Dollar Danger

Discussion in 'Economics' started by ShoeshineBoy, Dec 5, 2003.

  1. Good article on the dangers of the dollars plunge coupled with our foreign debt. Buffett and apparently a lot of other big boys are getting very nervous:

    Fiddling While the Dollar Drops

    By David Ignatius
    Friday, December 5, 2003; Page A31

    Something ominous is happening when the United States reports its biggest surge in productivity in 20 years, as it did Wednesday, and yet the dollar plunges to an all-time low against the euro.

    The dollar is sinking these days on good news and bad, and the explanation is pretty simple: Investors around the world are worried that the Bush administration's policies are eroding the value of the U.S. currency. So they're rushing to unload greenbacks, in what could soon become a full-blown financial crisis.

    "The dollar crisis is the story," warns James Harmon, an investment banker who headed the Export-Import Bank during the Clinton administration. "A lot of smart money has moved out of the dollar in the last six months," he explains. "Now the latecomers are rushing to sell, and that's adding to the momentum."

    The "smart money" includes financial guru Warren Buffett. He disclosed last month in Fortune that since the spring of 2002, he has been making "significant investments" in foreign currencies for the first time in his career. What worries Buffett is that the U.S. trade deficit has "greatly worsened," and is now running at more than 4 percent of GDP. That puts the U.S. economy at the mercy of foreigners, and their willingness to hold surplus dollars.

    So long as global investors believed that U.S. authorities were ready to protect the dollar as a reserve currency, they kept adding to their stashes of greenbacks, despite the trade deficit. But that confidence may finally be disappearing.

    The dollar's decline during the Bush presidency has been remarkable. It has tumbled about 44 percent from its October 2000 high of about 83 cents to the euro. Over the past year alone, the decline has been more than 15 percent. Investors who trusted in the dollar as a store of value have been clobbered, so it's not surprising that they want to sell, even at current depressed prices. They fear that worse is coming.

    "I'm appalled at what's happening to the dollar," says investment banker Felix Rohatyn, a former U.S. ambassador to France. "A basic responsibility of a government is to maintain the value of its currency."

    Rohatyn argues that the Federal Reserve should signal that it "will not allow a dollar crisis to happen" by raising the Fed funds rate at which banks can borrow money overnight, from its current low level of 1 percent. Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan insisted recently that there isn't any dollar crisis, which only made some investors more nervous.

    If you haven't already gagged on your raisin bran, consider this nightmare scenario -- outlined by an investment banker who for many years headed his firm's currency-trading operations. This veteran trader contends that the markets have entered a cycle in which "overshooting" -- meaning a further sharp fall in the dollar's value -- "is a distinct possibility."

    The core problem, he argues, is that China and Japan have been determined to keep their currencies cheap -- China by fixing the yuan at an artificially low level and Japan by intervening in exchange markets to keep the yen from rising. With their undervalued currencies, the Asians can export massively to the United States and accumulate ever-larger surpluses of dollars.

    Hence the nightmare scenario: Between them, China and Japan now hold more than $1 trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds, the trader estimates. But with the declining dollar, the Asian giants have suffered severe losses on these portfolios. If they decided to hedge just 20 percent of their dollar exposure, they could drive the dollar down from this week's low of about $1.21 against the euro to $1.35, contends the trader, and other sellers would trigger a further weakening to $1.45 or so. Facing that sort of decline, the Fed would have to boost interest rates to protect the currency. And higher rates, in turn, would drive down the U.S. stock market.

    The Bush administration seems comfortable with a cheaper dollar because it's a way of stimulating demand for American products abroad and sustaining the U.S. economic recovery. In other words, it's good politics. But paradoxically, the U.S. recovery will only worsen pressure on the dollar by sucking in more imports.

    To prevent a full-blown crisis, the administration must take prompt action. It should pledge to cut the deficit; it should stop playing politics with free trade; and it should signal that it will intervene in currency markets when necessary to protect the dollar's value. Those steps might convince global investors that somebody at the White House is at least minding the store.
  2. Note that this crisis could lead to an increase in interest rates and perhaps that is yet another issue that explains the market's unwillingness to rally in spite of all the other good macro news that's out there...
  3. Vaquero


    Very interesting...but part of the problem here is that savers are not rewarded for their honest, hardworking ethics...This is very dangerous...There is a large and somewhat new "poor" in the USA that was counting on some interest from the $50,000 to $500,000 they had saved....But now $500,000 yields $5000 per annum...

    Isn't a strong economy brought about by saving many times have we heard this...this is the problem that many countries have...public saving levels...

    Without incentives to can a country's economy be normal ? A saver who has worked hard...find themselves spending their principal rather quickly...

    Therefore why isn't an interest rate rise actually healthy...

    These are not normal times indeed...

    Better find a way to exist...find a good back ended that centers on profits and not front end costs...
  4. ElCubano


    Consumption not saving makes the world go round......
  5. Vaquero


    You cannot consume without money....
  6. Are you in Japan? $500,000 yields $5000? 1% interest? The 10 year has been bouncing between 4 and 4.5% for awhile now. Muni's, mortgage backed securities, etc.. provide a nice income stream to those with savings.
  7. Cutten


    Dollar will hit 1.45 against the Euro IMO
  8. Tea


    US policy should not be for a strong dollar or a weak dollar – but for a market valued dollar. In other word, let the market determine the value of the dollar without political/central bank intervention.

    A strong dollar benefits the financial industry and generally the coastal areas of the US (little wonder why former Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin was for a super strong dollar considering he returned to Citibank). Economists and financial writers are paid by companies that benefit from a strong dollar – so no mystery why they are proponents of it.

    A weak dollar benefits manufacturing and generally the heartland of the US. The strong dollar is one of the reasons why the US has lost so many manufacturing jobs. The decisions to move manufacturing overseas were made during the Rubin strong dollar era and implemented over the last few years. Granted China has a lower cost advantage for manufacturers, but I believe the too strong dollar was the straw that broke the camels back in making the decision to move off-shore for companies competing with imports from Japan, Canada and Europe.

    A market valued dollar policy allows the economy to change at a more natural pace and dissipates the pressure that builds up when the trade account deficit gets too big. The US trade account balance will probably never get to zero or a surplus, but it should revert to a lower deficit when it gets too big. A market valued dollar policy also imposes discipline on export led countries like Japan, Canada and Euroland to get more competitive as a result of losing exchange rate advantages. It has been too easy for policy makers and companies in these countries to avoid making tough decisions when they could count on export price advantages due to weak currencies.

    Finally, I don’t believe that a strong currency is the only measure of a country’s wealth. To me its like valuing a company solely based on how much money it has in its bank account and ignoring its other assets and intangible value.
  9. As China becomes an increasingly larger consumer of raw materials, the biggest problem for this country IMO is that we may start seeing inflation come with none of the domestic growth that usually generates it. The weaker dollar just exacerbates this problem, and raising our rates will most likely have little effect in slowing down rising prices if the source of the demand is overseas.
  10. in the past when every one is on one side of a trade like short the dollar the fed has intervened and burned a few shorts. is there anyone smart enough in washington to cause a dollar short squeeze like robert rubin did when he was treasury secretary?
    #10     Dec 5, 2003