The currency may look strong but its weaknesses are mounting…
This month, as the dollar surged to levels last seen nearly 20 years ago, analysts invoked the old Tina (there is no alternative) argument to predict more gains ahead for the mighty greenback.
What happened two decades ago suggests the dollar is closer to peaking than rallying further. Even as US stocks fell in the dotcom bust, the dollar continued rising, before entering a decline that started in 2002 and lasted six years. A similar turning point may be near. And this time, the US currency’s decline could last even longer.
Adjusted for inflation or not, the value of the dollar against other major currencies is now 20 per cent above its long-term trend, and above the peak reached in 2001. Since the 1970s, the typical upswing in a dollar cycle has lasted about seven years; the current upswing is in its 11th year. Moreover, fundamental imbalances bode ill for the dollar.
When a current account deficit runs persistently above 5 per cent of gross domestic product, it is a reliable signal of financial trouble to come. That is most true in developed countries, where these episodes are rare, and concentrated in crisis-prone nations such as Spain, Portugal and Ireland. The US current account deficit is now close to that 5 per cent threshold, which it has broken only once since 1960. That was during the dollar’s downswing after 2001.
Nations see their currencies weaken when the rest of the world no longer trusts that they can pay their bills. The US currently owes the world a net $18tn, or 73 per cent of US GDP, far beyond the 50 per cent threshold that has often foretold past currency crises.
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