International Finance Discussion Papers (IFDP)
Cyclically Adjusted Current Account Balances
The Great Financial Crisis coincided with a sizable reduction in global external imbalances, defined as the absolute value of the sum of individual country current account surpluses and deficits relative to global GDP. Although current account balances should not respond to a downturn that is uniform across countries, one that hits countries with current account deficits harder than those with surpluses might result in a decline in the global balance. This paper quantifies the cyclical portion of the current account balance for 35 countries using estimates of the severity of the cycle in each country relative to that of its trading partners in conjunction with three estimates of the sensitivity of the current account balance to changes in the output gap. Two of the estimates are derived from equations linking trade to income and the third is derived from the relationship between changes in current account balances and changes in output gap differentials. The main result is that the bulk of the reduction in the global current account imbalance since 2006 appears to have been structural. Cyclical forces are estimated to account for between 10 and 30 percent of the decline. In the aggregate, the cyclical effect is estimated to be currently holding down the global current account balance by about 1/2 percentage point. However, the size of the cyclical effect is more substantial for some countries. Both surplus and deficit countries have contributed to the decline in the absolute value of the global current account imbalance, but the contribution of the deficit countries is about twice as large as that of the surplus countries. Changes in oil prices have had largely offsetting effects on the global current account balance, but changes in real exchange rates in recent years have contributed to the reduction.
Keywords: current account, cycles
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