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This paper analyses the emergence of current account imbalances as a result of the co-existence of trade flows and financial flows. The literature has tended to view these factors in isolation: many post-Kaleckian models, as well as Net-saving approaches assume that financial flows will adjust to trade flows. Models focusing on financial crises feature a strong role for financial flows but ignore drivers of trade flows. Similarly, empirical analyses either ignore drivers of financial flows or insufficiently capture determinants of trade flows. The paper, first, proposes a simple macroeconomic framework of the current account which gives equal emphasis to trade flows, determined by price competitiveness, and financial flows, determined by asset prices. Second, we test a reduced form of the model for 28 OECD countries for the period 1971-2014. Our results indicate that cost competitiveness as well as asset prices play a role in the determination of current accounts, but asset prices have dominated in the last two decades.
Keywords: current account, financial flows, competitiveness, asset prices
JEL classification: E12 F32 F41