Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Overvalued, Devalued Dollar

A recent article in Bloomberg has fired up a rant. Ready?

As regular readers will know, I am concerned with the state of the dollar. My simple point is that a weak dollar is a symptom of a weak economy. This concern is fueled by the apparent lack of concern from the Bush administration.

All is not well.

Right now the US is totally dependent on foreign countries (mostly China) purchasing debt. That deficit that pundits like Tony B. and Pat B. (the "B" Twins) don't care about does not involve some fantasy banking system, quite the contrary, it involves real countries buying real debt at prices they are happy with.

It is that last part that scares me.

What would happen if the total debt became large enough that China, Dubai and others decided to purchase a bit less of of the fresh version? I am not talking about a fictitious dooms-day scenario, but a very real possibility. If foreign countries decided to purchase a bit less American debt, the US would be faced with two options. One, raise the interest payed in order to sell debt, or two, cut spending.

The second is politically unpopular, the first, devastating. An increase in debt rate would be a de facto further devaluation of the dollar (again, weak economy, weak dollar). This means an immediate raise in the price of every import --including oil.

Does this sound like fiction? Well, in the past 6 years the US Dollar has gone from purchasing 1.56 Canadian Dollars to the current rate of 1.06 Canadian Dollars. The neighbors from the north have not suddenly become the most prosperous nation. No, their economy has been stable. It is the dollar that is now two thirds as valuable as it was not too long ago.

What does this mean? It means that a huge amount of the increase in the price of a barrel of oil is only being felt in the US. The price of oil has not gone up near as much elsewhere. The dollar has gone down.

Okay, time to tie this to the article in Bloomberg.

Quote:

The U.S. Treasury took two years to persuade the International Monetary Fund to police global currency markets -- and just two months to trash the initiative once the IMF adopted it.

Treasury officials recruited the IMF to be a currency cop as China and other countries meddle with exchange rates to gain a trade advantage. Instead, the international lending organization took aim at the dollar, calling it overvalued in an Aug. 1 report.
More,
IMF staff economists told U.S. officials in meetings ended July 27 that their research showed the dollar was 10 percent to 30 percent overpriced, according to an account included in the 54-page Aug. 1 report.
The Experts that the US hired to look into currency fixing have come to the conclusion that the current greenback is overvalued. This is frightening.

This means abysmal US dollar purchasing power on the international stage is being artificially supported.

Who is overvaluing it? Not the US. No, the dollar is being held aloft by the countries that are happy to buy debt at an inflated price. To a large degree it is being artificially buoyed by the very country the pols are upset with, China.

China doesn't need to buy US debt. They could spend some of their enormous pile of surplus cash on their own economy. They could, in very short order, raise both the level and the numbers of the Chinese middle class to the point where the average Chinese family had a car instead of a couple of bicycles. (What would this do to the price of oil?) But they "choose" to buy overvalued American debt.

By the way, what do you think the response was to the IMF ruling?
...on Aug. 2 an aide to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told Congress that it's impossible to measure a currency's fair value.
So, to summarize. The US has asked the IMF to look into the Chinese currency because it is unfairly valued. But when the IMF looks at the unfair value of the greenback, the response is swift,
...it's impossible to measure a currency's fair value.
Where did I put my gin.

The American economy is not, as Karl Rove said on Meet The Press this last Sunday,
...dynamic and powerful, providing jobs and increases in real income for people.
After almost seven years of Bush/Cheney leadership, the American economy is weakened. It is not in serious trouble, but it is close. Overseas (and up north) the dollar now buys two-thirds of what it did less than a decade ago. The perception that all is well is part of the problem.

But all is not lost. I have a solution. It may sound simple, but that does not mean it lacks merit.

Stop borrowing.

That is the only way to regain control of the dollar. It is the only way to ensure that the dollar does not collapse.

How to stop borrowing? Simple. Spend less.

This administration is poised to collect record revenues (here), all they have to do to get out of this quagmire is spend less than they bring in.

Basic fiscal responsibility.

Simple.

Rant over.

Time for the last plymouth of the night. Cheers.

1 comment:

EverydayEconomist said...

'Tis why I like Ron Paul.

Cut spending, reign in the federal, dismatle the Fed, pay for what we spend.

Simple message.