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The US Current Account Deficit: A Re-examination of the Role of Private Saving

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  • Charles Engel

    (University of Wisconsin)

Abstract

The large recent US current account deficits have been the subject of an enormous amount of study in academia, among government and central bank economists, in business economic reports, and in the press. Many different explanations of the cause of the deficit have been offered, and to varying degrees we believe that all may have played a role: low private saving in the US; large public-sector budget deficits; a ‘glut’ of savings in the rest of world; and, perhaps even a misalignment of nominal exchange rates. In this paper we explore the role of one other factor that also has been mentioned prominently: private saving in the US is low because income growth is expected to be strong. We rework the standard neoclassical two-country model to show how a country will be a net borrower when its future share of world GDP is expected to increase above its current share. Our research ultimately is motivated by the question of whether the US current account is ‘sustainable’. The way we approach the question is to see whether the high level of US spending currently is compatible with an optimal path of borrowing. In particular, what assumptions about expected future growth of the US’s share of world output could justify its current account deficit? We show that if the deficit can be explained by higher future income shares, then the size of the real depreciation, that may otherwise be required to reduce the deficit, may be quite small.

Suggested Citation

  • Charles Engel, 2005. "The US Current Account Deficit: A Re-examination of the Role of Private Saving," RBA Research Discussion Papers rdp2005-09, Reserve Bank of Australia.
  • Handle: RePEc:rba:rbardp:rdp2005-09
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    File URL: http://www.rba.gov.au/publications/rdp/2005/pdf/rdp2005-09.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. David Backus & Espen Henriksen & Frederic Lambert & Chris Telmer, 2005. "Current Account Fact and Fiction," 2005 Meeting Papers 115, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. Maurice Obstfeld & Kenneth Rogoff, 2007. "The Unsustainable U.S. Current Account Position Revisited," NBER Chapters,in: G7 Current Account Imbalances: Sustainability and Adjustment, pages 339-376 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Sebastian Edwards, 2005. "Is the U.S. Current Account Deficit Sustainable? And If Not, How Costly is Adjustment Likely To Be?," NBER Working Papers 11541, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Richard H. Clarida & Manuela Goretti & Mark P. Taylor, 2007. "Are There Thresholds of Current Account Adjustment in the G7?," NBER Chapters,in: G7 Current Account Imbalances: Sustainability and Adjustment, pages 169-204 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Aart Kraay & Jaume Ventura, 2007. "The Dot-Com Bubble, the Bush Deficits, and the U.S. Current Account," NBER Chapters,in: G7 Current Account Imbalances: Sustainability and Adjustment, pages 457-496 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. repec:dau:papers:123456789/11049 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Hélène Rey, 2007. "From World Banker to World Venture Capitalist: U.S. External Adjustment and the Exorbitant Privilege," NBER Chapters,in: G7 Current Account Imbalances: Sustainability and Adjustment, pages 11-66 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Joaquim Oliveira Martins & Frédéric Gonand & Pablo Antolín & Christine de la Maisonneuve & Kwang-Yeol Yoo, 2005. "The Impact of Ageing on Demand, Factor Markets and Growth," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 420, OECD Publishing.
    9. Edwin M. Truman, 2005. "Postponing Global Adjustment: An Analysis of the Pending Adjustment of Global Imbalances," Working Paper Series WP05-6, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
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    Cited by:

    1. Rochelle Belkar & Lynne Cockerell & Christopher Kent, 2008. "Current Account Deficits: Tha Australian Debate," Central Banking, Analysis, and Economic Policies Book Series,in: Kevin Cowan & Sebastián Edwards & Rodrigo O. Valdés & Norman Loayza (Series Editor) & Klaus Schmidt- (ed.), Current Account and External Financing, edition 1, volume 12, chapter 13, pages 491-535 Central Bank of Chile.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    current account adjustment; saving;

    JEL classification:

    • F21 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Investment; Long-Term Capital Movements
    • F32 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Current Account Adjustment; Short-term Capital Movements
    • F41 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Open Economy Macroeconomics

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