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Asymmetric oil shocks and external balances of major oil exporting and importing countries.This study investigates the effects of oil price shocks on three measures of oil exporters' and oil importers' external balances: total trade balance, oil trade balance and non-oil trade balance. We employ three second-generation heterogeneous linear panel models and one recently developed non-linear panel estimation technique that allows for cross-sectional dependence. With respect to 28 major oil exporting countries, an increase in oil prices leads to an improved real oil trade balance, although it is detrimental to non-oil and total trade balances. This finding might be due to the expenditure effect arising from increases in proceeds from oil exports. A decrease in oil prices is found to be beneficial for both total and oil trade balances in these oil exporting countries. Forty major oil importers seem to be increasingly shielded from positive oil shocks over the 1970s and 1980s; however, they must worry about oil price declines. A decline in oil prices has a negative impact on both total and real oil trade balances resulting from increased oil imports in emerging economies. Hence, a decline in oil prices is beneficial to oil exporters due to the quantity effect outweighing the price effect, while for oil importers a stable oil price is more desirable than a price decline. These results are important to take into account if we are to gain a full understanding on the magnitude of the trade and macroeconomic effects of oil price changes and what the policy responses should be.