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There are around 180 currencies in the world, but only a very small number of them play an outsized role in international trade, finance, and central bank foreign exchange reserves. In the modern era, the U.S. dollar has a dominant international presence, followed to a lesser extent by the euro and a handful of other currencies. Although the use of specific currencies is remarkably stable over time, with the status of dominant currencies remaining unchanged over decades, there have been decisive shifts in the international monetary system over long horizons. For example, the British pound only lost its dominant currency status in the 1930s, well after Britain stopped being the leading world economy. In a new study, we show that the currency that is used in international trade transactions is an active firm-level decision rather than something that is just fixed. This finding raises the question of what factors could augment or reduce the U.S. dollar’s dominance in world trade.
The question of how U.S. monetary policy affects foreign economies has received renewed interest in recent years. The bulk of the empirical evidence points to sizable effects, especially on emerging market economies (EMEs). A key theme in the literature is that these spillovers operate largely through financial channels—that is, the effects of a U.S. policy tightening manifest themselves abroad via declines in international risky asset prices, tighter financial conditions, and capital outflows. This so-called Global Financial Cycle has been shown to affect EMEs more forcefully than advanced economies. It is because higher U.S. policy rates have a disproportionately larger impact on rates in EMEs. In our recent research, we develop a model with cross-border financial linkages that provides theoretical foundations for these empirical findings. In this Liberty Street Economics post, we use the model to illustrate the spillovers from a tightening of U.S. monetary policy on credit spreads and on the uncovered interest rate parity (UIP) premium in EMEs with dollar-denominated debt.
Gianluca Benigno, Jonathan Hartley, Alicia Garcia Herrero, Alessandro Rebucci, and Elina Ribakova
Emerging economies are fighting COVID-19 and the economic sudden stop imposed by lockdown policies. Even before COVID-19 took root in emerging economies, however, investors had already started to flee these markets–to a much greater extent than they had at the onset of the 2008 global financial crisis (IMF, 2020; World Bank, 2020). Such sudden stops in capital flows can cause significant drops in economic activity, with recoveries that can take several years to complete (Benigno et al. 2020). Unfortunately, austerity and currency depreciations as enacted during the global financial crisis won’t mitigate this double whammy of capital outflows and policies to cope with the pandemic. We argue that purchases of local currency government bonds could be a viable option for credible emerging market central banks to support macroeconomic policy goals in these circumstances.
Ozge Akinci, Gianluca Benigno, and Albert Queralto
The COVID-19 outbreak has triggered unusually fast outﬂows of dollar funding from emerging market economies (EMEs). These outflows are known as “sudden stop” episodes, and they are typically followed by economic contractions. In this post, we assess the macroeconomic eﬀects of the COVID-induced sudden stop of capital flows to EMEs, using our open-economy DSGE model. Unlike existing frameworks, such as the Federal Reserve Board’s SIGMA model, our model features both domestic and international ﬁnancial constraints, making it well-suited to capture the eﬀects of an outﬂow of dollar funding. The model predicts output losses in EMEs due in part to the adverse eﬀect of local currency depreciation on private-sector balance sheets with dollar debts. The ﬁnancial stresses in EMEs, in turn, spill back to the U.S. economy, through both trade and ﬁnancial channels. The model-predicted output losses are persistent (consistent with previous sudden stop episodes), with financial effects being a significant drag on the recovery. We stress that we are only tracing out the effects of one particular channel (the stop of capital flows and its associated effect on funding costs) and not the totality of COVID-related effects.
Oil prices and the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar against the euro have often moved together over the past decade or so, but it is not at all clear why they should. The standard interpretation of oil price movements as a response to global oil supply and demand shifts makes it unlikely that the correlation stems from the dollar’s effect on oil prices. In addition, the notorious difficulty in predicting currency moves makes it hard to believe that oil prices dictate the dollar’s value. Improbability aside, however, in this blog post we document the tendency for the value of the dollar to rise relative to European currencies when oil prices fall, and we consider a possible explanation for the correlation.
Japan’s general government debt-to-GDP ratio is the highest of advanced economies, due in part to increased spending on social services for an aging population and a level of GDP that has not increased for two decades.
Prompted by the U.S. financial crisis and subsequent global recession, policymakers in advanced economies slashed interest rates dramatically, hitting the zero lower bound (ZLB), and then implemented unconventional policies such as large-scale asset purchases. In emerging economies, however, the policy response was more subdued since they were less affected by the financial crisis. As a result, capital flows from advanced to emerging economies increased markedly in response to widening interest rate differentials. Some emerging economies reacted by adopting measures to slow down capital inflows, acting under the presumption that these flows were harmful. This type of policy response has reignited the debate over how to moderate international spillovers.
Liberty Street Economics features insight and analysis from New York Fed economists working at the intersection of research and policy. Launched in 2011, the blog takes its name from the Bank’s headquarters at 33 Liberty Street in Manhattan’s Financial District.
The editors are Michael Fleming, Andrew Haughwout, Thomas Klitgaard, and Asani Sarkar, all economists in the Bank’s Research Group.
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