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A Macroprudential Theory of Foreign Reserve Accumulation

Working Paper 761 | Published August 26, 2019

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Fernando Arce Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
Julien Bengui Bank of Canada and CEPR
Javier Bianchi Monetary Advisor
A Macroprudential Theory of Foreign Reserve Accumulation


This paper proposes a theory of foreign reserves as macroprudential policy. We study an open economy model of financial crises, in which pecuniary externalities lead to over-borrowing, and show that by accumulating international reserves, the government can achieve the constrained-efficient allocation. The optimal reserve accumulation policy leans against the wind and significantly reduces the exposure to financial crises. The theory is consistent with the joint dynamics of private and official capital flows, both over time and in the cross section, and can quantitatively account for the recent upward trend in international reserves.