The income implications of rising U.S. international liabilities
Although the United States has seen its net liabilities surge in recent years, its investment income balance has remained positive-largely because U.S. firms operating abroad earn a higher rate of return than do foreign firms operating here. The continuing buildup in liabilities, however, should soon push the U.S. income balance below zero. In that event, net income flows will begin to boost the nation's current account deficit instead of reducing it.
Spending Down Pandemic Savings Is an “Only-in-the-U.S.” Phenomenon
Household saving soared in the United States and other high-income economies during the pandemic, as consumers cut back on spending while government policies supported incomes. More recently, saving behavior has diverged, with the U.S. saving rate dropping below its pre-pandemic average while saving rates elsewhere have remained above their pre-pandemic averages. As a result, U.S. consumers have been spending down the “excess savings” built up during the pandemic while the excess savings abroad remain untapped. This divergent behavior helps explain why U.S. GDP has returned to its ...
Foreign Borrowing in the Euro Area Periphery: The End Is Near
Current account deficits in euro area periphery countries have now largely disappeared. This represents a substantial adjustment. Only two years ago, deficits stood at nearly 10 percent of GDP in Greece and Portugal and 5 percent in Spain and Italy (see chart below). This sharp narrowing means that spending has been brought in line with income, largely righting an imbalance that had left these countries dependent on heavy foreign borrowing. However, adjustment has come at a sizable cost to growth, with lower domestic spending only partly offset by higher export sales. Downward pressure on ...
Can China Catch Up with Greece?
China’s leader Xi Jinping recently laid out the goal of reaching the per capita income of “a mid-level developed country by 2035.” Is this goal likely to be achieved? Not in our view. Continued rapid growth faces mounting headwinds from population aging and from diminishing returns to China’s investment-centered growth model. Additional impediments to growth appear to be building, including a turn toward increased state management of the economy, the crystallization of legacy credit issues in real estate and other sectors, and limits on access to key foreign technologies. Even ...
Explaining inequality the world round: cohort size, Kuznets curves, and openness
Klaus Deininger and Lyn Squire have recently produced an inequality data base for a panel of countries from the 1960s to the 1990s. We use these data to decompose the sources of inequality into three central parts: the demographic or cohort size effect; the so-called Kuznets Curve or demand effects; and the commitment to globalization or policy effects. We also control for education supply, the so-called natural resource curse and other variables suggested by the literature. While the Kuznets Curve comes out of hiding when the inequality relationship is conditioned by the other two, cohort ...
Euro Area Spending Imbalances and the Sovereign Debt Crisis
Euro area periphery countries borrowed heavily from abroad in the run-up to the sovereign debt crisis. How were these funds used? In this post, we recap our recent Current Issues study, showing that pre-crisis borrowing by the periphery countries (Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain) went mainly to finance private consumption or housing booms rather than productivity-enhancing investments. Most analysis of the crisis has focused on the need for fiscal adjustment in the periphery. A look at the drivers of the run-up in foreign borrowing, however, suggests that private spending in the ...
What Is behind the Global Jump in Personal Saving during the Pandemic?
Household saving has soared in the United States and other high-income countries during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite widespread declines in wages and other private income streams. This post highlights the role of fiscal policy in driving the saving boom, through stepped-up social benefits and other income support measures. Indeed, in the United States, Japan, and Canada, government assistance has pushed household income above its pre-pandemic trajectory. We argue that the larger scale of government assistance in these countries helps explain why saving in these countries has risen more ...
Asia's trade performance after the currency crisis
The Asian countries hit by the 1997-98 currency crisis experienced a sharp reversal of capital flows that forced their current account balances to move from deficit to surplus. This study of the trade flows of Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, and Thailand finds that steep declines in imports, measured in dollar terms, accounted for almost all of the improvements in current account balances. However, a fuller picture emerges when the authors analyze the trade flows according to the volume of goods being shipped and the prices of these goods. The analysis shows that several factors contributed ...
Would a Stronger Renminbi Narrow the U.S.-China Trade Imbalance?
The United States buys much more from China than it sells to China—an imbalance that accounts for almost half of our overall merchandise trade deficit. China’s policy of keeping its exchange rate low is often cited as a key driver of that country’s large overall trade surplus and of its bilateral surplus with the United States. The argument is that a stronger renminbi (the official currency of China) would help reduce that country’s trade imbalance with the United States by lowering the prices of U.S. goods relative to those made in China. In this post, we examine the thinking behind ...
How Much Have Consumers Spent on Imports during the Pandemic?
The return of U.S. real GDP to its pre-pandemic level in the second quarter of this year was driven by consumer spending on goods. Such spending was well above its pre-pandemic path, while spending on services was well below. Despite the surge in goods spending, domestic manufacturing has increased only modestly, leaving most of the increase in demand being filled by imports. While higher imports have been a drag on growth, the size of this drag has been moderated by the value created by the domestic transportation, wholesale, and retail sectors in selling these goods. Going forward, a ...