The Dollar Domination

By: Kristien Wilkinson

The US dollar is undoubtedly the prime mover of the world's financial systems. It still remains to be the main currency reserve despite claims of an emerging euro domination. Because of its pivotal role in the global economy, the dollar's value is a matter of concern the world over. Most countries rein in the value of their currencies through their dollar reserves; foreign central banks hold US Treasury bonds; and a majority of the oil cartel's holdings are still in dollars.

In forex markets, the dollar is the most traded currency, figuring in more than 80 percent of all transactions. The euro trails behind and is continually expanding in terms of international reach but forex trading is still primarily centered on the dollar.

The United States emerged as a formidable financial player in the aftermath of World War II, when most of Europe was in shambles. In the 1940s, the Bretton Woods system was established, which obliged each member country to maintain the exchange rate of its currency within a fixed range in terms of gold. This worked well for the US since it had the largest gold reserves at the time. The US poured money into the reconstruction of Europe and also opened liberal trade relations with a lot of countries, thus effectively increasing the stock of dollars in foreign central banks.

Things started going downhill for the US during the 1970s as its gold reserves depleted largely because of the Vietnam War. Central banks, fearing that the American currency was facing an imminent devaluation, started clamoring for gold in exchange for the dollars they were holding. Since the country had insufficient gold reserves, then President Nixon responded by abandoning the Bretton Woods system altogether. This led the currencies to shift to a floating status.

From a legal tender with a measurable equivalent in gold, the dollar became what some economists call a political currency. Its continued use in international trade stemmed from the continued economic, political, and military domination of the United States. Since most financial transactions and commodities, particularly oil, were traded in dollars, the US currency enjoyed a strong demand despite the country's burgeoning trade deficit.

In 2006, the trade deficit reached a record of more than $800 billion. This is more than enough to put any other currency on a disastrous collapse and yet the dollar stays afloat, thanks to the US Treasury bonds and other government assets held by most foreign central banks. In essence, the dollar is supported by foreign borrowing.

However, some economists contend that the deficit is actually helpful in maintaining liquidity in world trade. An $800 billion US deficit means that there is an extra $800 billion circulating in the global economy. If the US were to take drastic steps in balancing its current account, then it would effectively derail the financial movement of international commerce.

The dollar currently suffers from depreciation as other major currencies such as the euro and the yen are getting stronger. Apart from the obvious effects of the trade deficit, this was also brought about by the interest rates cuts of the Federal Reserve, a strategic move to jump-start an economy that threatens to plunge into recession. While this makes foreign importers and tourists happy, the European Union and other export players are bitterly complaining since the depreciating dollar makes their goods more expensive and edges them out of the trade competition.

For how long the United States can keep up with the dollar's weakening value and still convince its creditors to hold on to their T-bonds and cheques is a matter that remains to be seen. In reality though, it will take a long while and an awful lot of economic upheavals before the dollar is dislodged from its current position as the world's most important currency.

Money Management
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 

» More on Money Management
 



Share this article :
Click to see more related articles