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« February 2008 | Main | IPOs in India...is the party over? »

March 10, 2008

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Riaz Haq

Zuhair, another good article on a pressing issue of the day. There are mounting global concerns about sharp decline in the value of US dollar against the euro and other major world currencies. Not only has it fueled worldwide inflation with higher prices of basic commodities such as food grains, oil and metals but it has also diminished the value of the reserves held in dollars by the vast majority of central banks around the world. These issues are giving to rise to a discussion of how long can the US dollar remain as the currency of choice for central bankers.
However, it will take a significant re-architecture of world trade. Nearly two-thirds of the world's central-bank reserves remain denominated in dollars, according to data from the International Monetary Fund, despite widespread fears of a mass exodus from the currency. The euro accounts for about a quarter -- up from 18% when it was introduced in 1999, but less than its predecessor currencies' share in 1995. Because the U.S. is such a huge trading partner for so many countries, the reserve buildup isn't easily unwound.

When the 20th century began, the U.S. was already the world's biggest economy, but the British pound still accounted for nearly two-thirds of official foreign-exchange reserves held by the world's central banks. The dollar didn't become the dominant currency until after World War II. Even then, some commodities still traded in pounds: The London sugar market didn't jettison sterling for a dollar-denominated trading contract until around 1980.

"There is no alternative to the dollar as a trading currency in Asia," Andy Xie, a Hong Kong-based economist told the Wall Street Journal. "Eventually, the renminbi [yuan] will replace the dollar in Asia, perhaps in our lifetime. But it will take at least 30 to 40 years."

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