Survey of Current Business
July 2019
Volume 99, Number 7

Annual Update of the U.S. International Transactions Accounts

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In June 2019, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released annual updates of the U.S. international transactions accounts (ITAs) and the U.S. international investment position (IIP) accounts.1 With this annual update, quarterly and annual statistics on U.S. international transactions were revised to incorporate newly available and revised source data and updated seasonal and trading day adjustments as follows:

  • Goods exports and imports for 2016–2018 were updated to incorporate revised source data, mainly from the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Services exports and imports for 2016–2018 were updated to incorporate newly available and revised source data, mainly from BEA quarterly surveys of international trade in services.
  • Primary income receipts and payments for 2016–2018 were updated to incorporate newly available and revised source data, mainly from BEA direct investment surveys and from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Treasury International Capital (TIC) surveys.
  • Financial asset and liability transactions for direct investment, portfolio investment, other investment, and financial derivatives for 2016–2018 were updated to incorporate newly available and revised source data, mainly from BEA direct investment surveys and from TIC surveys.
  • Seasonal factors and trading day adjustments were updated for 2014–2018.2

Appendices A and B provide a numerical summary of the revisions; for a comparison of this year’s revisions with revisions from past annual updates, see “2019 Annual Update in Historical Context.” Updated statistics on the detailed components of the ITAs are presented in ”U.S. International Transactions Tables” in this issue of the Survey of Current Business.

Current-account highlights

Current-account statistics were updated to incorporate newly available and revised source data for 2016–2018 and updated seasonal factors, which only affected quarterly statistics, for 2014–2018. For 2016–2018, this annual update has not altered the overall picture of U.S. international transactions. Revisions to the current-account deficit for 2016–2018 did not alter its direction of change (increase or decrease) for any year. The current-account deficit was revised down for 2016 and 2017 and revised up for 2018. The largest revisions to the current-account deficit were downward revisions of $9.5 billion for 2017 and $4.5 billion for 2016 (table A, chart 1). Despite these revisions in levels, the trend in the current-account deficit reflected in the revised statistics for all years is unchanged from the trend reflected in the previously published statistics.

The revisions to the quarterly statistics did not affect the direction (increase or decrease) of the quarter-to-quarter changes in the current-account deficit for 2014–2018, with one exception: for the first quarter of 2015, a $0.1 billion dollar decrease in the deficit was revised to an increase of less than $0.1 billion (chart 2). For most quarters, the revisions also did not significantly affect the magnitude of the quarter-to-quarter changes in the current-account deficit. The largest revision to the quarter-to-quarter change was for the second quarter of 2018; the previously published $20.4 billion decrease in the deficit was revised up $13.7 billion to a $6.7 billion decrease.

Goods and services. The deficit on goods and services was revised up for 2016 and 2018 and revised down for 2017. The largest revision was an upward revision of $5.6 billion for 2018. The revised statistics show the same trend as the previously published statistics.

The deficit on goods was revised down for 2016–2018. The largest revision was a downward revision of $4.0 billion for 2018 (table B). The updates to exports and imports of goods primarily reflect revised source data from the Census Bureau.

The surplus on services was revised down for 2016–2018. The largest revision was a downward revision of $9.6 billion for 2018 (table B). The revisions to exports and imports of services reflect newly available and revised source data, primarily from BEA quarterly surveys of international trade in services.

Primary income. The surplus on primary income was revised up for 2016–2018. The largest revision was an upward revision of $9.7 billion for 2018 (tables A and B). The revisions to primary income receipts and payments mainly reflect newly available and revised source data from BEA direct investment surveys and the TIC surveys.3

Revisions to direct investment income for 2016 and 2017 reflect revisions to current-cost adjustments due to newly available and revised source data from BEA annual direct investment surveys and from the BEA national accounts (table B). The current-cost adjustment to direct investment income substitutes economic depreciation charges for the financial-accounting-based depreciation and depletion charges against equity income that are reported on BEA surveys of direct investment. These adjustments put depreciation on a replacement-cost basis and more closely align parents’ claims on affiliates’ income with charges against income in the same period, as required by economic accounting principles.

The 2018 revisions to direct investment income reflect newly available and revised source data from BEA quarterly direct investment surveys as well as revisions to current-cost adjustments to direct investment income. The incorporation of updated quarterly direct investment survey data for 2016 and 2017, which would normally occur with this annual update, was delayed until 2020 because of the impact of the partial government shutdown that started in late December 2018 and ended in late January 2019.

Secondary income. The deficit on secondary income (current transfers) was revised up for 2016 and 2018 and revised down for 2017. The largest revision was an upward revision of $6.6 billion for 2018 (tables A and B). The revisions to secondary income primarily reflect newly available source data from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and BEA services surveys.

Table B. Revisions to Selected Current-Account Transactions, 2016–2018
[Billions of dollars]
  2016 2017 2018
Exports of goods and services and income receipts (line 1):      
Revised 3,188.5 3,444.8 3,735.7
Previously published 3,183.8 3,433.2 3,701.7
Amount of revision 4.7 11.6 34.0
Exports of goods (line 3):      
Revised 1,457.4 1,553.6 1,674.3
Previously published 1,457.0 1,553.4 1,672.3
Amount of revision 0.4 0.2 2.0
Exports of services (line 13):      
Revised 758.4 799.0 827.0
Previously published 758.9 797.7 828.4
Amount of revision −0.4 1.3 −1.4
Primary income receipts (line 23):      
Revised 835.5 933.3 1,084.2
Previously published 830.2 928.1 1,060.4
Amount of revision 5.3 5.2 23.8
Direct investment income receipts (line 25):      
Revised 461.8 509.8 574.5
Previously published 456.4 504.4 551.8
Amount of revision 5.3 5.4 22.6
Dividends and withdrawals (part of line 25):      
Revised 139.3 155.1 776.5
Previously published 139.3 155.1 664.9
Amount of revision 0.0 0.0 111.6
Reinvested earnings (part of line 25):      
Revised 298.3 328.0 −229.7
Previously published 292.9 322.6 −141.6
Amount of revision 5.3 5.4 −88.0
Secondary income receipts (line 30):      
Revised 137.2 159.0 150.2
Previously published 137.8 154.0 140.6
Amount of revision −0.6 4.9 9.6
Imports of goods and services and income payments (line 31):      
Revised 3,616.9 3,884.5 4,226.7
Previously published 3,616.7 3,882.4 4,190.2
Amount of revision 0.2 2.1 36.5
Imports of goods (line 33):      
Revised 2,207.2 2,358.8 2,561.7
Previously published 2,208.0 2,360.9 2,563.7
Amount of revision −0.8 −2.1 −2.0
Imports of services (line 42):      
Revised 511.6 543.9 567.3
Previously published 509.8 542.5 559.2
Amount of revision 1.8 1.4 8.1
Insurance services (line 46):      
Revised 50.1 50.6 42.5
Previously published 49.9 50.7 38.2
Amount of revision 0.2 −0.1 4.3
Charges for the use of intellectual property n.i.e. (line 48):      
Revised 47.0 53.4 56.1
Previously published 46.6 51.3 53.8
Amount of revision 0.4 2.2 2.4
Primary income payments (line 52):      
Revised 636.9 707.5 830.2
Previously published 637.2 706.4 816.1
Amount of revision −0.3 1.1 14.1
Secondary income payments (line 58):      
Revised 261.2 274.3 267.5
Previously published 261.7 272.6 251.2
Amount of revision −0.5 1.6 16.2
Balance on current account (line 101):      
Revised −428.3 −439.6 −491.0
Previously published −432.9 −449.1 −488.5
Amount of revision 4.5 9.5 −2.5
Balance on goods and services (line 102):      
Revised −503.0 −550.1 −627.7
Previously published −502.0 −552.3 −622.1
Amount of revision −1.0 2.2 −5.6
Balance on goods (line 103):      
Revised −749.8 −805.2 −887.3
Previously published −751.1 −807.5 −891.3
Amount of revision 1.3 2.3 4.0
Balance on services (line 104):      
Revised 246.8 255.1 259.7
Previously published 249.1 255.2 269.2
Amount of revision −2.2 −0.1 −9.6
Balance on primary income (line 105):      
Revised 198.7 225.8 254.0
Previously published 193.0 221.7 244.3
Amount of revision 5.6 4.1 9.7
Balance on secondary income (line 106):      
Revised −124.0 −115.3 −117.3
Previously published −123.9 −118.6 −110.7
Amount of revision −0.1 3.3 −6.6
n.i.e.
Not included elsewhere

Note. Line numbers refer to ITA table 1.2 on BEA’s website.

Capital-account highlights

The balance on the capital account was revised down for 2016–2018. The largest revisions were a downward revision of $6.2 billion for 2018 and a downward revision of $5.8 billion for 2017 (table A). The revisions to capital transfer receipts reflect revised estimates of insurance-related capital transfers based on newly available and revised source data from BEA quarterly surveys of international trade in services. The 2017 transactions reflected receipts from foreign insurance companies for losses resulting from hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. The 2018 transactions reflected receipts from foreign insurance companies for losses resulting from Hurricane Florence and the wildfires in California. For more information, see “What are the effects of hurricanes and other disasters on the international economic accounts?

Financial-account highlights

Financial-account statistics for 2014–2018 were updated to incorporate newly available and revised source data, including BEA quarterly and annual direct investment surveys, TIC surveys, and updated seasonal factors. Revisions to net borrowing from financial-account transactions for 2016–2018 did not alter its direction of change for any year. The largest revisions to net borrowing from financial account transactions were a downward revision of $74.1 billion for 2018 and an upward revision of $25.7 billion for 2017 (tables A and C, chart 3).

Revisions to net borrowing reflect the combined revisions to net U.S. acquisition of financial assets excluding financial derivatives, to net U.S. incurrence of liabilities excluding financial derivatives, and to net transactions in financial derivatives. The revised annual financial transactions for each of these major accounts are similar in size and direction of change (increase or decrease) to the previously published financial transactions. The revisions to the quarterly statistics did not affect the direction of the quarter-to-quarter changes in net borrowing for 2014–2018, with one exception: for the second quarter of 2018, a $7.1 billion dollar decrease in net borrowing was revised to an increase of $39.7 billion (chart 4).

Table C. Revisions to Selected Financial-Account Transactions, 2016–2018
[Billions of dollars]
  2016 2017 2018
Net U.S. acquisition of financial assets excluding financial derivatives (net increase in assets/financial outflow (+)) (line 61):      
Revised 353.0 1,167.4 310.8
Previously published 348.6 1,182.7 301.6
Amount of revision 4.4 −15.3 9.2
Direct investment assets (line 62):      
Revised 318.3 384.6 −78.5
Previously published 313.0 379.2 −50.6
Amount of revision 5.3 5.4 −27.8
Portfolio investment assets (line 65):      
Revised 36.3 569.4 334.0
Previously published 36.3 586.7 210.3
Amount of revision 0.0 −17.3 123.7
Equity and investment fund shares (line 66):      
Revised 21.7 139.9 194.1
Previously published 21.7 166.8 97.2
Amount of revision 0.0 −26.9 96.9
Debt securities (line 67)      
Revised 14.5 429.4 139.9
Previously published 14.5 419.9 113.2
Amount of revision 0.0 9.6 26.8
Other investment assets (line 70):      
Revised −3.7 215.2 50.3
Previously published −2.7 218.5 136.9
Amount of revision −0.9 −3.3 −86.7
Currency and deposits (line 71):      
Revised −91.3 169.2 71.8
Previously published −91.3 172.0 151.8
Amount of revision (*) −2.7 −80.0
Loans (line 72):      
Revised 86.8 40.2 −22.4
Previously published 87.7 40.9 −15.7
Amount of revision −0.9 −0.6 −6.7
Net U.S. incurrence of liabilities excluding financial derivatives (net increase in liabilities/financial inflow (+)) (line 84):      
Revised 742.9 1,549.0 735.6
Previously published 741.5 1,537.7 800.9
Amount of revision 1.4 11.3 −65.3
Direct investment liabilities (line 85):      
Revised 494.4 354.7 258.4
Previously published 494.5 354.8 267.1
Amount of revision (*) −0.2 −8.7
Portfolio investment liabilities (line 88):      
Revised 231.3 792.5 315.7
Previously published 231.3 799.2 320.0
Amount of revision 0.0 −6.7 −4.3
Equity and investment fund shares (line 89):      
Revised −139.7 149.6 142.4
Previously published −139.7 155.7 147.2
Amount of revision 0.0 −6.0 −4.8
Debt securities (line 90)      
Revised 371.0 642.9 173.3
Previously published 371.0 643.5 172.8
Amount of revision 0.0 −0.6 0.5
Other investment liabilities (line 93):      
Revised 17.1 401.9 161.5
Previously published 15.7 383.7 213.8
Amount of revision 1.4 18.2 −52.3
Currency and deposits (line 94):      
Revised 18.7 217.8 32.3
Previously published 17.2 217.4 29.6
Amount of revision 1.5 0.3 2.7
Loans (line 95):      
Revised −7.6 168.9 114.1
Previously published −7.6 150.8 169.7
Amount of revision (*) 18.0 −55.7
Financial derivatives other than reserves, net transactions (line 99):      
Revised 7.8 24.0 −20.7
Previously published 7.8 23.1 −20.3
Amount of revision 0.0 0.9 −0.5
Net lending (+) or net borrowing (−) from financial-account transactions (line 109):      
Revised −382.0 −357.6 −445.5
Previously published −385.1 −331.9 −519.6
Amount of revision 3.0 −25.7 74.1
(*)
A nonzero value between −$50,000,000 and $50,000,000.

Note. Line numbers refer to ITA table 1.2 on BEA’s website.

Net U.S. acquisition of financial assets excluding financial derivatives

Net U.S. acquisition of financial assets excluding financial derivatives was revised up for 2016 and 2018 and revised down for 2017. The revisions reflect (1) an upward revision to net acquisition of direct investment assets for 2016, (2) downward revisions to net acquisition of portfolio investment assets and other investment assets for 2017, and (3) an upward revision to net acquisition of portfolio investment assets that was largely offset by a downward revision to net acquisition of other investment assets for 2018.

Direct investment assets. Net acquisition of direct investment assets was revised up for 2016 and 2017, and net withdrawal of direct investment assets was revised up for 2018. The revisions reflect newly available and revised source data from BEA quarterly and annual direct investment surveys. Revisions to 2016 and 2017 reflect revised current-cost adjustments to direct investment income, which enter into direct investment assets as a component of reinvestment of earnings. Newly available and revised source data from BEA quarterly direct investment surveys are incorporated for 2018 only (see “Primary income”).

Portfolio investment assets. Net acquisition of portfolio investment assets (equity and debt securities) was unrevised for 2016, revised down for 2017, and revised up for 2018. The largest revision was a $123.7 billion upward revision for 2018. The revisions reflect newly available and revised source data from the TIC surveys of U.S. holdings of foreign securities.4

Other investment assets. Net liquidation of other investment assets (currency and deposits, loans, insurance technical reserves, and trade credit and advances) was revised up for 2016. Net acquisition of other investment assets was revised down for 2017 and 2018. The largest revision was a $86.7 billion downward revision in net acquisition for 2018. The revisions mainly reflect newly available and revised source data from the TIC surveys of U.S. claims on foreigners and from newly available data from the Bank for International Settlements on deposits placed by U.S. nonfinancial companies in foreign banks.5

Net U.S. incurrence of liabilities excluding financial derivatives

Net U.S. incurrence of liabilities excluding financial derivatives was revised up for 2016 and 2017 and revised down for 2018. The revisions reflect (1) upward revisions to net incurrence of other investment liabilities for 2016 and 2017 and (2) downward revisions to net incurrence of other investment liabilities, direct investment liabilities, and portfolio investment liabilities for 2018.

Direct investment liabilities. Net incurrence of direct investment liabilities was revised down for 2016–2018. The largest revision was a $8.7 billion downward revision for 2018. The revisions mainly reflect newly available and revised source data from BEA’s quarterly and annual direct investment surveys. Revisions to 2016 and 2017 reflect revised current-cost adjustments to direct investment income, which enter into direct investment liabilities as a component of reinvestment of earnings. Newly available and revised source data from BEA’s quarterly direct investment surveys are incorporated for 2018 only (see “Primary income”).

Portfolio investment liabilities. Net incurrence of portfolio investment liabilities was unrevised for 2016 and was revised down for 2017 and 2018. The largest revisions were a $6.7 billion downward revision for 2017 and a $4.3 billion downward revision for 2018. The revisions reflect newly available and revised source data from the TIC surveys of foreign holdings of U.S. securities.6

Other investment liabilities. Net incurrence of other investment liabilities was revised up for 2016 and 2017 and down for 2018. The largest revisions were a $52.3 billion downward revision for 2018 and a $18.2 billion upward revision for 2017. The revisions reflect newly available and revised source data from the TIC surveys of U.S. liabilities to foreigners.7

Statistical discrepancy

The statistical discrepancy is the difference between net acquisition of assets and net incurrence of liabilities in the financial account (including financial derivatives) less the difference between total credits and total debits recorded in the current and capital accounts. In principle, the combined deficit (or surplus) on recorded transactions in the current and capital accounts should equal net borrowing (or net lending) measured by recorded transactions in the financial account. In practice, however, they differ because of incomplete source data, gaps in coverage, and timing differences.

Table A presents revisions to the statistical discrepancy for 2016–2018.


  1. For a discussion of the annual update of the IIP accounts, see Elena L. Nguyen and Erin M. Whitaker, “U.S. Net International Investment Position: First Quarter 2019, Year 2018, and Annual Update” in this issue of the Survey of Current Business.
  2. As part of BEA’s goal to more accurately portray the changing U.S. economy, with the June 2018 annual update, BEA extended the minimum period for incorporating revised seasonal factors for most quarterly ITA statistics from 3 to 5 years. With the 2019 annual update, in cooperation with the U.S. Census Bureau, BEA also applied this extended revision period to seasonally adjusted trade in goods. With future annual updates, BEA will revise seasonal factors for the most recent 5 years and for additional years, depending on the period of revision for underlying not seasonally adjusted data.
  3. Statistics for portfolio investment income and for other investment income are based partly on resident-nonresident transactions and positions collected monthly and quarterly on the TIC surveys, as explained in U.S. International Economic Accounts: Concepts and Methods, chapter 10, paragraphs 10.169–10.189.
  4. Revised data from the following TIC surveys were incorporated: (1) Aggregate Holdings of Long-Term Securities by U.S. and Foreign Residents (foreign securities), (2) Report of U.S. Ownership of Foreign Securities, Including Selected Money Market Instruments, and (3) Reports by Financial Institutions of Liabilities to, and Claims on, Foreign Residents by U.S. Residents (claims)."
  5. Revised data from the following TIC surveys were incorporated: (1) Reports by Financial Institutions of Liabilities to, and Claims on, Foreign Residents by U.S. Residents (claims) and (2) Reports of Liabilities to, and Claims on, Unaffiliated Foreign Residents by U.S. Resident Nonfinancial Institutions (claims).
  6. Revised data from the following TIC surveys were incorporated: (1) Aggregate Holdings of Long-Term Securities by U.S. and Foreign Residents (U.S. securities), (2) Foreign-residents&squo; Holdings of U.S. Securities, including Selected Money Market Instruments, and (3) Reports by Financial Institutions of Liabilities to, and Claims on, Foreign Residents by U.S. Residents (liabilities).
  7. Revised data from the following TIC surveys were incorporated: (1) Reports by Financial Institutions of Liabilities to, and Claims on, Foreign Residents by U.S. Residents (liabilities) and (2) Reports of Liabilities to, and Claims on, Unaffiliated Foreign Residents by U.S. Resident Nonfinancial Institutions (liabilities).