Exchange rates

New price adjustments reshape the world, yet again

Angus Deaton, Bettina Aten, 16 July 2014

When the international comparison project published its latest estimates of purchasing power parity exchange rates in April there was some consternation. Poor countries became richer overnight, world GDP increased, and global income inequality was revised downwards. Alas, no one stopped being poor. This column digs into the numbers to see if we’ve been consistently underestimating the relative size of poorer economies and overestimating global poverty and inequality.

Exchange rates and trade adjustment: Fat tails matter

Filippo di Mauro, Francesco Pappadà, 2 June 2014

Trade imbalances in the Eurozone require relative price adjustments. This column argues that the traditional ‘elasticity’ approach is lacking when thinking about the adjustment magnitude. Exports adjust when exporting firms sell more (intensive margin) and new firms start exporting (extensive margin). The extensive-margin reaction depends upon the fatness of firm-level productivity distributions. Surplus-country distributions have fatter tails than deficit countries, suggesting that the price adjustment magnitude may be larger than traditional calculations suggest.

Transmission of Fed tapering news to emerging markets

Joshua Aizenman, Mahir Binici, Michael M Hutchison, 4 April 2014

In 2013, policymakers began discussing when and how to ‘taper’ the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing policy. This column presents evidence on the effect of Fed officials’ public statements on emerging-market financial conditions. Statements by Chairman Bernanke had a large effect on asset prices, whereas the market largely ignored statements by Fed Presidents. Emerging markets with stronger fundamentals experienced larger stock-market declines, larger increases in credit default swap spreads, and larger currency depreciations than countries with weaker fundamentals.

The credit cycle and LatAm vulnerabilities

Julián Caballero, Ugo Panizza, Andrew Powell, 2 April 2014

In recent years credit growth in Latin America has been very strong, and countries have become more reliant on foreign bond issuances. This column argues that these phenomena are linked, and may have led to vulnerabilities which domestic and international supervisors are not well-equipped to assess. There is no systematic information on firms’ currency mismatches and hedging activities, and none that includes those of subsidiaries that may be located in other jurisdictions, preventing an accurate analysis of the true risks.

Managing the exchange rate

Atish R Ghosh, Jonathan D Ostry, Mahvash Saeed Qureshi, 2 April 2014

In a world of volatile capital flows, emerging markets are increasingly resorting to managing their exchange rates. But does this strategy increase their susceptibility to crisis? This column argues that while intermediate regimes as a class are the most susceptible to crises, ‘managed floats’ – a subclass within such regimes – behave much more like pure floats, with significantly lower risks and fewer crises. ‘Managed floating’, however, is a nebulous concept; a characterisation of more crisis prone regimes suggests that it is not the degree of exchange rate management alone, but the way the exchange rate is managed, that matters. Greater against-the-wind intervention by the central bank to prevent currency overvaluation reduces, while greater intervention to defend an overvalued currency raises, the crisis likelihood.

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