialized countries," International Finance Discussion Papers 692, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  10. Cedric Tille, 2003. "The impact of exchange rate movements on U.S. foreign debt," Current Issues in Economics and Finance, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, vol. 9(Jan).
  11. Ricardo Caballero & Emmanuel Farhi & Mohamad L. Hammour, 2004. "Speculative Growth: Hints from the US Economy," NBER Working Papers 10518, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Philip Lane & Gian Maria Milesi-Ferretti, 2005. "International Investment Patterns," The Institute for International Integration Studies Discussion Paper Series iiisdp024, IIIS.
  13. Gian M Milesi-Ferretti & Assaf Razin, 1998. "Current Account Reversals and Currency Crises; Empirical Regularities," IMF Working Papers 98/89, International Monetary Fund.
  14. Jeffrey A. Frankel & C. Fred Bergsten & Michael L. Mussa, 1994. "Exchange Rate Policy," NBER Chapters, in: American Economic Policy in the 1980s, pages 293-366 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Michael P. Dooley & David Folkerts-Landau & Peter M. Garber, 2005. "Direct investment, rising real wages and the absorption of excess labor in the periphery," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Feb.
  16. Sebastian Edwards & Eduardo Levy Yeyati, 2003. "Flexible Exchange Rates as Shock Absorbers," NBER Working Papers 9867, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Eichengreen, Barry & Rose, Andrew K & Wyplosz, Charles, 1996. "Contagious Currency Crises," CEPR Discussion Papers 1453, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  18. Catherine L. Mann, 2004. "The US Current Account, New Economy Services, and Implications for Sustainability," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 12(2), pages 262-276, 05.
  19. Sebastian Edwards, 1999. "Crisis Prevention: Lessons from Mexico and East Asia," NBER Working Papers 7233, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. C. Fred Bergsten & John Williamson (ed.), 2003. "Dollar Overvaluation and the World Economy," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number sr16, January.
  21. Frankel, Jeffrey A. & Rose, Andrew K., 1996. "Currency crashes in emerging markets: An empirical treatment," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(3-4), pages 351-366, November.
  22. Agnès Bénassy-Quéré & Pascale Duran-Vigneron & Amina Lahrèche-Revil & Mignon, Valerie, 2004. "Burden Sharing and Exchange-Rate Misalignments within the Group of Twenty," Working Papers 2004-13, CEPII research center.
  23. 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.
  24. Taylor, Alan M., 2002. "A century of current account dynamics," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 21(6), pages 725-748, November.
  25. Michael P. Dooley & David Folkerts-Landau & Peter Garber, 2004. "The Revived Bretton Woods System: The Effects of Periphery Intervention and Reserve Management on Interest Rates & Exchange Rates in Center Countries," NBER Working Papers 10332, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. Aart Kraay & Jaume Ventura, 2002. "Current Accounts in the Long and Short Run," NBER Working Papers 9030, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  27. Hilary Croke & Steven B. Kamin & Sylvain Leduc, 2005. "Financial market developments and economic activity during current account adjustments in industrial economies," International Finance Discussion Papers 827, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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