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global imbalances (finance)

Page history last edited by Brian D Butler 10 years, 7 months ago

From GloboTrends, see also: 



Table of Contents:



This CFR Backgrounder explores the root causes of ongoing U.S.-China economic imbalances.




China- USA



Confronting the China-U.S. Economic Imbalance


"relationship of dependency between the United States and China, whereby China has lent to the United States to help fuel its export industry, while U.S. consumers in turn have demanded more exports and further access to cheap credit. "  Read more from CFR.org



Michael Pettis of Peking University laid out the argument in the Financial Times on December 14 2008. Professor Pettis sees the world as divided into two economic camps: in one are countries with elastic systems of consumer finance and high consumption; in the other are countries with high savings and investment. The US is the most important example of the former. China is the most significant example of the latter. Spain, the UK and Australia were mini versions of the US; Germany and Japan are mature versions of contemporary China.


China:  A managed exchange rate, huge accumulations of foreign currency reserves and sterilisation of their monetary consequences, tight fiscal discipline and high retained earnings of companies have generated national savings rates of well over 50 per cent of gross domestic product and current account surpluses of more than 10 per cent. Household savings appear to generate less than a third of total savings. In turn, investment has poured into expanding supply, including of exports: the ratio of China’s exports to GDP rose from 38 per cent of GDP at the beginning of 2002 to 67 per cent in 2007 (see chart).


read more:  http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/dd14a46e-e72f-11dd-aef2-0000779fd2ac.html#


China economy






China- USA relationship


see China and USA Macro Data


China's economy now is so closely intertwined with the U.S.'s that major, abrupt changes are unlikely. The U.S.-China economic relationship has become arguably the world's most important. China has been recycling its vast export earnings by financing the U.S. deficit through buying Treasurys, helping to keep U.S. interest rates low and give American consumers more spending power to buy Chinese exports.  China now has roughly $2 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, and has continued to buy U.S. government debt -- surpassing Japan in September as the biggest foreign holder of Treasurys, by one official U.S. measure. China must continue to recycle its trade surplus if it doesn't want its currency to appreciate too quickly.



Balance of payments issue with the USA


Note that the USA has a massive current account deficit (importing more than exporting), but makes up for the balance by having a massive Capital Account surplus (more foreigners are investing in the US, so more money is coming in than is going out).   There is a massive amount of T-bills being purchased by foreign central banks (such as China, etc) that are doing so in order to keep their currency level low.  Note that Chinahas over $1 trillion investment in the USA.  They pay for these investments with the money that they earn from trade.  Since their overall B.O.P must balance, and since they have a massive current account surplus, then they must also have a massive Capital account deficit.  So, the money must be invested overseas.


The USA model = keep a current account deficit, and finance the gap with foreign investments.  This has worked well for the US over the past 30 years.  Should countries such as Mexico do the same thing?  Is this a model for success for others to follow?  Not necessarily.  This "business model" only works as long as foreigners have a very high level of confidence in your currency.  If they loose confidence in your stability, or growth, then they will no longer demand your investments, and the model breaks down.   Warning to the USA:  don't do things to destroy foreign confidence in your country.  If you loose that advantage, then you will loose your capital account surplus.  If you loose the capital account surplus, then you will also loose your ability to run a current account deficit, ending imports. 





China and imbalances:


China’s consumption challenge

A panel of leading Chinese economists debates proposals to stoke private consumption in the world’s fastest-growing economy.

Bolstered by a $586 billion government stimulus program and a surge in lending by state-owned banks, China may be the first major economy to bounce back from the global recession. But the composition of China’s growth remains unbalanced. Aggressive increases in government spending and investment by state-owned enterprises has cushioned the impact of weak exports. But those gains have not been matched by comparable increases in private consumption. Spending by Chinese households as a percentage of GDP is roughly half the US consumption ratio and remains significantly below private spending levels in Europe and Japan. And despite rising sales of items such as automobiles and household appliances, the ratio of private spending to GDP in China today has actually fallen relative to Chinese spending levels of a decade ago.


Why do Chinese consumers spend so little relative to counterparts in other nations? What can be done to change that? Is boosting private consumption in China’s national interest? How would that contribute to global growth? In this interview, conducted by McKinsey director Jonathan Woetzel in June 2009 in Shanghai, four distinguished members of the McKinsey China Council of Business Economists1 explore these questions. Watch the video,




source:  The McKinsey China Council of Business Economists is an organization of leading economists dedicated to promoting dialogue and understanding of the Chinese economy. The four panelists in this roundtable include Wang Xiaolu, deputy director at the China Reform Foundation’s National Economic Research Institute; Cao Yuanzheng, chief economist of Bank of China International Holdings; Bai Chong’en, professor and chair of the Department of Economics at Tsinghua University; and Li Xiaoxi, director of Beijing Normal University’s Institute of Economic and Resource Management. 




Germany and imbalances:

see globotrends page on Germany





Japan and imbalances:

see Japan and, read more from the Economist.com on "Rebalancing the world economy: Japan"





see forum posting:  "what is going on in Switzerland? They are defending their currency by fighting appreciation....but, as they fight to keep their currency undervalued...that just puts additional pressure on USD ...and on JPN yen...and, if emerging eastern europe needs to fall vs. Swiss Franc (as they unwind their own carry trade)...doesnt this just push eastern europe further down vs. Dollar / YEN...if the Swiss Franc isnt allowed to appreciate? Wont this just hurt Eastern Europe?

Quote:  "The Swiss franc weakened after Swiss National Bank Vice President Philipp Hildebrand pledged to sell “unlimited” amounts of the currency to curb its appreciation. " http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=a9GvOZhII2Gc&refer=worldwide#








Currency "Wars"


Countries fight currency appreciation...


Perhaps China manipulates its currency, but so too do Singapore, Argentina, Saudi Arabia and any nation that either pegs its currency, maintains a tight trading band or oversees a “managed float” system. Even Hong Kong, routinely ranked as the world’s freest economy by the Heritage Foundation, manipulates its currency. It has to maintain its link to the U.S. dollar.


see more about fixed exchange rate




As a result of cheap money from Asia, " In America savings fell from around 10% of disposable income in the 1970s to 1% after 2005."...All four of the debtor countries in the chart enjoyed housing booms.


see... USA macro data












                                                 (in billions of dollars)
                                               HOLDINGS 1/ AT END OF PERIOD

                       Dec     Nov     Oct     Sep     Aug     Jul     Jun     May     Apr     Mar     Feb     Jan     Dec
Country               2008    2008    2008    2008    2008    2008    2008    2008    2008    2008    2008    2008    2007
                     ------  ------  ------  ------  ------  ------  ------  ------  ------  ------  ------  ------  ------

China, Mainland       696.2   681.9   652.9   587.0   542.4   518.7   503.8   506.8   502.0   490.6   486.9   492.6   477.6
Japan                 578.3   577.5   582.0   569.8   582.6   590.0   580.4   575.3   588.8   597.4   583.3   585.6   579.9
United Kingdom 2/     355.0   356.5   357.2   336.9   306.5   290.1   279.1   271.2   246.8   200.1   180.5   161.8   157.9
Carib Bnkng Ctrs 4/   213.3   220.8   219.3   185.1   148.7   133.4   122.2   104.5   117.4   108.7   103.9   109.2   117.4
Oil Exporters 3/      197.0   198.0   187.6   182.0   180.5   173.7   170.3   164.2   153.8   150.7   146.1   140.8   137.9
Brazil                120.5   129.6   134.5   141.9   146.2   148.4   151.6   151.4   149.5   149.1   146.6   141.
Russia                 86.5    78.1    80.9    69.7    74.4    74.1    65.3    63.7    60.2    42.4    38.4    35.2    32.7


Read more from source: http://www.treas.gov/tic/mfh.txt










Recommended resources:


In America Cannot Resolve Global Imbalances on Its Own C. Fred Bergsten and Arvind Subramanian look at America’s vision for not running large and persistent current account deficits and what that means for countries like China, Germany, and Japan. While this recession has reduced global imbalances, there is no guarantee that this process will continue.







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