The relationship between exchange rate volatility and portfolio inflow in South Africa
De Villiers, Johannes Joubert
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South Africa has become more dependent on portfolio inflow to finance investment and consumption due to the low rate of government and household savings. Therefore, it is important from South Africa's perspective to maintain a stable portfolio inflow in order to ensure that the current account deficit does not reach unsustainable levels. However, portfolio inflow is anything but stable in South Africa. The risk associated with this is that when foreigners' expectations of South Africa shift, due to any form of instability or risk within the country or even internationally, it leads to massive withdrawals or outflow of funds, which in turn causes the currency to depreciate. The portfolio balance theory on the other hand states that an increase in portfolio inflow leads to the appreciation of the nominal exchange rate, and that this is perceived to work against economic growth. The main objective of this research is to determine the nature of the relationship between exchange rate volatility and portfolio flows, and the extent to which volatility in the exchange rate affect South Africa's portfolio inflow. The research uses Vector Autoregressive (VAR) models and quarterly data, ranging from 1995 to 2012 to investigate this relationship. From the VAR models a Granger causality test, as well impulse response functions is used to shed light on the influence of a one-unit shock in both foreign portfolio inflow and exchange rate volatility on the other variables in the model. Exchange rate volatility is measured using both Autoregressive Conditional Heteroscedasticity (ARCH) family models and the conventional standard deviation, in order to control for possible biasness caused by the choice of instrument of volatility. The results showed the nature of the relationship between exchange rate volatility and foreign portfolio inflow to South Africa's capital markets can be described as country-dependent and time-varying. South Africa's portfolio inflow exhibits high volatility and low persistence that are characteristics normally associated with “hot money”, which is largely driven by foreign investors' appetite for short-term speculative gains. The study identified the consistent presence of bidirectional causality between the exchange rate volatility and foreign portfolio inflow to South Africa, irrespective of the measurement of exchange rate volatility. The results also revealed that net portfolio flows are associated with exchange rate appreciation and that foreign portfolio inflow react much stronger to changes in exchange rate volatility than vice versa.