Thursday, January 22, 2009

Dollar set to fall?

As I briefly mentioned yesterday, a dollar devaluation is not unforeseeable in the near-term. Many analysts suggest that it is highly unlikely due to its status as reserve currency, a viewpoint echoed in today's Wall Street Journal.

Unlike the pound, the dollar is being buttressed by its unique status as the world's reserve currency and the vehicle for transactions in U.S. financial markets, including Treasury bonds. That means investors often seek out the dollar as fears rise, sometimes in spite of their concerns about the U.S. economy.

Fair enough, for now. But consider the factors driving the devaluation of the pound:
The U.S. and the U.K. face very similar predicaments, from a deepening recession to a damaged financial system. Both are orchestrating massive bank bailouts and attempting to assist struggling homeowners. Both are ramping up government spending even as they rely on financing from overseas investors. And both countries have central banks that have slashed interest rates and opened the door to unconventional ways of stimulating the economy.
Essentially, a very real fear that the massive bailouts and spending in the UK will bankrupt the government itself. The UK government is dependent on financing from overseas investors to keep the government functioning, as is the US government. As the situation deteriorates in China, perhaps dumping the massive investment they have made in the US become an increasingly attractive option, especially as treasuries become riskier as the cost of the assorted bailouts and buyouts and loans and guarantees spirals. Again, from the Wall Street Journal:

While the dollar continues to benefit from its unique position in financial markets for now, it is far from clear that the resilience will last. "Right now the market is beating up on the pound, but at some point it will look for something else to pick on," says Paul Mackel, a currency strategist at HSBC in London.

The fact that the Federal Reserve stands ready to use a host of unconventional measures to flood the economy with liquidity in an effort to stimulate growth "could hurt the dollar quite badly" later this year, he says.

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