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Dynamics of the Trade Balance and the Terms of Trade: The J-Curve Revisited

  • David K. Backus
  • Patrick Kehoe
  • Finn Kydland

We provide a new interpretation of the statistical relation between the trade balance and the terms of trade. This relation includes the J-curve, the tendency for trade balances to be negatively correlated with contemporaneous movements in the terms of trade, positively correlated with lagged movements. We document this property in international data and show that it arises, as well, in a two-country stochastic growth model. In the model trade dynamics result, in large part, from fluctuations in investment. A favorable productivity shock in the domestic economy leads to an increase in domestic output, a decrease in its relative price, and a rise in the terms of trade. The increase in domestic productivity also leads to a temporary investment boom. This boom results in an initial trade deficit, followed by future surpluses, and thus a J-curve. We also use the model to provide a new perspective on earlier theories of trade and price dynamics.

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Paper provided by New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 92-6.

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Date of creation: Feb 1992
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ste:nystbu:92-6
Contact details of provider: Postal: New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics, 44 West 4th Street, New York, NY 10012-1126
Phone: (212) 998-0860
Fax: (212) 995-4218
Web page: http://w4.stern.nyu.edu/economics/

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  1. Junz, Helen B & Rhomberg, Rudolf R, 1973. "Price Competitiveness in Export Trade Among Industrial Countries," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(2), pages 412-18, May.
  2. John Whalley, 1984. "Trade Liberalization among Major World Trading Areas," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262231204, June.
  3. Obstfeld, Maurice, 1989. "Fiscal deficits and relative prices in a growing world economy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 461-484, May.
  4. Stockman, Alan C. & Svensson, Lars E. O., 1987. "Capital flows, investment, and exchange rates," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 171-201, March.
  5. Obstfeld, Maurice, 1982. "Aggregate Spending and the Terms of Trade: Is There a Laursen-Metzler Effect?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 97(2), pages 251-70, May.
  6. Alan C. Stockman & Linda L. Tesar, 1991. "Tastes and technology in a two-country model of the business cycle: explaining international co-movements," Working Paper 9019, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
  7. David K. Backus & Patrick J. Kehoe & Finn E. Kydland, 1987. "International real business cycles," Working Papers 426, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  8. Helen B. Junz & Rudolf R. Rhomberg, 1973. "Price competitiveness in export trade among industrial countries," International Finance Discussion Papers 22, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  9. Richard Baldwin & Paul R. Krugman, 1986. "Persistent Trade Effects of Large Exchage Rate Shocks," NBER Working Papers 2017, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1982. "Time to Build and Aggregate Fluctuations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(6), pages 1345-70, November.
  11. Mendoza, Enrique G, 1991. "Real Business Cycles in a Small Open Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(4), pages 797-818, September.
  12. Svensson, Lars E O & Razin, Assaf, 1983. "The Terms of Trade and the Current Account: The Harberger-Laursen-Metzler Effect," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(1), pages 97-125, February.
  13. Rose, Andrew K. & Yellen, Janet L., 1989. "Is there a J-curve?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 53-68, July.
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