Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Is the US Becoming a Marshall-Lerner Renegade?
It is a commonplace of international economics that virtually all economies obey the Marshall-Lerner conditions, which must be met if a change in the exchange rate is to have the “proper” effect on net exports. It’s just possible, however, that this no longer applies to the US. When the dollar falls, US exports rise and non-oil imports fall by enough to otherwise satisfy M-L. But much of the rise in oil prices, as experienced in the US, is also attributable to the decline of the dollar, and our demand for brown goo is (so far) highly inelastic. As reported in Brad Setser’s invaluable blog, this explains why the US trade deficit increased in April despite deteriorating domestic demand. So: has the US left the predictable world of M-L? It depends. How much of the price spike in petroleum is traceable to the fading dollar? How do we parcel out the role of declining domestic demand from that of dollar depreciation on the trade balance? I’m too involved in other things to figure this out, so I place it in your laps, estimable readers.