U.S. one dollar bills are displayed for a photograph in New York, April 15, 2008. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News
The combination of spending $700 billion on soured mortgage-related assets and providing $400 billion to guarantee money-market mutual funds will boost U.S. borrowing as much as $1 trillion, according to Barclays Capital interest-rate strategist Michael Pond in New York. While the rescue may restore investor confidence to battered financial markets, traders will again focus on the twin budget and current-account deficits and negative real U.S. interest rates.
``As we get to the other side of this, the dollar will get crushed,” said John Taylor, chairman of New York-based International Foreign Exchange Concepts Inc., the world’s biggest currency hedge-fund firm, which manages about $15 billion.
The dollar fell against 14 of the world’s most-traded currencies on Sept. 19, including the euro, as Paulson unveiled the plan, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 4 percent. The plan may end the rally that began in June and drove the U.S. currency up 10 percent versus the euro, 2 percent against the yen and almost 13 percent compared with Brazil’s real, strategists said.
Paulson’s plan, sent to Congress Sept. 20, would mark an unprecedented government intrusion into markets and increase the nation’s debt ceiling by 6.6 percent to $11.315 trillion. Officials may also start a $400 billion Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. pool to insure investors in money-market funds.
“The downdraft on the dollar from the hit to the balance sheet of the U.S. government will dwarf the short-term gains from solving the banking crisis,” said David Woo, London-based global head of foreign-exchange strategy at Barclays, the third- biggest currency trader, according to a 2008 survey by Euromoney Institutional Investor Plc.
Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke began plotting the rescue last week after New York-based Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. filed for bankruptcy, the government seized control of American International Group Inc. and Merrill Lynch & Co. was forced into the arms of Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America Corp.
Morgan Stanley dropped as much as 44 percent Sept. 17, the biggest one-day decline in its history, and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., where Paulson was chief executive officer from 1998 to 2006, lost 26 percent. Both are based in New York.
The dollar fell 2.1 percent to $1.4774 per euro as of 2:05 p.m. in New York, after dropping 1.7 percent in the week to Sept. 19. It slid 1.5 percent to 105.82 yen, extending last week’s 0.5 percent decline.
In the four days following Lehman’s bankruptcy, the ICE future exchange’s Dollar Index, which measures the currency’s performance against the U.S.’s six biggest trading partners, dropped 1.2 percent. It fell 1.8 percent today, leaving it little changed this year.
“After years of doubting the hegemonic status of the dollar, this proves it’s still there,” said Stephen Jen, London-based head of research at Morgan Stanley. “But of course this situation is definitely not stable. The capital leaving the emerging markets is only going into the dollar and that’s a powerful force. It’s a very uncomfortable balance.”
By the end of the year, the euro will weaken to $1.43 and the yen will trade at 108 to the dollar, according to analyst surveys by Bloomberg. The dollar will depreciate to 1.65 against the real, compared with 1.83 on Sept. 19.
Although the dollar may suffer short-term, at least one analyst says the U.S. government’s planned rescue will strengthen the currency before long. Paulson’s proposals will return foreign-exchange markets to the trend of the past months, according to Adam Boyton, senior currency strategist at Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank AG, the world’s biggest currency- trading bank. Since the end of June, the Dollar Index has gained 5 percent.
“It’s a positive plan that’s ultimately good for the dollar,” said New York-based Boyton. “It reduces risk and volatility and gets the focus back on macroeconomic fundamentals, which suggest weakness throughout the rest of the globe next year, with returning strength in the U.S.”
The U.S. economy may expand 1.5 percent next year, according to the median estimate of 80 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. That compares with 1.1 percent for the euro-region and 1.15 percent for Japan, the world’s second-largest economy.
`Huge New Supply’
The rescue comes as the U.S. budget deficit and the current-account balance, the broadest measure of trade, grow. The Congressional Budget Office projects the spending shortfall will increase to $438 billion next year from $407 billion. The current account deficit is up from $167.24 billion in December.
“Investors may start to worry about the amount of debt the U.S. is taking on and its impact on the dollar,” said Geoffrey Yu, a currency strategist in London at UBS AG, the second- largest foreign-exchange trader. “The fact that they mentioned taxpayer money implies that they’re going to issue debt. If there’s going to be a huge new supply of Treasuries, this will be dollar negative. It’s too much for the dollar to take.”
Traders are also concerned the bank bailout will spread to other U.S. industries suffering from the credit crunch that’s holding back an economy growing at its slowest pace since 2001. Detroit-based General Motors Corp., the world’s biggest automaker, said last week it will tap the remaining $3.5 billion of a $4.5 billion credit line to pay for restructuring costs.
Lower interest rates may also weigh on the dollar. Futures on the Chicago Board of Trade show there’s a 38 percent chance policy makers will lower their target rate for overnight lending between banks to at least 1.75 percent by January from 2 percent currently. A month ago, they showed a 46 percent chance of an increase to 2.25 percent.
Rates in the U.S. are already the lowest of any Group of 10 industrialized nations except Japan, where they are 0.5 percent. The European Central Bank’s benchmark is 4.25 percent.
Another drawback for the dollar is that the Fed’s key rate is 3.4 percentage points less than the rate of inflation, the most since 1980, so investors lose money by investing in short- term U.S. fixed-income assets.
“People thought that the Fed was done cutting,” said Andrew Balls, an executive vice president and member of the investment committee of Newport, California-based Pacific Investment Management Co., which oversees almost $830 billion. “In the longer term the diversification away from the dollar will remain intact. The U.S. hasn’t done itself any favors in making its assets attractive to foreign investors.”
The biggest beneficiaries may be Brazil’s real and Australia’s dollar, as demand for higher-yielding assets rebounds, according to Goldman Sachs. The two currencies, the biggest losers versus the dollar since July, may rebound 7.7 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively, in the next two weeks, Goldman Sachs forecasts.
“The currencies that have been damaged the most have the best growth,” said Jens Nordvig, a strategist with Goldman Sachs in New York. “You’re going to see a lot of flows back into these currencies now.”
Last Updated: September 22, 2008 14:19 EDT
By Bo Nielsen and Anchalee Worrachate