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Complementarity among International Asset Holdings: Do Banks Have a Special Role?

Hahm, Joon-Ho and Shin, Kwanho (2006): Complementarity among International Asset Holdings: Do Banks Have a Special Role?

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Abstract

This paper studies the pattern and structure of cross-border bilateral financial asset holdings. By utilizing an extended dataset and employing a variant of gravity models, we find strong evidence for the presence of complementarities among bank loans, shortand long-term debts, and portfolio equity holdings. The complementarities can be explained by common factors of standard gravity models such as economy size, state of development, and information cost proxies, as well as bilateral trade in goods and services. However, we also find the presence of a direct channel of complementarities among financial asset holdings that cannot be explained by these gravity factors. We proceed to investigate whether the complementarities can be characterized by the models that predict a special role of banks in alleviating information asymmetry. We find supporting evidence for this hypothesis in that international bank lending tends to increase the volume of portfolio asset holdings. This acceleration effect of bank lending is stronger for destination countries with higher degrees of ‘law and order,’ which suggests that cross-border bank lending may not lead to capital market integration, despite reduced information cost, if there is no appropriate infrastructure to facilitate portfolio investment. By investigating the structure of bilateral asset holdings, we also find positive evidence for the information role of banks. The share of bank lending decreases with increasing state of development of destination countries measured by per capita GDP and human capital accumulation, but increases with increasing distance, suggesting that information cost may play an important role in determining the structure of cross-border asset holdings.

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