International finance

Andreas Fischer, Henrike Leonie Groeger, Philip Sauré, Pınar Yeşin, 09 December 2019

Global imbalances are at the core of today’s trade tensions, but official current account statistics may not be sufficient to assess the external positions of financially integrated economies. For instance, balance of payments accounting standards do not prescribe the recording of retained earnings on portfolio equity investment in the current account. This column argues that adjustments in income flows in equity investment therefore remain concealed in official current account statistics. In today’s financially integrated world with existing accounting standards, external adjustment mechanisms should be considered more broadly than just as an evolution of trade balance and exchange rate movements. 

Davide Furceri, Prakash Loungani, Jonathan D. Ostry, 02 December 2019

Free trade has contributed to a ‘great convergence’ of emerging market countries toward incomes in industrialised nations in recent decades. It is less clear whether free mobility of capital across national boundaries has conferred similar benefits. This column presents evidence suggesting that the gains in average incomes have been – at best – small, while increases in income inequality and the decline in the labour share of income have been significant. Financial globalisation thus poses far more difficult equity-efficiency trade-offs than free trade and should be at the centre of debates about how to make globalisation inclusive.

Menzie Chinn, Hiro Ito, 21 November 2019

Global imbalances have reappeared, somewhat transformed, and relocated. Using data from developing and industrialised countries covering 1972-2016, this column shows that fiscal factors, rather than savings glut variables, have accounted for a noticeable share of the recent variation in imbalances, including in the US and Germany. The contribution of demographic factors is large for industrialised countries but not for emerging markets. Net official flows shape global imbalances in both developing and industrialised countries. 

Guillaume Bazot, Eric Monnet, Matthias Morys, 02 November 2019

The gold standard (1880s-1913) is usually portrayed as the exemplary case of the total submission of central banks’ monetary policy to the constraints of international finance.  This column challenges this view by showing that central banks’ balance sheets stood as a buffer between their respective domestic economies and global financial markets. By contrast, autonomy was much more limited in the US, a country with fixed exchange rates but no central bank before 1913.

Markus Baldauf, Joshua Mollner, 31 October 2019

Financial markets process orders faster than ever before. Although faster speeds are associated with smaller spreads, they may also lead to less informative prices. This column captures this trade-off within a theoretical model of high-frequency trading in modern financial markets. It then uses the model to evaluate some potential market design responses to high-frequency trading that are currently in debate. In particular, it shows that asymmetric speed bumps improve markets by eliminating an inefficient form of high-frequency trading.

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