Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Quartz: Emerging markets need to stop focusing on their exchange rates

Here's a link to my 3rd Quartz article on how much of the emerging market sell-off was about monetary policy failures in the emerging markets themselves. In particular, by trying to maintain exchange rate policies, central banks in these countries overexpose themselves to foreign economic conditions. The highly positive response to the recent delay of taper serves as further evidence that many of these emerging economies need better ways of insulating themselves from foreign monetary shocks. Much of the work, draws on blog posts from Lars Christensen. His examples comparing monetary policy in Australia and South Africa versus policy in Brazil and Indonesia were particularly helpful. A few excerpts:

The sell-off in emerging markets is not an omen of a prolonged economic contraction. Although capital flows were also turbulent after the 2008 financial crisis, growth in emerging markets continued. Nor is this a sign of financial crisis. “One thing most people seem to agree on is that this is not a replay of the late 1990s,” writes Ryan Avent in the Economist. A combination of exchange rate flexibility and low external debt means that emerging markets are unlikely to experience the same level of carnage as was seen in the 1997. Rather, the sell-off is a statement about how monetary policy has been unable to stabilize output in emerging markets and the importance of monetary reform. 
...Since all capital controls eventually leak, emerging markets can commit to stabilizing either the exchange rate or domestic output—not both. Economists Joshua Aizenman, Menzie Chinn, and Hiro Ito (pdf) have shown that this tradeoff is real. In the 1972 to 2006 time period, “Greater monetary independence [was] associated with lower output volatility while greater exchange rate stability [implied] greater output volatility.” 
Between these two options, the answer should be clear. Central banks in emerging markets need to focus on domestic output, and not the exchange rate.


  1. The focus of economic crisis watchers has shifted to Europe. The European Union, and especially the core countries that comprise exchange rates

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