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Dollar Trap: How the U.S. Dollar Tightened its Grip on Global Finance [Englisch] [Gebundene Ausgabe]

Eswar S. Prasad

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14. Januar 2014
The U.S. dollar's dominance seems under threat. The near collapse of the U.S. financial system in 2008-2009, political paralysis that has blocked effective policymaking, and emerging competitors such as the Chinese renminbi have heightened speculation about the dollar's looming displacement as the main reserve currency. Yet, as The Dollar Trap powerfully argues, the financial crisis, a dysfunctional international monetary system, and U.S. policies have paradoxically strengthened the dollar's importance. Eswar Prasad examines how the dollar came to have a central role in the world economy and demonstrates that it will remain the cornerstone of global finance for the foreseeable future. Marshaling a range of arguments and data, and drawing on the latest research, Prasad shows why it will be difficult to dislodge the dollar-centric system. With vast amounts of foreign financial capital locked up in dollar assets, including U.S. government securities, other countries now have a strong incentive to prevent a dollar crash. Prasad takes the reader through key contemporary issues in international finance--including the growing economic influence of emerging markets, the currency wars, the complexities of the China-U.S. relationship, and the role of institutions like the International Monetary Fund--and offers new ideas for fixing the flawed monetary system. Readers are also given a rare look into some of the intrigue and backdoor scheming in the corridors of international finance. The Dollar Trap offers a panoramic analysis of the fragile state of global finance and makes a compelling case that, despite all its flaws, the dollar will remain the ultimate safe-haven currency.

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"Thoughtful ..."--Jeff Sommer, New York Times "[A] surprising argument... [L]ucid ..."--David Wessel, Wall Street Journal "Richly detailed study of global finances, examining how and why the dollar became the favored currency of international trade."--Kirkus "To understand how the world of international finance works, what the agendas are and what is at stake, this work is indispensable."--Henny Sender, Financial Times "In his authoritative new book on the dollar, Eswar Prasad ... argues that China and other foreign countries that own around half the outstanding US federal government debt are trapped in a risky game where the US may be tempted to renege on its debt obligations by printing more dollars."--John Plender, Financial Times "A lively and compelling analysis on currency wars in the wake of the financial crisis--and the likely persistence of the U.S. dollar as the world's pre-eminent currency."--Harold James, Central Banking Journal

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Eswar S. Prasad is the Tolani Senior Professor of Trade Policy at Cornell University, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He is a former head of the IMF's China division.

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3.0 von 5 Sternen An Interesting Analysis of the Dollar with some Questionable Conclusions 13. April 2014
Von Baraniecki Mark Stuart - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
In this worthwhile book Eswar Prasad presents the view that the post WWII world reserve currency,the US dollar, now has a more multifaceted role. Despite record US budget and trade deficits it still maintains its reserve status and he highlights the organizations that would like to keep it that way.

He makes it fairly clear for example that the Chinese government has for years been operating a Mercantilist policy (recycling dollar trade surpluses into dollar bonds) to lower the renminbi/dollar exchange rate and support/protect their extensive export industries.

For their part the US government welcomes the perpetual Asian funding of their deficits allowing them to "kick the can down the road" and avoid the politically dangerous structural issues of cutting services or raising taxes.

Equally, US companies are happy with record profits as they move US manufacturing jobs to low cost Asian countries. They obviously want their production to stay cheap in dollar terms which means supporting Chinese dollar recycling and the general idea of free trade/free capital flows.

In turn, the US public has come to expect "Every Day Low Prices" based on Asian sourcing and this seems be part of an unwritten bargain in return for "Every Day Low Interest Rates" on their savings (if they have any) and generally low taxation (at least by European standards).

Prasad sees this as a stable but fragile equilibrium and titles the book "The Dollar Trap" to reflect the discomfort of Asian dollar bond holders with their excess capital risk and the US financial authorities with their excess funding needs. He shows Bernanke trying to defuse the situation with calls for the Chinese to revalue their currency and for Congress to tackle structural budget deficits, although it all seems to fall on deaf ears.

A problem with the book could be described as the Dani Rodrik view (ref. his book, "The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World Economy"). Basically Rodrik disagrees with the convenient neo-liberal view that the "World is Flat" and convincingly shows that countries that participate in world trade are at different points in the development cycle and have differing needs. US corporations go to China in search of a reliable source of long term cheap labour, whereas the Chinese view export industries as a source of technological skill development, higher employment (than importers) and a route to industrial development (i.e. they plan to learn and compete with the US higher up the value chain, which they are successfully doing).

If Rodrik is right, then the situation is not "stable but fragile", but is becoming increasingly unstable as the US loses more higher value added industries to Asia, sees increasing services outsourcing and runs even larger trade deficits, quite apart from future domestic welfare commitments.

The author could maybe also have explored more fully the "Currency War" idea. He frames mercantilism as a Currency War but doesn't show that Currency Wars are quite winnable. The victor of the 1920's post WWI currency war was undoubtedly Weimar Germany. Their large scale currency printing resulted in a very competitive export industry, buzzing factories, employment for millions of returning soldiers and the wiping out of unpayable foreign and domestic government debts. The downside of course was that by 1923, the price of a cabbage that had recently sold for 25 pf now cost 50.000.000 marks and the German middle class was ruined (see Bernd Widdig's excellent book "Culture and Inflation in Weimar Germany (Weimar and Now: German Cultural Criticism)").

Widdig's view is that Weimar budget deficits covered by money printing betrayed the people's trust in the German government but Prasad takes the line that FED printing (in the face of insufficient Asian bond purchases) will be constrained by the political power of Americas fixed income electorate such as pensioners, bondholders, insurance funds etc. This may be wishful thinking, as the German (actually mostly ethnic non-German) financial elite easily avoided hyperinflation by borrowing large sums that went straight into foreign currency and real estate and they came out of the other side with their power enhanced. There isn't any compelling reason why the US financial elite couldn't do the same, especially as 3/5 of US bonds are owned by non-Americans.

There is also an element of inertia in the use of the dollar as a reserve currency which he could have look at. It has been the standard unit of exchange since WW2 and perhaps it is just convenient to pretend that it is business as usual as long as things hold together. It's interesting in this regard that Sterling still had a partial role as a reserve currency as late as the 1970's despite Great Britain's spectacular industrial failure, large budget and trade deficits and a hard line socialist government. In their useful book, "Goodbye, Great Britain: The 1976 IMF Crisis", Burk and Cairncross show that this residual reserve role only disappeared when UK inflation hit 30% p.a. in 1975.

The author says at various points that there is no realistic alternative to the Dollar for large institutional investors and downplays the Euro although the Euro zone has a similar share of world GDP as the US, less debt and a balanced trade account. It meets his criteria for a reserve currency and presumably German opposition to inflationary policies should also serve as a useful backstop.

In chapter 11 he proposes a rather unconvincing international insurance scheme to protect deficit nations from rapid currency outflows with the idea that deficit nations should pay larger premiums in view of their higher risk profiles, when perhaps he could have gone directly to the point and suggested making all currencies (of nations wishing to trade) freely convertible for trade in goods, services and FDI but banning the capital account and portfolio transactions that are the root of the problem

All countries would then be responsible for their own surpluses and deficits with their economic efficiency and government budget policies reflected in their exchange rates.
10 von 10 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Thoughtful, topical, and very well-written 30. Januar 2014
Von Julian Berengaut - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
Today's headlines in the financial press are all about how minor adjustments in US monetary policy (the taper) lead to major repercussions for emerging markets all over the globe with their governments having to take unpopular measures to defend their currencies. Think about for a moment and marvel how strange it is--their economies are growing faster, their financial systems haven't had to recover from a near bankruptcy, they are financing our fiscal deficits and not the other way around. So how come they are the ones who suffer when the Fed steers its policies to benefit the US economy? Professor Prasad explains this odd state of affairs in his fascinating book with its total command of economic theory and empirical data (including Wikileaks!) and with a keen eye on real-life policy dilemmas as experienced by the key policy makers. Yes, despite the US economy lurching from one crisis to another, the role of the US dollar in the international financial system keeps getting stronger and is likely to remain so for a long time to come. Faced with a world-wide savings glut and a shortage of safe assets, it is the relative position of the US dollar that matters. Economics isn't always about rewarding the virtuous. Highly recommended. As they say, read the whole thing.
8 von 8 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen "Everybody loves a good story..." - but make sure you hear the right one, straight from the expert! 2. Februar 2014
Von Pawel Stefanski - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
As one of my investing gurus, Barry Ritholtz recently wrote about the ups and downs of the latest gold rush, the first lesson that everyone should learn from that experience is "Beware the narrative". The same could be said about the latest history of the US dollar - the most popular narratives ("untamed inflation, which has to follow the qualitative easing...", "the flight away from the dollar following US debt downgrade...", etc.) have routinely been proven false by the actual turn of events. Professor Prasad explains why it is so in his highly readable, yet accurate and choke full of details, book. I am sure that highly qualified macro economists will share detailed observations in their reviews - my recommendation is made from an "informed general public" point of view. It is from this perspective that I can highly recommend this timely book to anyone, who wants to understand not only the latest events of global finance, but the fundamental processes, responsible for why they happened "just so". And there is no better expert than Eshwar Prasad to turn to for this story.
5 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Engaging and straightforward; recommended for all audiences 6. Februar 2014
Von Shane F. Blackman - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
For someone who usually skips economics news articles because they are too technical and/or speculative, this book is uniquely gripping, incisive, and coherent. Eswar Prasad combines scholarly rigor, revealing anecdotes, and a humorous narrative to make this highly relevant book a true pleasure to read.
3 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Excellent Book 3. Februar 2014
Von Rahul Anand - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
A must read for anyone who wants to understand how international finance works and how U.S. dollar has tightened its grip over time. It gives a very comprehensive accont of the history and future of international currencies. The author has explained complicated economic concepts in a very simple and lucid way. His argumets are persuasive, and make us think. Highly recommended.
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