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Large Hoarding of International Reserves and the Emerging Global Economic Architecture

  • Joshua Aizenman

This paper analyzes competing interpretations for the large increases in the hoarding of international reserves by developing countries. While the first phase of the rapid hoarding of reserves in the aftermath of the East Asian crisis has been dominated by self insurance against exposure to foreign shocks, the self insurance motive falls short of explaining the hoarding in Asia in the 2000s. These developments may be a symptom of an emerging new global financial architecture, which is manifested in the proliferation of decentralized and less cooperative arrangements. The emerging financial configuration of developing countries in the aftermath of the 1990s crises has been growing managed exchange rate flexibility, greater monetary independence, and deeper financial integration. Hoarding international reserves is a key ingredient enhancing the stability of this emerging configuration. While not a panacea, international reserves help by providing self insurance against sudden stops; mitigating REER effects of TOT shocks; smoothing overtime the adjustment to shocks by allowing more persistent current account patterns; and possibly even export promotion, though this mercantilist use of reserves remains debatable due to possible coordination issues. Countries following an export oriented growth strategy may end up with competitive hoarding, akin to competitive devaluations. The sheer size of China, and its lower sterilization costs suggests that China may be the winner of a hoarding game. Hoarding international reserves may also be motivated by a desire to deal with vulnerability to internal and external instability, which is magnified by exposure of the banking system to non performing loans. Testing the self insurance and precautionary motives in the context of China may be challenged by a version of the "peso problem." Hoarding international reserves and sterilization have been complementing each other during the last ten years, as developing countries have increased the intensity of both margins.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13277.

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Date of creation: Jul 2007
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Publication status: published as Joshua Aizenman, 2008. "Large Hoarding Of International Reserves And The Emerging Global Economic Architecture," Manchester School, University of Manchester, vol. 76(5), pages 487-503, 09.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13277
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  1. Yin-wong Cheung & XingWang Qian, 2007. "Hoarding of International Reserves: Mrs Machlup¡¦s Wardrobe and the Joneses," Working Papers 132007, Hong Kong Institute for Monetary Research.
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  9. Obstfeld, Maurice & Shambaugh, Jay C. & Taylor, Alan M., 2004. "The Trilemma in History: Tradeoffs among Exchange Rates, Monetary Policies, and Capital Mobility," Center for International and Development Economics Research, Working Paper Series qt4rq9v2rb, Center for International and Development Economics Research, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
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  11. Jaewoo Lee, 2004. "Insurance Value of International Reserves: An Option Pricing Approach," IMF Working Papers 04/175, International Monetary Fund.
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  18. Robert P. Flood & Nancy P. Marion, 2002. "Holding International Reserves in an Era of High Capital Mobility," IMF Working Papers 02/62, International Monetary Fund.
  19. Joshua Aizenman, 2004. "Financial Opening and Development: Evidence and Policy Controversies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 65-70, May.
  20. Joshua Aizenman & Nancy Marion, 2002. "The high demand for international reserves in the Far East: what's going on?," Pacific Basin Working Paper Series 2002-08, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  21. Barry J. Eichengreen & Inci Ötker & A. Javier Hamann & Esteban Jadresic & R. B. Johnston & Hugh Bredenkamp & Paul R. Masson, 1998. "Exit Strategies: Policy Options for Countries Seeking Exchange Rate Flexibility," IMF Occasional Papers 168, International Monetary Fund.
  22. Eichengreen, Barry, 1999. "Kicking the Habit: Moving from Pegged Rates to Greater Exchange Rate Flexibility," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(454), pages C1-14, March.
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  24. Jeffrey A. Frankel, 1999. "No Single Currency Regime is Right for All Countries or At All Times," NBER Working Papers 7338, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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