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Theses Doctoral

Essays on International Capital Flows

Wang, Mengxue

This dissertation consists of three essays on international capital flows. The first chapter documents the accumulation of foreign exchange reserves and the simultaneous increase in the foreign direct investment (FDI) for emerging market economies. The second chapter discusses the performance of FDI firms and domestic firms in creating jobs using firm-level data from Orbis. The third chapter studies the proper exchange rate and monetary policy when emerging market economies denominate their external debt in foreign currencies.

In Chapter 1, I study why emerging market economies hold high levels of foreign exchange reserves. I argue that foreign exchange reserves help emerging markets attract foreign direct investment. This incentive can play an important role when analyzing central banks' reserve accumulation. I study the interaction between foreign exchange reserves and foreign direct investment to explain the level of reserves using a small open economy model. The model puts the domestic entities and international investors in the same picture. The optimal level of the reserve-to-GDP ratio generated by the model is close to the level observed in East Asian economies. Additionally, the model generates positive co-movement between technology growth and the current account. This feature suggests that high technology growth corresponds to net capital outflow, because of the outflow of foreign exchange reserves in attracting the inflow of foreign direct investment, thus providing a rationale to the `allocation puzzle' in cross-economy comparisons. The model also generates positive co-movement between foreign exchange reserves and foreign debt, thus relating to the puzzle of why economies borrow and save simultaneously.

In Chapter 2, joint work with Sakai Ando, we study whether FDI firms hire more employees than domestic firms for each dollar of assets. Using the Orbis database and its ownership structure information, we show that, in most economies, domestic firms tend to hire more employees per asset than FDI firms. The result remains robust across individual industries in the case study of the United Kingdom. The analysis shows that an ownership change itself (from domestic to foreign or vice versa) does not have an immediate impact on the employment per asset. This result suggests that different patterns of job creation seem to come from technological differences rather than from different ownership structures.

In Chapter 3, I investigate how the devaluation of domestic currency imposes a contractionary effect on small open economies who have a significant amount of debt denominated in foreign currencies. Economists and policymakers express concern about the "Original Sin" situation in which most of the economies in the world cannot use their domestic currencies to borrow abroad. A devaluation will increase the foreign currency-denominated debt measured in the domestic currency, which will lead to contractions in the domestic economy. However, previous literature on currency denomination and exchange rate policy predicted limited or no contractionary effect of devaluation. In this paper, I present a new model to capture this contractionary devaluation effect with non-financial firms having foreign currency-denominated liabilities and domestic currency-denominated assets. When firms borrow from abroad and keep part of the asset in domestic cash or cash equivalents, the contractionary devaluation effect is exacerbated. The model can be used to discuss the performance of the economy in interest under exchange rate shocks and interest rate shocks. Future directions for empirically assessing the model and current literature are suggested. This assessment will thus provide policy guidance for economies with different levels of debt, especially foreign currency-denominated debt.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Schmitt-Grohe, Stephanie
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 15, 2020