Katherine A. Smith

Associate Professor, Department of Economics, US Naval Academy


CV                    Teaching                   Honors

“Quantitative Implications of a Debt-Deflation Theory of Sudden Stops and Asset Prices”

(joint with Enrique Mendoza, University of Maryland, IMF, NBER)

Journal of International Economics, September 2006

“Sudden Stops” experienced during emerging markets crises are characterized by large reversals of capital inflows and the current account, deep recessions, and collapses in asset prices.  This paper proposes an open-economy equilibrium asset-pricing model in which financial frictions cause Sudden Stops.  Margin requirements impose a collateral constraint on foreign borrowing by domestic agents and trading costs distort asset trading by foreign securities firms.  At equilibrium, margin constraints may or may not bind depending on portfolio decisions and equilibrium asset prices.  If margin constraints do not bind, productivity shocks cause a moderate fall in consumption and a widening current account deficit.  If debt is high relative to asset holdings, the same productivity shocks trigger margin calls forcing domestic agents to fire-sell equity to foreign traders.  This sets off a Fisherian asset-price deflation and subsequent rounds of margin calls.  A current account reversal and a collapse in consumption occur when equity sales cannot prevent a sharp rise in net foreign assets.

“The Composition of Capital Inflows When Emerging Market Firms Face Financing Constraints”

(joint with Diego Valderrama, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco)

Journal of Development Economics, July 2009

The composition of capital inflows to emerging market economies tends to follow a predictable dynamic pattern across the business cycle. In most emerging market economies, total inflows are pro-cyclical, with debt and portfolio equity flowing in first, followed later in the expansion by foreign direct investment (FDI). To understand the dynamic composition of these flows, we use a small open economy (SOE) framework to model the composition of capital inflows as the equilibrium outcome of emerging market firms' financing decisions. We show how costly external financing and FDI search costs generate a state contingent cost of financing such that the cheapest source of financing depends on the phase of the business cycle. In this manner, the financial frictions are able to explain the interaction between the types of flows and deliver a time-varying composition of flows, as well as other standard features of emerging market business cycles. If, as this work suggests, flows are an equilibrium outcome of firms' financing decisions, then volatility of capital inflows is not necessarily bad for an economy. Furthermore, using capital controls to shut down one type of flow and encourage another is certain to have both short- and long-run welfare implications.

“Can Financing Constraints Explain the Asset Pricing Puzzles in Production Economies?”

International Economic Review, August 2011

General Equilibrium asset pricing models have a difficult time simultaneously delivering a sizable equity premium, a low and
counter-cyclical real risk free rate, as well as cyclical variation in return volatility. To explain these stylized facts, this paper introduces occasionally binding financing constraints that impede producers' ability to invest in an otherwise standard real business cycle model. These financing constraints increase the marginal cost of investing without altering the marginal rate of substitution directly, generating a sizable equity premium as well as other standard business cycle quantity and price moments. The financial frictions drive a wedge between the marginal rate of substitution and firms' internal stochastic discount factors so that the shadow value of capital is no longer tied to the average price of capital serving to increase asset price volatility.

“Nation Building and Economic Growth"

(joint with Ellyn Creasey and Ahmed Rahman)

American Economic Review P & P, May 2012


“Product Differentiation and Consumer Surplus in the Microfinance Industry”

(joint with D.W. Chan, D. J. Glaser and Ahmed Rahman)

Revise and Resubmit B.E. Journal of Economic Policy & Analysis

During the last fifteen years, high repayment rates of up to 96% have drawn many new lending institutions to the microfinance industry. While a decade ago the industry was dominated primarily by monopolies ostensibly focused on social welfare, the current market is filled with various types of financial institutions offering a variety of lending arrangements. This surge in competition and heterogeneity in product-type have brought down average lending rates but have also generated concern that the poorest borrowers are being excluded from the market while new entrants compete with existing firms for only the most reliable borrowers. Using a Bertrand differentiated product framework, we model the price setting and demand functions of Microfinance Institutions (MFIs). Using a seven year panel dataset covering over seventy countries, we empirically estimate parameters of the Nash price equilibrium and simulate the shape and structure of the underlying demand equation. We use simulated demand parameters to derive and compare measures of consumers' surplus of various types of MFIs across regions and countries. Our research indicates that the growth in MFIs and changes in market concentration and diversification can notably increase consumer welfare.

“Does Nation Building Spur Economic Growth?”

(joint with Ellyn Creasey and Ahmed Rahman)

Revise and Resubmit Economic Inquiry


“Financial Globalization, Financial Crisis, and the External Capital Structure of Emerging Markets”

(joint with Enrique Mendoza, University of Maryland, IMF, NBER, under review)

This paper argues that credit frictions and asset trading costs significantly increase the probability of a Sudden Stop in the early stages of financial globalization, and that this in turn, significantly alters the long-run external capital structure of emerging market economies. Upon opening the capital account, domestic agents have an incentive to accumulate debt and sell domestic equity in order to share risk with the rest of the world. Due to a lower cost of capital, equity prices rise allowing agents to accumulate a relatively large amount of debt without being constrained in the near term. As domestic agents accumulate debt and sell equity to re-balance their portfolio, however, adjustment costs force equity prices to subsequently fall. With a lower value of equity, agents within the emerging economy face a greater risk of hitting their credit constraint, triggering a debt deflation crisis. In the long run, the probability of a Sudden Stop is smaller as agents accumulate pre-cautionary savings to avoid the Sudden Stop. However, the adjustment of the external capital structure is permanent. Calibrating the model to Mexico, we solve numerically for the transitional dynamics after financial globalization and show that the model can match the dynamics observed in the data.


“Why Do Emerging Economies Import Direct Investment and Export Savings? A Story of Financial Underdevelopment”

(joint with Diego Valderrama).

 The net foreign asset positions (NFAP) of developing countries and emerging markets tend to be short equity and either short or long debt, while most industrial nations are long equity and short debt. This paper proposes that financial system inefficiencies associated with underdeveloped financial markets can explain this difference in the NFAPs. Financial system imperfections typically found in emerging markets and developing countries raise the cost of debt financing for domestic firms. This in turn leads to three distinct effects; a greater need for firms to precautionary save, increased vulnerability to foreign multinationals buy-outs, and a drastic limitation on the purchase of foreign firms. We extend a small open economy framework to study the financing decisions of firms operating under financial frictions. In equilibrium, we can obtain a large negative net equity position and a smaller negative net debt position as a result of incremental financing decisions of the firms, rationalizing the observed NFAP in most non-industrial economies.

Department of Economics

 United States Naval Academy

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