The Collapse of the Mexican Peso: What Have We Learned?

Jeffrey Sachs, Aaron Tornell, Andres Velasco

NBER Working Paper No. 5142
Issued in June 1995
NBER Program(s):International Finance and Macroeconomics

In the first quarter of 1995 Mexico found itself in the grip of an intense financial panic. Foreign investors fled Mexico despite very high interest rates on Mexican securities, an undervalued currency, and financial indicators that pointed to long-term solvency. The fundamental conditions of the Mexican economy cannot account for the entire crisis. The crisis was due to unexpected shocks that occurred in 1994, and the inadequate policy response to those shocks. In the aftermath of the March assassination the exchange rate experienced a nominal devaluation of around 10 percent and interest rates increased by around 7 percentage points. However, the capital outflow continued. The policy response to this was to maintain the exchange rate rule, and to prevent further increases in interest rates by expanding domestic credit and by converting short-term peso- denominated government liabilities (Cetes) falling due into dollar- denominated bonds (Tesobonos). A fall in international reserves and an increase in short-term dollar-denominated debt resulted. The government simply ended up illiquid, and therefore financially vulnerable. Illiquidity exposed Mexico to a self-fulfilling panic.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w5142

Published: Economic Policy, no. 22 (April 1996).

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