06 October 2009

SDRs and the Endgame for the US Dollar Reserve

Our take on this is that there is NO question that the US dollar will lose its reserve currency status, and the Treasury and the Fed are aware of this.

The game being played now on the international stage, largely behind the scenes until recently, is with regard to what will take its place and how it will be implemented.

The talking heads on US financial television are largely talking their books even today, taking the position that nothing can replace the US dollar for the next fifteen years at least (Robert Altman-Bloomberg).

Most of the anchors and house commentators are just shallow, nervous in a giggly sort of way, and astoundingly naive which may be attributed to their relative youth and lack of relevant experience in anything beyond looking good and being often wrong but never in doubt.

The US and UK are pushing for Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) from the IMF as the replacement, with very minor rebalancing. There are those who prefer something that they feel is less neo-colonial, or at least more neutral, and reflective of a changing economic reality.

Much of what is hitting the news now is political jawboning ahead of the next realignment of the SDRs in 2010 after the recent summit in Istanbul to discuss this very topic that the news people in the US are denying ever even occurred.

"The basket composition is reviewed every five years by the Executive Board to ensure that it reflects the relative importance of currencies in the world’s trading and financial systems.

In the most recent review (in November 2005), the weights of the currencies in the SDR basket were revised based on the value of the exports of goods and services and the amount of reserves denominated in the respective currencies which were held by other members of the IMF.

These changes became effective on January 1, 2006. The next review will take place in late 2010"
The current composition of the SDR, as calculated in 2005, is:
"The value of the SDR was initially defined as equivalent to 0.888671 grams of fine gold—which, at the time, was also equivalent to one U.S. dollar. After the collapse of the Bretton Woods system in 1973, however, the SDR was redefined as a basket of currencies, today consisting of the euro, Japanese yen, pound sterling, and U.S. dollar."

"With effect from January 1, 2006, the IMF has determined that the four currencies that meet both selection criteria for inclusion in the SDR valuation basket will be assigned the following weights based on their roles in international trade and finance: U.S. dollar (44 percent), euro (34 percent), Japanese yen (11 percent), and pound sterling (11 percent)".

Here is a commentary from Max Keiser, an ex-patriate based in Paris. His analysis will seem harsh at times to American ears, more conditioned to the evening news. But this represents what a significant portion of the world now thinks, and it is worthwhile to at least listen to it.

Why would the US resist this? Because there is a huge overhang of dollars in the world, far beyond what can be sustained at current valuation if the dollar was NOT the reserve currency., artificially incenting countries to hold dollars, and to use them for some essential purchases such as oil.

The strong dollar is a huge benefit to the US financial sector and the government. It is a significant drawback to US industry and the non-military productive economy. This is why the Europeans are opposed to the Euro becoming the world's sole reserve currency. Their financial sector has not obtained a dominant influence over the government, and their predisposition to military adventurism is still tempered by their experiences with war in the 20th century. That could change, but not yet.

People talk about an artificial short in the dollar because of debt. That concept only works if the Fed does not exercise its printing press, which it said it would do, and is now doing. But the dollar overhang exists, and has become precariously unstable, and unsustainable.

Max Keiser is hearing that the target composition will be weighted to 50 percent gold, in a return to a system more in keeping with the original Bretton Woods agreement. This is most likely the position being taken by France, China and Russia. The US and UK are adamantly opposed and will fight a delaying game with 2020 as a target for a phased in approach that continues to favor the dollar.

He starts going 'off the rails' for my taste about four minutes into this interview, but it is a viewpoint that is becoming more widely held in parts of the world that are starting to matter to the US economy, blowback-wise, and Americans need to be more aware of this perhaps for practical considerations.

See Also: The Decline of the Dollar as the World's Reserve Currency