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The Historical Origins of U.S. Exchange Market Intervention Policy

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  • Michael D. Bordo
  • Owen Humpage
  • Anna J. Schwartz

Abstract

The present set of arrangements for U.S. exchange market intervention policy was largely developed after 1961 during the Bretton Woods era. However, that set had important historical precedents. In this paper we examine precedents to current arrangements, focusing on three historical eras: pre-1934 operations; the Exchange Stabilization Fund operations beginning in 1934; and the Bretton Woods era. We describe operations by the Second Bank of the United States in the pre-Civil War period and then operations by the U.S. Treasury in the post-Civil War period. After establishment of the Federal Reserve in 1914, the New York Fed engaged in isolated exchange market policies in the 1920s and 1930s, first under the direction of the Governor Benjamin Strong until his death in 1928, thereafter, under the direction of his successor, George Harrison. We then examine operations of the Exchange Stabilization Fund that the Gold Reserve Act of 1934 created as a Treasury Department agency. We exploit unique unpublished sources to analyze its dealings with the Banque de France and the Bank of England before and after the Tripartite Agreement. Finally, based on a unique data set of all U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve foreign-exchange transactions, we discuss U.S. efforts from 1961 through 1972 to defend the dollar's parity under the Bretton Woods system.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael D. Bordo & Owen Humpage & Anna J. Schwartz, 2006. "The Historical Origins of U.S. Exchange Market Intervention Policy," NBER Working Papers 12662, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12662
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Allan H. Meltzer, 1991. "U.S. policy in the Bretton Woods era," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue May, pages 54-83.
    2. Leahy, Michael P, 1995. "The profitability of US intervention in the foreign exchange markets," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 14(6), pages 823-844, December.
    3. Michael Bordo & Anna J. Schwartz, 2001. "From the Exchange Stabilization Fund to the International Monetary Fund," NBER Working Papers 8100, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. B. Dianne Pauls, 1990. "U.S. exchange rate policy: Bretton Woods to present," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Nov, pages 891-908.
    5. Bordo, Michael D. & Schwartz, Anna J., 1999. "Under what circumstances, past and present, have international rescues of countries in financial distress been successful?," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 683-708, August.
    6. Schwartz, Anna J, 1997. "From Obscurity to Notoriety: A Biography of the Exchange Stabilization Fund," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 29(2), pages 135-153, May.
    7. Michael D. Bordo, 1993. "The Bretton Woods International Monetary System: A Historical Overview," NBER Chapters,in: A Retrospective on the Bretton Woods System: Lessons for International Monetary Reform, pages 3-108 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bordo, Michael D., 2012. "Could the United States have had a better central bank? An historical counterfactual speculation," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 597-607.
    2. Michael D. Bordo & David C. Wheelock, 2010. "The promise and performance of the Federal Reserve as lender of last resort 1914-1933," Working Papers 2010-036, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    3. Bordo, Michael D. & Macdonald, Ronald & Oliver, Michael J., 2009. "Sterling in crisis, 1964–1967," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 13(03), pages 437-459, December.
    4. Rockoff, Hugh & White, Eugene N., 2012. "Monetary Regimes and Policy on a Global Scale: The Oeuvre of Michael D. Bordo," MPRA Paper 49672, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised May 2013.
    5. Ronald McDonald & Xuxin Mao, 2016. "Japan's Currency Intervention Regimes: A Microstructural Analysis with Speculation and Sentiment," Working Papers 2016_06, Business School - Economics, University of Glasgow.
    6. Singleton,John, 2010. "Central Banking in the Twentieth Century," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521899093.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E42 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Monetary Sytsems; Standards; Regimes; Government and the Monetary System
    • N10 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - General, International, or Comparative

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