Global Imbalances - Recent Developments and Prospects (Bernanke 2007)

From about 150 billion to nearly 350 billion over the

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from about $150 billion to nearly $350 billion over the period, and the Japanese external balance rose from $66 billion to $172 billion. The increase in the Japanese current account balance as a share of GDP, from 1.4 percent to 3.7 percent, occurred despite a substantial fall in the GDP share of the saving rate, from 30.4 percent to 26.8 percent, as the GDP share of the investment rate fell even more dramatically, from 28.9 percent to 23.0 percent. For the euro area as a whole, the current account balance remained at about 1 percent of GDP between 1996 and 2004, as aggregate investment and saving ratios remained largely unchanged. Within the euro area, Germany's current account balance increased almost 5 percentage points of GDP--from -0.6 percent in 1996 to 4.3 percent in 2004--as saving moved up and investment decreased. However, this development was offset by declines in the balances of some other euro-area countries, including France, Italy, and Spain; the decreases were mostly associated with higher investment rates. Data on saving, investment, and current account balances for countries other than the United States are drawn primarily from the International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database , April 2007 ( ); in some cases, data are drawn from national sources. Return to text 5. During the first part of the period, the rise in U.S. productivity and higher stock prices likely contributed to the U.S. current account deficit by increasing desired investment and reducing desired saving. However, some of the increase in stock prices may have been the endogenous result of factors discussed later, and in any case the effects of the stock market on investment dissipated
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by 2004. Finally, as noted in the text, if the driving force behind the changes in external balances was a decline in desired saving in the United States, world real interest rates would have risen rather than fallen. Return to text 6. The combined current account balance of developing Asia excluding China narrowed a bit as a share of GDP between 2004 and 2006, as the investment rate edged up while the saving rate was little changed. Nevertheless, investment rates in this region still remain substantially below their 1996 levels. Return to text 7. The combined current account balance for the euro area moved from a surplus of $115 billion in 2004 to a deficit of about $10 billion in 2006, largely because of an increase in the aggregate investment rate. Large declines in the balances of France, Italy, and Spain more than offset a higher surplus in the balance of Germany. For the euro area as a whole, the movement into deficit has largely reflected an increase in the euro-area investment rate from about 20 percent of GDP in 2004 to about 21 percent of GDP in 2006. Japan's current account surplus was almost unchanged at around $170 billion in both 2004 and 2006, as an increase in the rate of investment was matched by a higher saving rate. Return to text 8. Inflation-adjusted bonds in the United Kingdom had a yield of 2.19 percent, on average, in July 2007 as compared with a yield of 1.65 percent, on average, in July 2005. In Canada, yields on
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