The web overseas asset place of the US


The top of privilege: A re-examination of the web overseas asset place of the US

A rustic’s internet overseas asset place measures the worth of all of the belongings residents personal overseas minus the worth of belongings foreigners personal within the nation. It is a crucial statistic, as a result of all else equal, a better internet overseas asset place means a rustic can count on greater future internet earnings from overseas, and might thus plan on operating bigger future commerce deficits. One widespread method to decompose modifications within the internet overseas asset place is to recognise that the place can enhance as a result of a rustic, on internet, acquires further overseas belongings – i.e. it runs a present account surplus – or as a result of the market worth of current belongings owned overseas will increase relative to the worth of foreign-owned belongings within the nation.

The US has lengthy had a adverse internet overseas asset place. However till 2007 it was comparatively small, by no means exceeding 20% of US GDP. In truth, the place was surprisingly small given the US historical past of enormous and protracted present account deficits. In influential papers, Gourinchas and Rey (2007, 2014) emphasised the significance of valuation results in shaping the dynamics of the US internet overseas asset place. On the time they had been writing, these revaluations appeared to maneuver persistently in favour of the US, particularly throughout the mid-2000s. The web impact was that the US appeared to benefit from the particular privilege of being persistently capable of borrow with out operating up a lot debt. Gourinchas and Rey and others argued that this privilege mirrored an asymmetry in cross-country portfolios, with People proudly owning numerous direct funding and portfolio fairness belongings overseas – whose worth tended to rise over time – whereas US liabilities consisted disproportionately of low return US authorities bonds. 

Our paper (Atkeson et al. 2022) updates the historical past of the US internet overseas asset place, utilizing knowledge assembled by the US Bureau of Financial Evaluation and the US Treasury within the Monetary Accounts of america. We discover that so much has modified within the final 15 years. First and most notably, the US internet overseas asset place has deteriorated very sharply, from adverse 5% of US GDP in 2007, to adverse 65% of US GDP by the third quarter of 2021. Such a big adverse internet place is unprecedented. What has pushed this decline? What are the welfare implications for People?

We begin by exhibiting that the decline within the US internet overseas asset place over this era is usually pushed by valuation results, with present account deficits taking part in a minor function. In truth, these valuation results are so massive that the US internet place is extra adverse by the top of 2021 than the sum of all US present account deficits since 1992 (see Determine 1). That’s the reason we title our paper “The Finish of Privilege.” 

Determine 1 The US internet overseas asset place (NFA), cumulative present account (CA) deficits, and cumulative valuation results (VA)

Subsequent, we dig into the supply of those valuation results. We discover that valuation results have pushed down the US internet overseas asset place as a result of the worth of foreign-owned belongings within the US has risen quickly. Which may sound shocking to readers underneath the impression that the US operates like a hedge fund, borrowing from overseas within the type of stable-in-value Treasury bonds, and investing abroad in risky equity-like investments. However the US monetary accounts present that that stylised view of the US worldwide funding place is changing into growing outdated. Specifically, within the post-Nice Recession interval, foreign-owned fairness holdings within the US are massive, and related in worth to US-owned fairness belongings overseas (Determine 2). The US Bureau of Financial Evaluation estimates that the worth of those foreign-owned fairness holdings has surged over the previous 15 years, at the side of the spectacular bull run for the US inventory market over this era. On the identical time, the worth of US-owned belongings overseas has risen rather more slowly, as overseas fairness markets massively under-performed the US (Determine 3). Thus, the market worth of US overseas liabilities has risen rather more shortly than the market worth of US overseas belongings, miserable the US internet overseas asset place.

Determine 2 US overseas belongings and overseas liabilities as a share of GDP

Determine 3 Inventory worth indexes for the US and for the world excluding the US, in {dollars} and in native forex

Up so far, all now we have carried out is easy accounting. Our subsequent goal is to deal with the welfare implications of the decline within the US internet overseas asset place. To take action requires a mannequin inside which we are able to simulate shocks that enhance US asset values. Farhi and Gourio (2019) develop a tractable macro asset pricing mannequin that can be utilized as an accounting framework to hint out the contributions of assorted potential drivers of asset revaluations. They discover the relative roles in future macro and asset valuation traits of (1) modifications in agency market energy, (2) modifications within the significance of intangible capital, and (3) modifications in threat premia. Greenwald et al. (2022) conduct an identical train. They conclude that crucial driver of rising US fairness values between 1989 and 2017 was a collection of issue share shocks that reallocated output towards shareholders on the expense of employees. 

In our paper, we lengthen a mannequin that’s just like those in Farhi and Gourio (2019) and Greenwald et al. (2022) to a world setting, in order that we are able to discover differential cross-country asset valuation dynamics and their implications for the present account and the web overseas asset place. In our mannequin, companies in every nation produce differentiated varieties. Every selection will be produced by a extra productive ‘chief’ agency, or by a fringe of much less productive potential rivals. In equilibrium, chief companies interact in restrict pricing, setting markups which can be as massive as potential whereas nonetheless preserving their manufacturing monopoly. We use the mannequin to discover two completely different potential drivers of a US-specific enhance in asset values. 

The primary speculation we entertain is that the productiveness differential between chief and follower companies has elevated within the US – however not in the remainder of the world. This results in an increase in US markups, in US monopoly earnings, and within the worth of US companies. From the standpoint of agency homeowners, the bounce in agency values seems as a windfall sudden extra return to fairness. And if these homeowners are abroad, the shock implies a everlasting enhance within the share of US earnings accruing to foreigners. Thus, on this mannequin, the decline within the US internet overseas asset place displays a redistribution of earnings away from People and towards foreigners. We argue that this mannequin of agency values is in keeping with two key empirical information. First, it’s in keeping with the truth that measured company payouts relative to GDP have risen markedly within the US in latest many years, whereas payouts in different international locations haven’t (see Determine 4). Second, the mannequin is in keeping with the truth that US present account deficits have typically been modest within the post-Nice Recession interval.

Determine 4 Company payouts within the US and the EU

We additionally contemplate an alternate speculation for rising US asset values, which is that manufacturing has develop into extra intensive in types of capital which can be poorly measured in nationwide accounts. Beneath this speculation, the worth of the US inventory market has risen as a result of US (however not overseas) companies have undertaken loads of funding in unmeasured intangible types of capital. Alongside a balanced progress path, it seems that the upper markups versus extra intangible capital fashions are observationally equal. However in our open financial system setting, the 2 fashions exhibit very completely different dynamics within the transition from one balanced progress path to a different. Specifically, if unmeasured capital turns into extra essential, the mannequin predicts a interval of very massive (and counterfactual) present account deficits, because the US borrows to speculate. As a result of valuation beneficial properties mirror new capital accumulation there aren’t any windfall beneficial properties to overseas homeowners of US companies – whoever funds the unmeasured funding reaps the long run returns to that capital.

To conclude, rising worldwide fairness diversification has created highly effective new channels for shocks to propagate throughout nationwide borders. Surging US fairness values in a context of considerable overseas possession of US fairness have led to a collapse within the US internet overseas asset place. Financing this internet debt to the remainder of the world requires, in expectation, that the US run bigger commerce surpluses transferring ahead. Our most popular interpretation of the surge in US fairness values is that US companies unexpectedly turned extra worthwhile, whereas overseas companies didn’t. In a closed financial system, this shock would redistribute to American agency homeowners on the expense of American employees. In our open financial system mannequin, the scenario for People is worse: a big share of the earnings misplaced by American employees accrues to overseas homeowners of US companies.  Nonetheless, this reallocation could be environment friendly from an ex ante perspective. A key open query right here is whether or not earnings are rising within the US due to the expansion of very productive celebrity companies within the US (Baqaee and Farhi 2017), or alternatively as a result of US markets have gotten much less aggressive (Philippon 2020). Within the first case, the shock is basically excellent news for People, and transfers overseas could be environment friendly. The second situation, in distinction, is a nasty information shock for the US, and better transfers overseas make a nasty scenario worse. 


Atkeson, A, J Heathcote and F Perri (2022), “The Finish of Privilege: A Reexamination of the Web Overseas Asset Place of america”, CEPR Dialogue Paper 17268.

Baqaee, D and E Farhi (2017), “Mixture productiveness and the rise of mark-ups”,, 4 December.

Farhi, E and F Gourio (2019), “Accounting for macro-finance traits”,, 10 March. 

Gourinchas, P-O and H Rey (2007), “Worldwide Monetary Adjustment”, Journal of Political Economic system 115(4): 665–703.

Gourinchas, P-O and H Rey (2014), “Exterior Adjustment, International Imbalances, Valuation Results”, in Gopinath, G, E Helpman and Okay Rogoff (eds), Handbook of Worldwide Economics, vol. 4, edited by. North Holland, 585–645.

Greenwald, D, M Lettau and S Ludvigson (2021), “How the Wealth was Received: Issue Shares as Market Fundamentals”, NBER Working Paper 25769.

Philippon, T (2020), “The Nice Reversal”,, 12 June.



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