Current account adjustment and capital flows

BIS Working Papers No 169
February 2005
This paper examines episodes of current account adjustment in industrial countries over the past 30 years. We find that they were typically associated with a sizeable slowdown in domestic growth and a large exchange rate depreciation. There was no discernable change in the nature of capital flows in the period just prior to an adjustment, with the possible exception of non-residents' holdings of currency and deposits. This suggests that a current account adjustment may be an endogenous event - responding to the resolution of domestic imbalances - rather than an exogenous event where the size of the current account deficit itself precipitates the adjustment in the domestic economy and the exchange rate. Econometric evidence suggests that global developments trigger the adjustment, possibly because they trigger the unwinding of the domestic imbalances. We find that the bulk of the ex post adjustment of the financial account was in private sector flows, primarily on the part of foreign investors. Finally, we document some notable differences in the adjustment of the current account in the United States in 1987 compared with that observed in the other episodes.

JEL Classification Numbers: F3 F32 F41

Keywords: International Finance, Current Account Adjustment, Open Economy Macroeconomics