Global financial imbalances can result from financial integration when countries differ in financial markets development. Countries with more advanced financial markets accumulate foreign liabilities in a gradual, long-lasting process. Differences in financial development also affect the composition of foreign portfolios: countries with negative net foreign asset positions maintain positive net holdings of nondiversifiable equity and foreign direct investment. Three observations motivate our analysis: (1) financial development varies widely even among industrial countries, with the United States on top; (2) the secular decline in the U.S. net foreign asset position started in the early 1980s, together with a gradual process of international financial integration; (3) the portfolio composition of U.S. net foreign assets features increased holdings of risky assets and a large increase in debt.
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