Sunday, December 02, 2007

Gisele Bundchen should stick with me

I am concerned for the stunning super model Gisele Bundchen - not that she’s losing any of her luscious curves. She’s sexy as ever. But just how wise has she been in switching to Euro?
Even Central Banks, having spurned the chance to diversify out of dollars when a euro could be bought for 86 cents, are unlikely to want to switch now when the price is close to $1.50. Against conventional benchmarks like purchasing-power parity, the euro looks dear against the dollar. So it could be a bad time to swap from one horse to another.

The Economist concludes a full blown dollar collapse could be disastrous. What lends the dollar's decline an air of crisis is that the world's bloated currency reserves are crammed with depreciating dollar assets. Foreign-exchange stockpiles have almost tripled to $5.7 trillion since the beginning of the decade. China alone has $1.4 trillion of reserves. Japan's $1 trillion or so make it the second-largest holder. To the extent that dollar-holders act like an informal cartel, the biggest dollar-holders will set an example. Japan seems unlikely to start selling its huge dollar reserves—if anything it might intervene to prevent the dollar falling further against the yen. A crash might be averted if China holds fast too, because it recognizes how self-defeating dumping dollars would be to such a large owner of American assets.

In this period of swelling reserves, the dollar has retained its pre-eminence. It still accounts for nearly 65% of identifiable currency-stockpiles, according to the latest IMF data. This is broadly in line with its historical share. Factor in the dollars hoarded by China and Middle Eastern oil exporters (not included in the IMF breakdown) and the dollar's share may be higher still.

The dollar's place as a reserve currency always seems to be questioned when it falls. Weakness in 1977-79, 1985-88 and 1993-95 was each time met with predictions that governments were about to switch their reserves into another currency. A burst of high inflation, which undermined the dollar in the late 1970s, made that slide as serious as today's scare is. Between 1978 and 1980 the Treasury sold $6.4 billion of “Carter bonds”, mostly denominated in Deutschmarks, to raise funds to defend the dollar. In January 1980 the gold price reached a record $835 (around $2,250 in today's prices) as investors sought an alternative store of value. And when the dollar fell to ¥81 in 1995, many—including the Economist —saw it as the beginning of the end of its reserve-currency status.

So I lay my bets on the greenback still. Someone please ask Gisele to stick with me -)

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