The U.S. Current Account Balance in 2003

The BEA just released the figures from the last quarter (and thus the full year) of 2003 for the US current account balance. The grand total for the current account deficit in 2003 is $542 billion, meaning the US as a whole borrowed $542 billion from the rest of the world by consuming more goods and services than it produced.

The following table shows the changes in imports and exports by category over the course of 2003. It looks like US exports really started picking up in the end of 2003. Of course, US imports really picked up then, too.

This current account deficit of $542 billion was paid for by net foreign purchases of US assets totaling $857 billion during 2003, up from $707 billion the year before. (Net US purchases of foreign assets was $278bn.) This $857bn includes a net of $208 billion of US assets purchased by foreign central banks and governments, primarily in the form of US government securities. Most of that happened in the last 2 quarters of 2003, reflecting Asian central bank purchases of dollar assets to keep their currencies from appreciating. But private individuals and firms around the world also purchased a record net $649bn of US assets in 2003. Apparently the rest of the world still likes buying US assets…