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Financial Instability, Reserves, and Central Bank Swap Lines in the Panic of 2008

  • Maurice Obstfeld
  • Jay C. Shambaugh
  • Alan M. Taylor

In this paper we connect the events of the last twelve months, "The Panic of 2008" as it has been called, to the demand for international reserves. In previous work, we have shown that international reserve demand can be rationalized by a central bank's desire to backstop the broad money supply to avert the possibility of an internal/external double drain (a bank run combined with capital flight). Thus, simply looking at trade or short-term debt as motivations for reserve holdings is insufficient; one must also consider the size of the banking system (M2). Here, we show that a country's reserve holdings just before the current crisis, relative to their predicted holdings based on these financial motives, can significantly predict exchange rate movements of both emerging and advanced countries in 2008. Countries with large war chests did not depreciate -- and some appreciated. Meanwhile, those who held insufficient reserves based on our metric were likely to depreciate. Current account balances and short-term debt levels are not statistically significant predictors of depreciation once reserve levels are taken into account. Our model's typically high predicted reserve levels provide important context for the unprecedented U.S. dollar swap lines recently provided to many countries by the Federal Reserve.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14826.

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Date of creation: Mar 2009
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Publication status: published as Maurice Obstfeld & Jay C. Shambaugh & Alan M. Taylor, 2009. "Financial Instability, Reserves, and Central Bank Swap Lines in the Panic of 2008,"American Economic Review,American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 480-86, May.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14826
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  1. Joshua Aizenman & Jaewoo Lee, 2007. "International Reserves: Precautionary Versus Mercantilist Views, Theory and Evidence," Open Economies Review, Springer, vol. 18(2), pages 191-214, April.
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  3. Maurice Obstfeld & Jay C. Shambaugh & Alan M. Taylor, 2008. "Financial Stability, the Trilemma, and International Reserves," NBER Working Papers 14217, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  8. Guillermo A. Calvo & Enrique G. Mendoza, 1996. "Mexico's balance-of-payments crisis: a chronicle of death foretold," International Finance Discussion Papers 545, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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  10. Sachs, Jeffrey D., 1998. "Creditor panics: Causes and remedies," Research Notes 98-4, Deutsche Bank Research.
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  12. Klein, Michael W. & Shambaugh, Jay C., 2008. "The dynamics of exchange rate regimes: Fixes, floats, and flips," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 70-92, May.
  13. Olivier Jeanne, 2007. "International Reserves in Emerging Market Countries: Too Much of a Good Thing?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 38(1), pages 1-80.
  14. Sebastian Edwards, 2007. "Introduction to "Capital Controls and Capital Flows in Emerging Economies: Policies, Practices and Consequences"," NBER Chapters, in: Capital Controls and Capital Flows in Emerging Economies: Policies, Practices and Consequences, pages 1-18 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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