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Strong Dollar Is Good for the US but Bad for the World

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The Federal Reserve’s determination to crush inflation at home by raising rates of interest is inflicting profound pain in other countries — pushing up prices, ballooning the scale of debt payments and increasing the danger of a deep recession.

Those rate of interest increases are pumping up the worth of the dollar — the go-to currency for much of the world’s trade and transactions — and causing economic turmoil in each wealthy and poor nations. In Britain and across much of the European continent, the dollar’s acceleration helps feed stinging inflation.

On Monday, the British pound touched a record low against the dollar as investors balked at a government tax cut and spending plan. And China, which tightly controls its currency, fixed the renminbi at its lowest level in two years while taking steps to administer its decline.

In Nigeria and Somalia, where the danger of starvation already lurks, the strong dollar is pushing up the value of imported food, fuel and medicine. The strong dollar is nudging debt-ridden Argentina, Egypt and Kenya closer to default and threatening to discourage foreign investment in emerging markets like India and South Korea.

“For the remainder of the world, it’s a no-win situation,” said Eswar Prasad, an economics professor at Cornell and creator of several books on currencies. At the identical time, he said, the Fed has no alternative but to act aggressively to regulate inflation: “Any delay in motion could make things potentially even worse.”

Policy decisions made in Washington often reverberate widely. The USA is a superpower with the world’s largest economy and hefty reserves of oil and natural gas. On the subject of global finance and trade, though, its influence is outsize.

That’s since the dollar is the world’s reserve currency — the one which multinational corporations and financial institutions, regardless of where they’re, most frequently use to cost goods and settle accounts. Energy and food are likely to be priced in dollars when bought and sold on the world market. So is a variety of the debt owed by developing nations. Roughly 40 percent of the world’s transactions are done in dollars, whether the US is involved or not, in line with a study done by the International Monetary Fund.

And now, the worth of the dollar compared with other major currencies just like the Japanese yen has reached a decades-long high. The euro, utilized by 19 nations across Europe, reached 1-to-1 parity with the dollar in June for the primary time since 2002. The dollar is clobbering other currencies as well, including the Brazilian real, the South Korean won and the Tunisian dinar.

One reason is the string of crises which have rocked the globe including the coronavirus pandemic, supply chain chokeholds, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the series of climate disasters which have imperiled the world’s food and energy supply. In an anxious world, the dollar has traditionally been a logo of stability and security. The more serious things get, the more people buy dollars. On top of that, the economic outlook in the US, nevertheless cloudy, continues to be higher than in most other regions.

Rising rates of interest make the dollar all of the more alluring to investors by ensuring a greater return. That, in turn, means they’re investing less in emerging markets, which puts further strains on those economies.

Inflation F.A.Q.

Card 1 of 5

What’s inflation? Inflation is a loss of buying power over time, meaning your dollar won’t go as far tomorrow because it did today. It is often expressed because the annual change in prices for on a regular basis goods and services comparable to food, furniture, apparel, transportation and toys.

What causes inflation? It may well be the results of rising consumer demand. But inflation also can rise and fall based on developments which have little to do with economic conditions, comparable to limited oil production and provide chain problems.

Is inflation bad? It is determined by the circumstances. Fast price increases spell trouble, but moderate price gains can result in higher wages and job growth.

Can inflation affect the stock market? Rapid inflation typically spells trouble for stocks. Financial assets usually have historically fared badly during inflation booms, while tangible assets like houses have held their value higher.

The bizarre concatenation of events, which has led to weakened global demand, is making things even worse for countries that may otherwise have the ability to benefit from a devalued currency to export more of their very own goods, which have turn into cheaper.

A fragile currency can sometimes work as “a buffering mechanism,” causing nations to import less and export more, Mr. Prasad said. But today, many “aren’t seeing the advantages of stronger growth.”

Still, they have to pay more for essential imports like oil, wheat or pharmaceuticals in addition to for loan bills due from billion-dollar debts.

Consider that a 12 months ago, $100 price of oil or a $100 debt payment cost 1,572 Egyptian kilos, 117,655 Korean won, and 41,244 Nigerian naira.

Assume there had been no price increases or inflation. Today — purely due to the strengthening dollar — that very same $100 payment costs 1,950 Egyptian kilos; 143,158 won and 43,650 naira.

American buyers, meanwhile, are getting a bargain. Last 12 months, a £12 tin of tea from Britain cost $16.44, and today it costs $13.03. A €50 box of Belgian chocolates has gone from $58.50 to $48.32. Cheaper imports are helping keep American inflation in check.

“I can’t remember the last time when the difficulty was that a powerful dollar was a way the US was exporting inflation, extinguishing a few of its own, but by adding more of it all over the world,” said Jason Furman, an economics professor at Harvard who was a chief economic adviser within the Obama administration.

Probably the most vulnerable face the most important blowback. Poor countries often don’t have any alternative but to repay loans in dollars, regardless of what the exchange rate was once they first borrowed the cash. Spiraling U.S. rates of interest were what set off the catastrophic debt crisis in Latin America within the Nineteen Eighties.

The situation is especially fraught because so many countries ran up above-average debts to cope with the fallout from the pandemic. And now they’re facing renewed pressure to supply public support as food and energy prices soar.

In Indonesia this month, hundreds of protesters, indignant over a 30 percent price increase on subsidized fuel, clashed with the police. In Tunisia, a shortage of subsidized food items like sugar, coffee, flour and eggs has shuttered cafes and emptied market shelves.

Brazil has cut fuel taxes and increased social welfare payments, but soaring prices remain a day by day struggle.

Maria Cícera da Silva lives together with her daughter and granddaughter in a 160-square-foot apartment in Rocinha, a poor hillside neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro. “You go to the food market, you purchase something at a price today,” she said, but then the following day, it costs more. “It’s been hard.”

Private firms, too, in emerging markets like Korea, Brazil and Indonesia over the past decade borrowed large amounts of dollars, attracted by what gave the impression to be reliably low rates of interest.

Latest research on the impact of a powerful dollar on emerging nations found that it drags down economic progress across the board.

“You may see these very pronounced negative effects of a stronger dollar,” said Maurice Obstfeld, an economics professor on the University of California, Berkeley, and an creator of the study.

Then there’s a pile-on effect. Even in countries where inflation shouldn’t be as high, central banks feel pressure to lift rates of interest to bolster their currencies and stop import prices from skyrocketing. Last week, Argentina, the Philippines, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Sweden, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Britain and Norway raised rates of interest.

Despite the pain a powerful dollar is causing, most economists say that the worldwide consequence could be worse if the Fed did not halt inflation in the US.

At the identical time, the sweep of rising rates of interest across the globe is causing concerns that central bankers might move too far, too fast. The World Bank warned this month that simultaneous rate of interest increases are pushing the world toward a recession and developing nations toward a string of monetary crises that might inflict “lasting harm.”

Clearly, the Fed’s mandate is to take care of the American economy, but some economists and foreign policymakers argue it should pay more attention to the fallout its decisions have on the remainder of the world.

In 1998, Alan Greenspan, a five-term Fed chair, argued that “it’s just not credible that the US can remain an oasis of prosperity unaffected by a world that’s experiencing greatly increased stress.”

The USA is now facing a slowing economy, however the essential dilemma is identical.

“Central banks have purely domestic mandates,” said Mr. Obstfeld, the U.C. Berkeley economist, but financial and trade globalization have made economies more interdependent than they’ve ever been and so closer cooperation is required. “I don’t think central banks can have the luxurious of not fascinated by what’s happening abroad.”

Flávia Milhorance contributed reporting from Rio de Janeiro.

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