Since the East Asian financial crisis of 1997, the emphasis on regional monetary cooperation has grown. This column discusses recent research into intra-regional exchange rate misalignments. In the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis, investors in the US and Europe withdrew from emerging markets, causing a depreciation of emerging-market currencies against the US dollar. At the same time, the appreciation of the Japanese yen – fuelled in part by intra-regional capital flows – has increased the misalignment of intra-regional exchange rates.
Empirical research finds that import prices do not fully adjust to exchange-rate changes. In other word, there is a limited response of trade to exchange-rate fluctuations. This column argues that part of this pass-through puzzle is explained by quality. Exchange-rate movements are more strongly absorbed into the export prices of higher quality goods. Therefore, the volume of their exports would be less responsive to exchange-rate shocks, leading to an incomplete exchange-rate pass-through.
Economists widely view exchange rate changes as unpredictable. This column explains a new currency trading strategy with economically valuable and statistically significant currency excess returns. The returns are generated primarily by spot exchange rate returns, rather than interest differentials. The strategy’s performance can be explained by speculator-hedger interactions in the currency market in the presence of time-varying capital constraints on speculators.
Government interventions to control capital flows and reduce exchange-rate volatility have long been controversial. The Global Financial Crisis has made the debate more urgent. This column discusses recent research that evaluates such policies against the counterfactual of no intervention. Depreciations and reserve sales can boost GDP growth during crises, but may also substantially increase inflation. Large increases in interest rates and new capital controls are associated with reductions in GDP growth, with no significant effect on inflation. When faced with sudden shifts in capital flows, policymakers must ‘pick their poison’.
Fed tapering has started. A revival of last summer’s emerging economy turmoil is a real concern. This column discusses new research into who was hit and why by the June 2013 taper-talk shock. Those hit hardest had relatively large and liquid financial markets, and had allowed large rises in their currency values and their trade deficits. Good macro fundamentals did not provide much insulation, nor did capital controls. The best insulation came from macroprudential policies that limited exchange rate appreciation and trade deficit widening in response to foreign capital inflows.
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