Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The end of the dollar spells the rise of a new order

Series of 1917 $1 United States Bearer Note
Image via Wikipedia
Last autumn's global financial crisis set off an economic earthquake. And we are still feeling the tremors. The latest sign of the ground shifting beneath our feet is our report today of plans by Gulf states, China, Russia, France and Japan to end their practice of conducting oil deals in US dollars, switching instead to a diverse basket of currencies.
It is not hard to see the motivation for oil exporters to move away from the dollar. The value of the US currency has fallen sharply since last year's meltdown. And fears are growing, in the light of a spiralling US government deficit, that a further depreciation is likely. They do not want to sell their wares in return for a currency with an uncertain future.
It is also easy to see why China would like a world trading system that is underpinned by other currencies as well as the dollar. For the past decade Beijing has been recycling the proceeds of its giant national trade surplus into purchases of US government bonds and other dollar-denominated assets. China too stands to make a significant loss if the value of the dollar falls. For China, however, the timing is much more sensitive. Beijing needs to reduce its dollar holdings, but if it does so too quickly it will bring about the very devaluation it fears. This explains why Chinese officials appear to want this transition to take place gradually over the next decade.
The end of the dollar spells the rise of a new order
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