Precautionary Demand for Foreign Assets in Sudden Stop Economies: An Assessment of the New Mercantilism: Working Paper 2007-10

Working Paper
July 1, 2007

C. Bora Durdu, Enrique G. Mendoza, and Marco Terrones

Financial globalization in emerging economies has been challenged by a series of Sudden Stops since the mid 1990s. Foreign reserves grew very rapidly during this period; hence, it is often argued that we live in the era of a New Mercantilism in which large stocks of reserves are a war chest for defense against Sudden Stops. We conduct a quantitative assessment of this argument using a stochastic intertemporal equilibrium framework with incomplete asset markets in which precautionary saving affects foreign assets through three mechanisms: business cycle volatility, financial globalization, and Sudden Stop risk. In this framework, Sudden Stops are an equilibrium outcome produced by an endogenous credit constraint that triggers Irving Fisher’s debt-deflation mechanism. Our results show that financial globalization and Sudden Stop risk are plausible explanations of the observed surge in reserves but that business cycle volatility is not. In fact, business cycle volatility has declined in the post-globalization period. These results hold whether we use the formulation of intertemporal preferences of the Bewley-Aiyagari-Hugget class of precautionary savings models or the Uzawa-Epstein setup with endogenous time preference.