Capital inflows and asset prices: Evidence from emerging Asia

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  • Journal of Banking & Finance 37 (2013) 717729Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect

    Journal of Banking & Finance

    journal homepage: www.elsevier .com/locate / jbfCapital inflows and asset prices: Evidence from emerging Asia

    Peter TillmannDepartment of Economics, Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, Licher Str. 66, 35394 Giessen, Germanya r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c tArticle history:Received 1 March 2012Accepted 10 October 2012Available online 8 November 2012

    JEL classification:F32F41E32

    Keywords:Capital inflowsHouse pricesMonetary policySign restrictionsPanel VAR0378-4266/$ - see front matter 2012 Elsevier B.V. A

    E-mail address: peter.tillmann@wirtschaft.uni-gies1 The numbers are taken from IMF (2011a). See Til

    flows to Asia during the crisis and IMF (2011b), Ostryet al. (2012) for discussions of policy responses.The withdrawal of foreign capital from emerging countries at the height of the recent financial crisis andits quick return sparked a debate about the impact of capital flow surges on asset markets. This paperaddresses the response of property prices to an inflow of foreign capital. For that purpose we estimatea panel VAR on a set of Asian emerging market economies, for which the waves of inflows were partic-ularly pronounced, and identify capital inflow shocks based on sign restrictions. Our results suggest thatcapital inflow shocks have a significant effect on the appreciation of house prices and equity prices.Capital inflow shocks account for roughly twice the portion of overall house price changes theyexplain in OECD countries. We also address cross-country differences in the house price responses toshocks, which are most likely due to differences in the monetary policy response to capital inflows.

    2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.1. Introduction

    Over the recent years emerging market economies experiencedlarge swings in net capital inflows. While net capital inflowspeaked in early 2008 at about 4% of emerging markets GDP, theydropped to 2.5% following the collapse of Lehman Brothers atthe height of the financial crisis. Interestingly, however, capitalflows quickly resumed in early 2009. In Asia, flows already ex-ceeded the pre-crisis level in early 2010.1

    Capital inflows are, in principle, highly welcome in emergingeconomies. They lower the costs of funding, help raise the standardof living and thus facilitate convergence with advanced economies.Likewise, cross-border flows, by offering investment opportunitiesand extending the set of available assets, contribute to economicefficiency and risk sharing also in the source countries. Neverthe-less, capital inflows often have many unwarranted effects: First,they can lead to a real exchange rate appreciation that underminescompetitiveness in the tradeable goods sector. Second, by prevent-ing the central bank from tightening monetary policy, they canlead the economy to overheat, generating inflationary pressures.Third, they can trigger and prolong asset price bubbles and amplifyfinancial fragility.ll rights reserved.

    sen.dele (2011) a survey on capitalet al. (2011) and BalakrishnanThe latter impact is the focus of this paper. In light of the recentfinancial crisis that originated in a housing price bubble in the US,researchers and policymakers focus again on the housing market asa key indicator for financial imbalances and macroeconomic risks.Federal Reserve chairman Bernanke (2010) explicitly linked capitalinflows to accelerating house price inflation and bubbly propertyprices. Although he focused on the US case, the capital flow-houseprice nexus is arguably even more important for emergingcountries.

    This paper studies the response of property prices in emergingmarket economies to an inflow of foreign capital. Our contributionis threefold:

    First, we estimate a panel vector autoregression (VAR) on a setof Asian emerging market economies for which the waves of in-flows were particularly pronounced. A panel approach is best sui-ted to summarize the data in light of the short sample periodavailable after the disruptions of the Asian financial crisis. The pa-per focuses on Asia because capital quickly returned to this regionafter the 2008 financial crisis, inflows are more homogenous acrosscountries in this region than compared to, say, Latin America and,finally, house prices experienced considerable upward pressureover the past years.

    Second, we use sign restrictions following the work of Uhlig(2005) and, in particular, S et al. (2011) to identify capital inflowshocks and the responses of house prices and equity prices to theseshocks. Our approach avoids an arbitrary ordering of the variablesthat often characterizes triangular identification schemes used in

  • Table 1VAR specifications.


    Sample 2000:12011:1 2003:12010:4Lag order 4 3Countries HKG, KOR, MAL, THA, TWN HKG, KOR, MAL, SGP, THA, TWNVariables FLOWSit, GDPit, Pit, REERit,

    ASSETit, LONGit, SHORTit

    Table 2Sign restrictions.

    Restriction on VAR with total capitalinflows

    VAR with portfolioinflows

    Sign Horizon Sign Horizon

    Capital inflows + K = 2 + K = 1GDP + K = 2 + K = 1Price level Unrestricted UnrestrictedREER appreciation + K = 2 + K = 1Asset prices Unrestricted UnrestrictedLong rate K = 2 K = 1Short rate Unrestricted Unrestricted

    4 In a recent theoretical contribution, Adam et al. (2012) develop an open economy

    718 P. Tillmann / Journal of Banking & Finance 37 (2013) 717729other VAR studies on asset price dynamics and monetary policy re-viewed below. The shock we identify can best be interpreted as anunexpected increase in foreigners demand for domestic assets. Thedriving forces behind international capital flows are often classifiedin terms of push and pull factors. Push factors, defined as financialand macroeconomic conditions in advanced economies, lead inves-tors in advanced economies to send funds to emerging markets. Incontrast, pull factors are given by conditions in the recipient coun-tries attracting foreign investors. The capital inflow shock identi-fied here is consistent with a shock to push factors.2

    Third, we use the estimated panel VAR to shed light on cross-country differences in the responses of both types of asset prices,i.e. house prices and equity prices, to capital inflow shocks. For thatpurpose we exclude each country in turn from our panel VAR andestimate the VAR on the remaining set of countries. This gives us aset of impulse response functions from which the relative effectstemming from one country in the panel can be gauged.

    Our results suggest that capital inflow shocks had a significanteffect on real house price appreciation. A shock that increases netcapital inflows relative to GDP by one percentage point leads toan increase in real house prices of 0.5%. Although capital inflowshocks account for only a moderate small portion of overall houseprice changes, about 1015% depending on the specification, thisfraction is about twice as large as what has been found for OECDcountries.3 The shocks we identify capture the capital flight in2008 and the massive return of capital coinciding with the uncon-ventional monetary policies in industrial countries since 2009. Tocorroborate these findings, we also estimate the responses of equityprices to capital inflow shocks and restrict capital flows to portfolioinflows only. Finally, we find important cross-country differences inthe sensitivity to capital flow shocks, which cannot be explained bymortgage market characteristics or property market regulation. In-stead, our results are consistent with the view that aggregate macropolicies such as the monetary policy response to inflows are themain determinant of cross-country heterogeneity.

    The remainder of the paper is organized as follows. The follow-ing section briefly summarizes the related literature. Section 32 Milesi-Ferretti and Tille (2011) and Forbes and Warnock (2011) stress the role ofpush-factors for recent periods of massive capital inflows. See also Frster et al.(2012) for an analysis of the global comovement of capital flows.

    3 See S et al. (2011) for these findings for OECD countries.introduces the panel VAR model, provides details on the data set,the construction of the main variables and explains the identifyingrestrictions. The main findings are discussed in Section 4. Section 5presents results from alternative specifications to corroborate therobustness of the previous findings. Section 6 sheds light on thecross-country heterogeneity in the asset price responses to capitalinflow shocks. Section 7 summarizes the results and draws someconclusions.2. Related literature

    The present paper contributes to understanding the linkagesbetween capital inflows and asset price surges with a particular fo-cus on house price dynamics. Three strands of the literature areparticularly relevant for this task. We briefly portray some key con-tributions to each strand with an eye on VAR studies and pay par-ticular attention to papers addressing Asian economies.

    First, recent papers estimate reduced form relationships be-tween asset prices and the current account.4 Based on a largecross-section of countries Kole and Martin (2009) find a robust neg-ative correlation between the growth rate of house prices and thechange in a countrys current account balance. Likewise, Aizenmanand Jinjarak (2009) find a strong positive relationship between cur-rent account deficits and real estate prices. The causality betweenhouse prices and the current account is studied by Jinjarak


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