U.S. International Capital Flow Data Rarely Timely

August 18, 2008

The usefulness of measured U.S. capital movements is impeded by their lack of timeliness.  The most accurate and comprehensive information from the Commerce Department are released only quarterly and arrive in the final month of the following quarter.  Monthly data from the Treasury Department contain more recent information but all too often are still out of date.  Last Friday’s figures covering June exemplified this shortcoming.  The Treasury provides three aggregations of net capital inflows, two of which were smaller in June than in May.  Long-term flows excluding swaps fell 35.8% to $53.4 billion.  Long-term flows including swaps dropped 39.6% to $36.6 billion, and the broadest aggregation including some short-term flows widened from $12.3 billion in May to $51.1 billion in June.  In June, unlike August, the dollar was under selling pressure.  Capital flows are much more volatile from month to month than the components of the current account.  These data are hard to interpret and usually do not elicit much market reaction.



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