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What Happens If The Yuan Replaces The Dollar As The Main Reserve Currency

Published on:

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Written by:

Keith Fitz-Gerald

The chance that the dollar will be replaced by the Chinese yuan seems to be growing, as is China's determination to make it happen. With China's banking system holding 25 times the reserves of the US Federal Reserve, and the US adding trillions more to their debt, the days of the dollar's dominance may be nearing an end.


The list of potential implications is very long, and includes several scenarios that are almost apocalyptic. But most of the outcomes raise as many questions as they answer.
Let’s consider the Top Five:

  • Global Gloom Leads to U.S. Doom: The U.S. dollar goes into freefall for the simple reason that if no country has to hold dollars any longer, they won’t. Instead – thanks to the ragged state of the U.S. government’s finances – many countries will dump greenbacks fast as they can, which will only put additional pressure on an already-strained U.S. financial system, which in turn will further damage our economy.
  • Inflation Inflates: Inflation will strike here with a vengeance, as anything bought, sold or priced in dollars will instantly rise in price to offset this fall.
  • Repatriation Risk: With the dollar serving as the world’s de facto currency, U.S. companies bear very little exchange rate risk when the time comes to repatriate assets or make currency-related adjustments. That would change overnight and prices throughout the value chains would rise sharply to compensate.
  • Money Costs More: The cost of money itself would rise. If the dollar falls, not only will there be massive selling pressure against it, but the cost of borrowing it will rise dramatically as lenders raise rates to cope with the increased risk of dollar-based transactions.
  • Death By Debt: And finally, if there is another reserve currency, other countries will no longer have to buy our debt, and you can guess where that will leave us – especially given the fact that we’ve taken on trillions in new debt to help finance our way out of our current mess.

My best guess is that we won’t see any one of these things in isolation, but will instead experience a blending of several or all of them. To the extent that China continues to absorb our inflationary influences, buy our debt in measured doses and maintain its reserves, we’ll probably have a measured decline in the value of the dollar – but not the catastrophic fall many in the doom, gloom and boom crowd are predicting. At the same time, I also see the IMF change course in the next few years to reflect China’s increasingly substantial influence and monetary power.[…]

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