from Follow the Money

If anyone thinks tomorrow’s q4 current account deficit will be “$200 billion”

March 13, 2006

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They have not been paying very close attention.

Yes, the deficit was close to $200b in the past three quarters.   That seems to be shaping expectations.  The FT reports:

"fourth-quarter US current account deficit data are expected to show a quarterly gap of about $200bn"

But the trade deficit alone in q4 was $197.4b - up from $181-182b in q3.  The expanding trade deficit alone should drive an increase in the current account deficit.

Transfers are hard to forecast.     In quarters without large payments from global re-insurers to US insurers to compensate for hurricane damage, the transfers deficit has averaged well over $20b.   But some of the Katrina and Rita payments may appear in q4, not just q3.  But even if you chalk a repeat of q3, the transfers deficit would be $13.6b - enough to generate a current account deficit of $210b.

And then the real wildcard: what happens to net income payments.  I bet that line in the current account will turn substantially negative in the fourth quarter, as rising interest payments finally outpace rising "dark matter" from US direct investment abroad.   

Rising debt levels plus rising interest rates should work out to higher external payments.

We will see.  Personally, I expect a deficit of close to $220b.  Maybe that is about $200b.  But I would call it a bit above $200b.  

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