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A Forensic Analysis of Global Imbalances

  • Menzie D. Chinn
  • Barry Eichengreen
  • Hiro Ito

We examine whether the behavior of current account balances changed in the years preceding the global crisis of 2008-09, and assess the prospects for global imbalances in the post-crisis period. Changes in the budget balance are an important factor affecting current account balances for deficit countries such as the U.S. and the U.K. The effect of the "saving glut variables" on current account balances has been relatively stable for emerging market countries, suggesting that those factors cannot explain the bulk of their recent current account movements. We also find the 2006-08 period to constitute a structural break for emerging market countries, and to a lesser extent, for industrialized countries. We attribute the anomalous behavior of pre-crisis current account balances to stock market performance and real housing appreciation; fiscal procyclicality and the stance of monetary policy do not matter as much. Household leverage also appears to explain some of the standard model's prediction errors. Looking forward, U.S., fiscal consolidation alone cannot induce significant deficit reduction. For China, financial development might help shrink its current account surplus, but only when it is coupled with financial liberalization. These findings suggest that unless countries implement substantially more policy change, global imbalances are unlikely to disappear.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17513.

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Date of creation: Oct 2011
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Publication status: published as "A Forensic Analysis of Global Imbalances," Oxford Economic Papers (2013), (March 2013 version) (with Barry Eichengreen and Hiro Ito).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17513
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  1. Lee, Jaewoo & Chinn, Menzie D., 2006. "Current account and real exchange rate dynamics in the G7 countries," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 257-274, March.
  2. Chinn, Menzie D. & Ito, Hiro, 2007. "Current account balances, financial development and institutions: Assaying the world "saving glut"," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 26(4), pages 546-569, June.
  3. Lane, Philip R. & Milesi-Ferretti, Gian Maria, 2007. "The external wealth of nations mark II: Revised and extended estimates of foreign assets and liabilities, 1970-2004," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(2), pages 223-250, November.
  4. Maurice Obstfeld & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 1996. "Foundations of International Macroeconomics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262150476, June.
  5. Yin-Wong Cheung & Menzie D. Chinn & Eiji Fujii, 2009. "China's Current Account and Exchange Rate," Working Papers 142009, Hong Kong Institute for Monetary Research.
  6. 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.
  7. Menzie D. Chinn & Eswar S. Prasad, 2000. "Medium-Term Determinants of Current Accounts in Industrial and Developing Countries: An Empirical Exploration," NBER Working Papers 7581, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Chinn, Menzie David & Ito, Hiro, 2005. "What Matters for Financial Development? Capital Controls, Institutions, and Interactions," Santa Cruz Center for International Economics, Working Paper Series qt5pv1j341, Center for International Economics, UC Santa Cruz.
  9. Joshua Aizenman & Jaewoo Lee, 2005. "International Reserves: Precautionary versus Mercantilist Views, Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 11366, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  11. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2004. "The Modern History of Exchange Rate Arrangements: A Reinterpretation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(1), pages 1-48, February.
  12. Menzie D. Chinn & Hiro Ito, 2008. "Global Current Account Imbalances: American Fiscal Policy versus East Asian Savings," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 16(3), pages 479-498, 08.
  13. George A. Akerlof, 2009. "How Human Psychology Drives the Economy and Why It Matters," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1175-1175.
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  15. Aizenman, Joshua & Jinjarak, Yothin, 2009. "Current account patterns and national real estate markets," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 75-89, September.
  16. Nason, James M. & Rogers, John H., 2006. "The present-value model of the current account has been rejected: Round up the usual suspects," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 159-187, January.
  17. Laura Alfaro & Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan & Vadym Volosovych, 2008. "Why Doesn't Capital Flow from Rich to Poor Countries? An Empirical Investigation," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(2), pages 347-368, May.
  18. Martin Feldstein & Charles Horioka, 1979. "Domestic Savings and International Capital Flows," NBER Working Papers 0310, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Edwin Truman, 2005. "Budget and external deficits: not twins but the same family," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Feb.
  20. Choi, Horag & Mark, Nelson C. & Sul, Donggyu, 2008. "Endogenous discounting, the world saving glut and the U.S. current account," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 30-53, May.
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