Current Account Deficit

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What is a 'Current Account Deficit'

A measurement of a country’s trade in which the value of goods and services it imports exceeds the value of goods and services it exports. The current account also includes net income, such as interest and dividends, as well as transfers, such as foreign aid, though these components tend to make up a smaller percentage of the current account than exports and imports. The current account is a calculation of a country’s foreign transactions, and along with the capital account is a component of a country’s balance of payment.

BREAKING DOWN 'Current Account Deficit'

A current account deficit represents a negative net sales abroad. Developed countries, such as the United States, often run current account deficits, while emerging economies often run current account surpluses. Countries that are very poor tend to run current account deficits.

A country can reduce its current account deficit by increasing the value of its exports relative to the value of imports. It can place restrictions on imports, such as tariffs or quotas, or it can emphasize policies that promote exports, such as import substitution industrialization or policies that improve domestic companies' global competitiveness. The country can also use monetary policy to improve the domestic currency’s valuation relative to other currencies through devaluation, since this makes a country’s exports less expensive.

While a current account deficit can be considered akin to a country living “outside of its means," having a current account deficit is not inherently bad. If a country uses external debt to finance investments that have a higher return than the interest rate on the debt, it can remain solvent while running a current account deficit. If a country is unlikely to cover current debt levels with future revenue streams, it may become insolvent.

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