Bloomberg News: A Crash in the Dollar Is Coming

June 10, 2020

Article by Stephen Roach in Bloomberg News

The era of the U.S. dollar’s “exorbitant privilege” as the world’s primary reserve currency is coming to an end. Then French Finance Minister Valery Giscard d’Estaing coined that phrase in the 1960s largely out of frustration, bemoaning a U.S. that drew freely on the rest of the world to support its over-extended standard of living. For almost 60 years, the world complained but did nothing about it. Those days are over.

Already stressed by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, U.S. living standards are about to be squeezed as never before. At the same time, the world is having serious doubts about the once widely accepted presumption of American exceptionalism. Currencies set the equilibrium between these two forces — domestic economic fundamentals and foreign perceptions of a nation’s strength or weakness. The balance is shifting, and a crash in the dollar could well be in the offing.

Lacking in domestic saving, and wanting to invest and grow, the U.S. has taken great advantage of the dollar’s role as the world’s primary reserve currency and drawn heavily on surplus savings from abroad to square the circle. But not without a price. In order to attract foreign capital, the U.S. has run a deficit in its current account — which is the broadest measure of trade because it includes investment — every year since 1982.

Covid-19, and the economic crisis it has triggered, is stretching this tension between saving and the current-account to the breaking point. The culprit: exploding government budget deficits. According to the bi-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the federal budget deficit is likely to soar to a peacetime record of 17.9% of gross domestic product in 2020 before hopefully receding to 9.8% in 2021.

The coming collapse in the dollar will have three key implications:  It will be inflationary— a welcome short-term buffer against deflation but, in conjunction with what is likely to be a weak post-Covid economic recovery, yet another reason to worry about an onset of stagflation — the tough combination of weak economic growth and rising inflation that wreaks havoc on financial markets.

Moreover, to the extent a weaker dollar is symptomatic of an exploding current-account deficit, look for a sharp widening of America’s trade deficit. Protectionist pressures on the largest piece of the country’s multilateral shortfall with 102 nations – namely the Chinese bilateral imbalance — will backfire and divert trade to other, higher-cost

The coming collapse in the dollar will have three key implications:  It will be inflationary— a welcome short-term buffer against deflation but, in conjunction with what is likely to be a weak post-Covid economic recovery, yet another reason to worry about an onset of stagflation — the tough combination of weak economic growth and rising inflation that wreaks havoc on financial markets.

Moreover, to the extent a weaker dollar is symptomatic of an exploding current-account deficit, look for ...

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