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Optimal Holdings of International Reserves: Self-Insurance against Sudden Stop

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  • Guillermo A. Calvo
  • Alejandro Izquierdo
  • Rudy Loo-Kung

Abstract

This paper addresses the issue of the optimal stock of international reserves in terms of a statistical model in which reserves affect both the probability of a Sudden Stop-as well as associated output costs-by reducing the balance-sheet effects of liability dollarization. Optimal reserves are derived under the assumption that central bankers conservatively choose reserves by balancing the expected cost of a Sudden Stop against the opportunity cost of holding reserves. Results are obtained without using calibration to match observed reserves levels, providing no a priori reason for our concept of optimal reserves to be in line with observed holdings. Remarkably, however, observed reserves on the eve of the global financial crisis were-on average-not distant from optimal reserves as derived in this model, indicating that reserve over-accumulation in Emerging Markets was not obvious. However, heterogeneity prevailed across regions: from a precautionary standpoint, Latin America was closest to model-based optimal levels, while reserves in Eastern Europe lay below optimal levels, and those in Asia lay above. Nonetheless, there are other motives for reserve accumulation: we find that differences between observed reserves and precautionary-motive optimal reserves are partly explained by the perceived presence of a lender of last resort, or characteristics such as being a large oil producer. However, to a first approximation, there is no clear evidence supporting the so-called neo-mercantilist motive for reserve accumulation.

Suggested Citation

  • Guillermo A. Calvo & Alejandro Izquierdo & Rudy Loo-Kung, 2012. "Optimal Holdings of International Reserves: Self-Insurance against Sudden Stop," NBER Working Papers 18219, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18219
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E42 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Monetary Sytsems; Standards; Regimes; Government and the Monetary System
    • E58 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Central Banks and Their Policies
    • F15 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Economic Integration
    • F31 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Foreign Exchange
    • F32 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Current Account Adjustment; Short-term Capital Movements
    • F33 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Monetary Arrangements and Institutions
    • F41 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Open Economy Macroeconomics

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