In my last column for Inside Business, I commented that the fear of the dollar losing its status as the world’s reserve currency was over-blown. This worried a number of readers. If this loss does occur, it will not happen for many years. In the meantime, we need to remember that responsibility comes along with the status of being the reserve currency. Since the Asian Contagion in the late 1990’s, when currencies could not be borrowed, the need for national reserves has been increasing about $600 billion a year and 60% of all reserves are in the dollar. We have to provide that currency.
This discussion began with comments by the Chinese finance minister who suggested the dollar could lose its status. He never suggested the Yuan could take its place, for good reason. It is not freely convertible, and its capital markets are rudimentary. Most importantly, they have demonstrated they will manipulate their currency to help their exports. Likewise, the Euro is not a good candidate either, because they have no central Treasury. Don’t forget, there could never be a two-currency reserve system, as that is inherently unstable.
For now, the dollar remains the loser in the ugly currency contest, i.e., it is not as ugly as the others. Besides, America has many problems more worrisome than this.