The reason the dollar takes a beating in currency markets is because of the near zero interest rates the Fed has been implementing the past year. Nobody wants to invest in dollars when there is no reward (because of low interest rate returns). The side effect of these low interest rates is that banks can make more money to invest their capital and make loans. The Fed holds interest rates low to stimulate economic growth, but they are beginning to understand that they were too low for too long. If the Fed had changed the base rate to 7 percent the consequent reaction would be a drop of the price of gold down 30% in one month. Banks would be willing to pay, the dollar would gain against other currencies, and all serious talk of inflation would go away.
The Fed will not do it because the theory says that the rate of increase in interest rates hurts business. This is the only real reason for the enormous regulatory burden of the permanent way of any company wishing to go public. The solution is to save what remained of the stimulus money in low interest loans for small businesses such as interest rate is partly determined by the number of employees they add over the next two years. This would free the Fed to raise the prime interest rate of 8 or even 9 percent. The gold price would fall by 50% if the viewing figures fell to 9%.
What Happens If the Dollar Crashes
Trade wars could break out. Overexposed banks might collapse. And that’s just for starters
By Peter Coy
The financial crisis taught us that markets can drop further and faster than anyone expects. Housing prices, for example, fell for three straight years starting in 2006, even though the conventional wisdom right up until the bust began was that prices would not fall even a little bit.
Let’s apply some of our hard-won knowledge to the dollar, which is also supposed to be resistant to a bust. After weakening gradually since 2002, the greenback rose during the financial crisis last year. It has fallen roughly 15% since March as investors moved to higher-yielding currencies. The conventional wisdom is that at these levels the dollar is cheap and, if anything, due for a rebound. “Currencies don’t go much more than 20% from their long-term averages in real [inflation-adjusted] terms. We’re there already,” says Michael Dooley, an economist who is co-founder and research chief of Cabezon Capital Management, a San Francisco investment firm.
Bank Blowups Possible
Let’s imagine the dollar quickly dropped by a further 25% against each major world currency, roughly parallel to housing’s unprecedented 30% decline. That would mean it would take $2 to buy a single euro. On the good side, U.S. manufacturers would find it easier to compete globally, and foreign tourism would boom in the U.S. On the bad side, inflation in the U.S. would zoom because of the rising cost of imported products. Americans would have even more trouble getting a loan as foreign buyers pull out of the debt market.
Abroad, the cheap dollar would make it harder for other nations to export to the U.S., hurting their growth. China could face social unrest. Trade wars could break out. And there could be blowups at overexposed banks whose risk managers were sure no such dollar bust could happen. As investor Warren Buffett once said: “You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out.”
Deficits Depress Dollar
Behind the dollar’s weakness are near-zero short-term U.S. interest rates. As they once did with yen, investors are borrowing dollars cheaply, then selling them to buy currencies of countries whose stocks and bonds promise better returns. The Federal Reserve is keeping the federal funds rate at a rock-bottom zero to 0.25% to stimulate the U.S. economy and heal the banks, but a side result is the dollar has turned into the preferred fuel for an international speculative play that is weighing down the greenback.
Another force driving down the dollar: continued U.S. trade deficits, which the U.S. is paying for by borrowing from the rest of the world. Some economists and traders believe that eventually the U.S. will be forced to devalue its own currency to make its global debt more affordable. While the trade gap has narrowed to less than 3% of gross domestic product in the second quarter from 6% at its peak in 2006, it is still high by historical standards.
The Bearish Case
Obama Administration officials don’t seem perturbed by the dollar’s slide so far. A weaker dollar helps shrink the trade deficit by making American-made goods more competitive in world markets. Drew Greenblatt, owner of Marlin Steel Wire Products in Baltimore, which makes high-tech baskets for assembly lines, says he’s winning orders from countries that are better known as exporters. Exults Greenblatt: “We are shipping ice to Eskimos.”
This state of calm would vanish overnight, though, if the financial markets got a sense that the dollar’s decline was starting to snowball out of control. At that point, the invisible “force field” protecting the dollar would fade away, says Martin D. Weiss, chairman of Weiss Group, a financial data and analysis firm in Jupiter, Fla. Says Weiss: “We would become more like ordinary mortals and more vulnerable to attacks on our currency.”
Inflation Could Emerge Quickly
Currency traders don’t put much stock in the statements of support for a strong dollar by Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and other Administration officials. They note that Treasury chiefs dating back to the Clinton Administration have said they support a strong dollar, yet the U.S. has not supported its currency through purchases since 1995.
If the dollar did tumble, import prices might rise faster than most economists now expect. New research by Columbia University economists Emi Nakamura and Jon Steinsson shows that the “pass-through” from a cheap currency to high import prices was underestimated because of poor data. In other words, inflation could emerge more quickly than is commonly believed.
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