Balance of Payments

Overview

The balance-of-payments accounts of a country record the payments and receipts of the residents of the country in their transactions with residents of other countries. If all transactions are included, the payments and receipts of each country are, and must be, equal. Any apparent inequality simply leaves one country acquiring assets in the others. For example, if Americans buy automobiles from Japan, and have no other transactions with Japan, the Japanese must end up holding dollars, which they may hold in the form of bank deposits in the United States or in some other U.S.investment. The payments Americans make to Japan for automobiles are balanced by the payments Japanese make to U.S. individuals and institutions, including banks, for the acquisition of dollar assets. Put another way, Japan sold the United States automobiles, and the United States sold Japan dollars or dollar-denominated assets such as treasury bills and New York office buildings.

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