The U.S. economy and its currency as an instrument of world trade has suffered a series of major setbacks in recent months. Some analysts say that the Federal Reserve‘s September 18th dramatic rate cut to 4.75% from 5.25% may be a case of “too little, too late”, or that it was excessive and dooms the dollar.
Today, Saudi officials declined to cut interest rates in lockstep with the US Federal Reserve for the first time in decades. According to Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, International Business Editor for The Daily Telegraph, “it’s a signal that the oil-rich Gulf kingdom is preparing to break the dollar currency peg in a move that risks setting off a stampede out of the dollar across the Middle East.”
Hans Redeker, the Currency Chief at BNP Paribas, also stated today that Saudi Arabia’s move to not adjust their own interest rates in sync with the Fed’s cuts is a very dangerous situation for the US dollar. Redeker points out that “Saudi Arabia has $800bn (£400bn) in their future generation fund, and the entire region has $3,500bn under management. They face an inflationary threat and do not want to import an interest rate policy set for the recessionary conditions in the United States.”
Saudi central bank officials said that “appropriate measures” would be taken to stop the large capital inflows into the country. The Federal Reserve’s half-point rate cut has already caused a plunge in the world dollar index to a fifteen-year low, reaching the weakest level ever against the Euro at just under $1.40.
The Fed hopes that by making it cheaper to borrow, people will start spending and investing more. However, some analysts fear the cut will worsen inflation, making it harder to get personal loans, and further decrease confidence in the dollar around the world. There are already signs that global investors have started rejecting U.S. Treasury securities, and recent U.S. government data on foreign holdings show a decline in purchases of US securities from $97bn to just $19bn in July.
In response to Ben Bernanke‘s statements today about a potential mortgage and housing market crisis, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer said, “If adjustable mortgage rates go up, people may not be able to afford their mortgage payments.” Former Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan said earlier this week that housing prices may fall by “double digits” as the subprime crisis bites harder, prompting households to cut back sharply on spending.
Jim Rogers, the economic commentator and former partner of George Soros, stated, “If Ben Bernanke starts running those printing presses even faster than he’s already doing, we are going to have a serious recession. The dollar’s going to collapse, the bond market’s going to collapse. There’s going to be a lot of problems.”
In recent months, the U.S. dollar has taken several other significant hits including Kuwait’s decision in May to also break its dollar peg, and threats by China to interfere with the U.S. economy, calling it their nation’s “nuclear option”. According to public sources, the Chinese government has begun a concerted campaign of economic threats against the United States, hinting that it may liquidate its vast holding of US treasuries if Washington imposes trade sanctions that seek to force a Yuan revaluation.
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