Revisiting External Imbalances: Insights from Sectoral Accounts

55 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2018 Last revised: 8 Nov 2018

See all articles by Cian Allen

Cian Allen

Trinity College (Dublin), Department of Economics, Students

Date Written: November 7, 2018


This paper revisits the period of substantial widening of external imbalances in advanced economies in the run-up to the global financial crisis and their adjustment since then. We take a granular look at these imbalances through the lens of their domestic counterpart: the net financial balance of the household sector, the government, non-financial corporations, and financial corporations. Our findings challenge the often-claimed view that the household sector lies behind most of the dynamics of the current account. In fact, we show that it is the non-financial corporation and the government sectors that account for the bulk of: (i) the co-movement with the standard set of fundamental covariates of the current account; (ii) the external adjustment and expenditure reduction in the aftermath of the global financial crisis; and (iii) the diverging dynamics during large and persistent current account imbalances. These results emphasize that analyzing domestic sectoral balances can lead to a better empirical and theoretical understanding of global imbalances.

Keywords: current account, external adjustment, sectoral balance, flow of funds

JEL Classification: F31, F32, E21

Suggested Citation

Allen, Cian, Revisiting External Imbalances: Insights from Sectoral Accounts (November 7, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Cian Allen (Contact Author)

Trinity College (Dublin), Department of Economics, Students ( email )

Arts Building
Room 3014

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