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Ms. Kalpana Kochhar, Ms. Yan M Sun, Ms. Evridiki Tsounta, and Mr. Niklas J Westelius

For the latest thinking about the international financial system, monetary policy, economic development, poverty reduction, and other critical issues, subscribe to Finance & Development (F&D). This lively quarterly magazine brings you in-depth analyses of these and other subjects by the IMF’s own staff as well as by prominent international experts. Articles are written for lay readers who want to enrich their understanding of the workings of the global economy and the policies and activities of the IMF.

DAVID FOLKERTS-LANDAU and PETER M. GARBER

The paper presents evidence from the past three years which indicates that the exchange rate between the private ECU and the official ECU Basket can deviate substantially from par. The value of the private ECU is driven by expectations that a future European Central Bank will enforce par convertibility between the private ECU and the official ECU basket of currencies. Meanwhile, no existing institutional arrangement limits the private ECU’s value in terms of the Basket. This paper addresses the question of what determines the values of the private ECU and of private ECU interest rates. We show that an anticipation of a future fixing of the private ECU’s value, together with the interest rate setting mechanism of the large-value ECU payment and clearing system, are sufficient to determine its value. The determination of the private ECU exchange rate provides the template for how to determine the value of any private composite currency, such as, for example, a private SDR.

GRACIELA KAMINSKY and MANMOHAN S. KUMAR

An econometric investigation is undertaken into the efficiency of commodity futures markets. Despite considerable empirical literature, there is no consensus on whether or not the markets are efficient. This study suggests that for certain commodities expected excess returns to futures speculation are nonzero. However, these results do not necessarily imply that agents do not act rationally. The implications for the cost of using the futures market for hedging and for the power of futures prices to forecast future spot prices are also noted.

Robert A. Feldman

This paper elaborates the introduction of surveillance that gave the IMF broader responsibilities with respect to oversight of its members’ policies than existed under the par value system. The IMF’s purview has been broadened under the new system but, by the same token, its members are no longer obliged to seek its concurrence in changes in exchange rates. The continuing volatility of exchange rates, and their prolonged divergence from levels that appear to be sustainable over time, have been matters of growing concern.

JONATHAN D. OSTRY and JOAQUIM LEVY

The household saving ratio in France underwent sharp changes over the past two decades, falling dramatically in the early 1980s before rising more recently. This paper emphasizes two factors in the evolution of private saving in France. The first relates to perceptions of household income growth and uncertainty, which have likely been affected by deteriorating labor market conditions and may therefore help account for the recent increase in saving. The second relates to financial deregulation, which may have lowered saving and increased its sensitivity to interest rate changes. Both have played some role in the evolution of French household saving.

Mr. Stijn Claessens

For the latest thinking about the international financial system, monetary policy, economic development, poverty reduction, and other critical issues, subscribe to Finance & Development (F&D). This lively quarterly magazine brings you in-depth analyses of these and other subjects by the IMF’s own staff as well as by prominent international experts. Articles are written for lay readers who want to enrich their understanding of the workings of the global economy and the policies and activities of the IMF.

Mr. Joaquim Vieira Ferreira Levy and Mr. Jonathan David Ostry
The household saving ratio in France has undergone very sharp changes over the past two decades, falling dramatically in the first part of the 1980s before rising in more recent years. This paper emphasizes two factors in the evolution of private saving in France. The first relates to perceptions of household income growth and uncertainty, which are likely to have been affected by deteriorating labor market conditions, and which may therefore help to account for the recent increase in saving. The second factor relates to financial deregulation which may have lowered saving and increased its sensitivity to interest rate changes. It is argued that both factors have played some role in the evolution of French household saving.
LOUIS O. SCOTT

Prices in futures and options markets reflect expectations about future price movements in spot markets, but these prices can also be influenced by risk premia. Futures and forward prices are sometimes interpreted as market expectations for future spot prices, and option prices are used to calculate the market’s expectations for future volatility of spot prices. Do these prices accurately reflect market expectations? The information that is reflected in futures prices and option prices is examined in this paper through a review of both the relevant analytical models and the empirical evidence. [JEL G13, G12, G14]