From carry trades to trade credit: financial intermediation by non-financial corporations

Revised version, August 2019

BIS Working Papers  |  No 773  | 
11 March 2019
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 |  60 pages

Summary

Focus

We study how firms in emerging market economies (EMEs) borrow and lend. We look at how firms exploit carry trades (eg when they can borrow in a low interest rate currency and lend in a high interest rate currency) and relate this to their borrowing activities and how they extend trade credit. We use a unique data set of non-financial firms in Mexico that includes detailed quarterly information on the currency and the structure of both assets and liabilities.

Contribution

Non-financial firms provide a significant amount of financial resources to the economy, including trade credit. In EMEs, foreign currency credit plays an important role throughout the financial system. Cheaper foreign currency credit can lead firms to borrow in foreign currencies and build currency risk on their balance sheets. It can also affect real behaviour throughout the economy by impacting the extension of trade credit. Regulation and supervision often focus on banks and other financial firms. However, non-financial firms are much less regulated in the ways they borrow and lend, or take on currency risk.

Findings

Non-financial firms borrow in foreign currency and acquire short-term assets in both local and foreign currency. A large part of these assets consists of trade credit extended to their customers and other firms, as well as cash and financial investments. When the difference between the local and foreign currency interest rates increases, the short-term foreign currency exposure of these firms increases, as do their sales and the amount of trade credit extended and received. Firms that take on foreign currency risk through this process cut back on their investment after a sudden exchange rate shock, but their trade credit networks remain stable.

 

Abstract

We use unique firm level data from Mexico to document that non-financial corporations engage in carry trades by borrowing in foreign currency and lending in domestic currency, largely to related partners (trade credit), accumulating currency risk in the process. The interest rate differential between local and foreign currency borrowing induces this behavior at a quarterly frequency, generating an expansion in foreign currency borrowing and FX mismatch, gross trade credit and sales. Firms that were active in carry-trades have comparatively decreased investment and profits following a large depreciation, but maintain their supply of trade credit.


JEL classification: E44, G15

Keywords: emerging market corporate debt, currency mismatch, liability dollarization, carry trades, trade credit