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The Collapse of International Trade During the 2008-2009 Crisis: In Search of the Smoking Gun

  • Logan Lewis

    (University of Michigan)

  • Linda Tesar

    (University of Michigan and NBER)

  • Andrei Levchenko

    (University of Michigan)

One of the most striking aspects of the recent recession is the collapse in international trade. This paper uses disaggregated quarterly and monthly data on U.S. imports and exports to shed light on the anatomy of this collapse. We find that the recent reduction in trade relative to overall economic activity is far larger than in previous downturns. Information on quantities and prices of both domestic absorption and imports reveals a more than 50% shortfall in imports, relative to what would be predicted by a simple import demand relationship. In a sample of imports and exports disaggregated at the 6-digit NAICS level, we find that sectors used as intermediate inputs experienced significantly higher percentage reductions in both imports and exports. We also find support for compositional effects: sectors with larger reductions in domestic output had larger drops in trade. By contrast, we find no support for the hypothesis that trade credit played a role in the recent trade collapse.

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Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2010 Meeting Papers with number 109.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:red:sed010:109
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Society for Economic Dynamics Marina Azzimonti Department of Economics Stonybrook University 10 Nicolls Road Stonybrook NY 11790 USA

Web page: http://www.EconomicDynamics.org/
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  1. Iacovone, Leonardo & Zavacka, Veronika, 2009. "Banking crises and exports : lessons from the past," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5016, The World Bank.
  2. Burstein, Ariel & Kurz, Christopher & Tesar, Linda, 2008. "Trade, production sharing, and the international transmission of business cycles," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 775-795, May.
  3. Jonathan Eaton & Samuel Kortum & Brent Neiman & John Romalis, 2011. "Trade and the Global Recession," NBER Working Papers 16666, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Boileau, Martin, 1999. "Trade in capital goods and the volatility of net exports and the terms of trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 347-365, August.
  5. Freund, Caroline, 2009. "The trade response to global downturns : historical evidence," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5015, The World Bank.
  6. N/A, 2009. "On the Recession," Local Economy, London South Bank University, vol. 24(3), pages 253-253, May.
  7. Kevin Cowan & Alejandro Neut, 2007. "Intermediate Goods, Institutions and Output per Worker," Working Papers Central Bank of Chile 420, Central Bank of Chile.
  8. Jian Wang & Charles Engel, 2008. "International Trade in Durable Goods: Understanding Volatility, Cyclicality, and Elasticities," 2008 Meeting Papers 210, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  9. Vasco Carvalho, 2007. "Aggregate fluctuations and the network structure of intersectoral trade," Economics Working Papers 1206, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Oct 2010.
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