Essays on the effects of international commodity prices shocks

Stern, Mauricio
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Many emerging economies depend on commodities whose prices are volatile. High prices for these commodities naturally help those sectors related to the production of the commodities, but the economic benefits for other sectors are ambiguous. These effects can be different according to the characteristics of the sector, leading to a positive or negative sectoral effect depending on several features. Also, commodity price shocks may affect spending differently according to the characteristics of the population. A feature prevalent in many emerging economies is a low degree of banking penetration, which can affect the magnitude of commodity shocks, because banking services are related to how people save and borrow, affecting their ability to smooth spending when they face income shocks. This dissertation studies the effects of commodity price shocks in exporting economies, analyzing the overall and sectoral effects, as well as the regional effects according to access to banking services among inhabitants. The first chapter analyzes the effect of commodity price fluctuations on both overall and sectoral outcomes in a commodity-exporting economy. Using Chilean and international copper market data, I find positive copper price changes stemming from copper-specific demand shocks generate a broad GDP expansion with no visible decline in the exports of any sector, including manufacturing. These results provide evidence against the Dutch disease hypothesis involving the crowding out effect of commodity price increases on the manufacturing sector. The second chapter studies how features of a commodity-exporting economy such as the degree of substitution between domestic and foreign goods, the income effect on labor supply, and trade policy related to tariffs on imports shape overall and sectoral effects of commodity price shocks. For that, I estimate key structural parameters of a small open economy business-cycle model with 6 sectors by matching my empirical impulse responses and find that a low degree of substitution between domestic and foreign goods explains the positive sectoral effect of a commodity price shock. Then, I evaluate how tariffs on imports shape the effect of commodity price shocks and find low tariffs make the small open economy less sensitive to commodity price shocks when the elasticity of substitution between domestic goods and imports is small. The third chapter studies the relationship between access to banking services and the magnitude of external shocks. Using quarterly data of the number of checking and savings bank accounts per person as an indicator of access to banking services, I analyze the effects of commodity price changes conditional on the number of bank accounts per person across Mexican states. I find decreases in commodity prices generate a bigger contraction in total production in states with low numbers of bank accounts per person. A rise in commodity prices generates a bigger expansion of the number of formal workers as well as a wider contraction in the number of informal workers in regions with a low number of bank accounts per person.