The current account is the sum of the balance of trade, factor income and cash transfers. It is one half of the balance of payments, together with the capital account. The current account matters in every country for a host of reasons, but it is especially important for small open economies like ours. Here’s the latest data on Ireland’s current account, here’s that data in chart form.
We see the imbalance within the current account throughout the crisis. Much of this imbalance came through the ‘services’ and ‘income’ channels, as we can see in this figure that simply decomposes the components of the current account over time.
There is a new working paper from the ECB by Ca’Zorzi et al which shows that, accounting for a host of other factors, the current account imbalance story is really the only one that matters. Once the current account become decoupled from what the authors call ‘fundamentals’, the wheels come off the bus. This paper should be food for thought for our policy makers.