Mon, Nov 22, 2004 - Page 9 News List

Is the dollar in trouble?

America can spend more than it earns because other countries buy its debt to keep their own currencies low and exports competitive. But how long can this cycle of fiscal irresponsibility last?

By Edmund Andrews  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Many economists contend that the Asian central banks have created an informal version of the Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates that lasted from shortly after World War II until the early 1970s.

The system collapsed after the imbalances between Europe and the US became impossible to reconcile. Rapid growth is putting similar pressure on China, which has kept its currency, the yuan, pegged at a fixed rate to the dollar.

The growing imbalances, in both China and the US, is one reason Rogoff is bracing for a jolt to the dollar and the American economy similar to the one that occurred in the early 1970s.

Then, as now, the US was running large budget and trade deficits. Then, as now, the US was bogged down in a war costing billions of dollars a year. And in 1974, a few months after the dollar plunged against the German mark and Japanese yen, oil prices soared.

"It's striking how many parallels there are between today and the early 1970s," Rogoff said. "The loss of the anchor of the dollar and fixed exchange rates contributed to the inflation we saw in the '70s. It was the worst period in growth we have had since World War II."

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