Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pressures on the dollar as a reserve currency

Recently, Brazil and Russia announced that they will be parking about 5 to 10% of their foreign exchange reserves in IMF bonds whose underlying currency is the Special Drawing Rights (SDRs). The amount is expected to be $10 billion each. China is expected to contribute about $50 billion and India about the same as Brazil or Russia. The BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries seem to want to start exploring alternatives to the US dollar as a reserve currency for global trade. While it is very premature to consider whether the US dollar will be ultimately replaced by the IMF's SDRs as the world's reserve currency, we can speculate that the BRIC countries want a bigger voice in global affairs and would probably contribute to IMF programs only based on how the value of their vote grows. More the say these countries get in the IMF financing process, the more they will contribute. While China holds the world's largest foreign exchange reserves, India holds the third largest and Russia the seventh. Together, these countries can make a significant impact on how the dollar continues to be used as the world's reserve countries. What that means for most of us is that, as the long-term US treasury yields inch up when the treasuries get dumped in the market, the mortgage rates which track LT treasury yields will spiral upwards. For people who refinance in a declining home value market, this is awful news as they'd have to pay higher monthly payments on a declining home value market. For new buyers, the price reduction of homes has to be steep enough to allow them to be able to afford the monthly payments. The US mortgage market will work only as long as the LT yields are in control. Do we see another crisis here? 

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