International Financial Crises and Flexible Exchange Rates: Some Policy Lessons from Canada

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This paper examines the behaviour of the Canadian dollar from 1997 to 1999 to see if there is any evidence of excess volatility or significant overshooting. A small econometric model of the exchange rate, based on market fundamentals, is presented and used to make tentative judgments about the extent to which the currency might have been systematically over- or undervalued. Three major conclusions emerge from the analysis. First, movements in world commodity prices and Canada-U.S. interest rate differentials can account for most of the observed variation in the value of the Canadian dollar. Any deviations that were recorded between actual and predicted values of the exchange rate were generally small and short-lived, suggesting that destabilizing speculative behaviour did not play a very important role in recent market developments. Second, while it is possible to explain most of the past movements in the Canadian dollar using a simple exchange rate equation, its ability to predict future movements in the exchange rate is limited due to the inherent instability of the fundamental variables guiding its behaviour. Exchange rate predictions, in short, are only as accurate as the forecasts of future commodity prices and interest rates. Third, it appears that periods of market turbulence are often dominated by fundamentalists as opposed to noise traders and are triggered typically by large external shocks. Monetary authorities should therefore be wary of resisting any movements in the exchange rate, since they are often part of a necessary and unavoidable adjustment process. Aggressive foreign exchange market intervention and other monetary policy actions designed to stabilize the exchange rate could easily prove counterproductive and subvert market efficiency.

Content Type(s): Staff research, Technical reports
JEL Code(s): F, F3, F31