Das Ende der Dollar-Hege­monie?

Am Sonntag (06. August 2023) diskutiere ich mit Philip Pilkington in meinem Podcast über die Aussichten für den US-Dollar. Philip Pilkington ist Makroökonom und Anlageexperte. Er ist regelmäßiger Wirtschaftskommentator in verschiedenen Publikationen, darunter The Daily Telegraph, The Spectator und Newsweek. Er ist Co-Moderator des beliebten Podcasts „Multipolarity“, der wöchentlich die Entwicklungen der entstehenden multipolaren Welt verfolgt. Man kann ihm auf X unter @philippilk folgen.

Im Februar 2022 schrieb er einen Kommentar zur Zukunft des Dollars in American Affairs:

  • On February 26, 2022, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and the European Commission issued a joint statement that might very well change the global economy forever. In it, these countries pledged to freeze the Central Bank of Russia’s foreign currency reserves in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine two days prior. These reserves, which were estimated at around $630 billion, had been accumulating since they were run down the last time Russia intervened in Ukraine in 2014. When they were frozen, they were at their highest level since data was collected.“ – bto: Das wissen wir und wir wissen auch, dass sich daraufhin viele Staaten Sorgen machen, es könnte ihnen auch passieren.
  • The situation in 2022, however, is very different from the situation in 2014. In 2014, global growth was lackluster and inflation was muted. In addition to this, the oil markets in 2014 were still pricing in the enormous surge in oil production in the United States that was enabled by the ‚fracking revolution,‘ which doubled U.S. oil production. In 2022, on the other hand, the global economy was running hot, and inflation was the highest it had been since the 1970s. The fracking revolution had long been priced into global oil markets. Even if the Saudis wanted to crash the oil price in 2022 — and they gave no indication of wanting to do so, going so far as to refuse to answer President Joe Biden’s phone call—the economic conditions likely meant that they would not be able to.“ – bto: Das bedeutet, dass Russland dennoch weiter Einnahmen erzielt.
  • In 2014/15, the rouble fell around 48 percent against the U.S. dollar; in 2022, it fell around 25 percent. This fall is even less dramatic if we recall that, in 2014/15, the Russian central bank was free to dump foreign exchange into the market to stabilize the rouble’s price, while in 2022 they could not.“ – bto: Mittlerweile hat der Rubel mehr verloren, aber das zeigt, wie wichtig die Exporte von Öl sind, verglichen mit den Währungsreserven – was zur Frage führt, ob es dann sinnvoll ist, die Währungsreserven zu blockieren.
  • Everyone in currency markets knows that the value of the rouble is firmly tied to the oil price. Controlling for inflation, regression analysis on the Russian exchange rate shows that around 64 percent of changes are explained by changes in the oil price. From this exercise we have learned that sanctions are a far weaker economic weapon against Russia than interventions in energy markets. It could even be argued that Russia did not need access to their foreign exchange reserves this time around thanks to the impact the invasion and the sanctions had on oil prices. If history does judge the seizure of Russian foreign exchange reserves as a largely fruitless exercise, it will be a cruel irony because, as we shall see, the act of seizing these reserves could have long-term effects on American financial hegemony.“ – bto: Kurzfristig würde also kein Effekt eintreten, weil die Öleinnahmen deutlich wichtiger sind, mittelfristig gäbe es aber einen Preis zu bezahlen. Rückblickend gesehen kann man schon sagen, dass er Recht hatte.
  • On March 16, 2022 (…) Putin said, The illegitimate freezing of some of the currency reserves of the Bank of Russia marks the end of the reliability of so-called first-class assets. In fact, the U.S. and the EU have defaulted on their obligations to Russia. Now everybody knows that financial reserves can simply be stolen. And many countries in the immediate future may begin—I am sure this is what will happen—to convert their paper and digital assets into real reserves of raw materials, land, food, gold, and other real assetswhich will only result in more shortages in these markets.“ – bto: Ich würde schon sagen, dass Putin durchaus versteht, wie diese Märkte funktionieren.
  • „(…) people in financial circles had already been discussing precisely this point for some days. Reserve currencies, like all currencies, rely for their value on trust. Countries choose which currencies to hold in reserve based on the stability of these currencies. Currencies whose value is regularly inflated away are not used as reserve currencies. But at a more basic level, a holder of a reserve currency must be confident that the asset will not simply be seized. If a country thinks that the country issuing the reserve currency might simply seize it—especially at a time when it is most needed—then it would be unwise to hold this reserve currency if there are alternatives on the table. Seizing reserves is a trivial exercise in technical terms, as the reserves of a country’s currency are held in an account at that same country’s central bank. The issuing country always has full control, but until now few countries have been willing to weaponize it on such a large scale.“ – bto: Anders ist es bei physischem Gold, welches kein Kontrahentenrisiko hat.
  • China has long run large trade surpluses with the Western countries and in doing so has built up huge amounts of foreign reserves. But now the Chinese must view these reserves through the lens of their foreign policy. If, for example, China decided to seize the island of Taiwan, it seems almost certain at this point that the reserves would be frozen. Would they be frozen even as a result of a less ambitious incursion on China’s part? Nobody knows. But you can bet the Chinese are discussing it.“ – bto: Natürlich tun sie das und sie würden auch entsprechend handeln.
  • With the EU, UK, and Canada joining the U.S. effort, their currencies will also be less attractive as competitors. And there are other (at least short-term) obstacles to de-dollarization. The point is not to suggest that the complete abandonment of dollar reserves is on the horizon, nor is it happening overnight. Even a moderate degree of increased diversification away from the dollar over time, however, could still have a meaningful impact.“ – bto: … weil es eben zu einer Veränderung des Grenzangebots an Währungen kommt.
  • For a few decades the system (of Bretton Woods) worked as it should. This was due to American dominance of the world economy after the Second World War. (…) With the gold in the bank, the dollar was stable, and the system worked like clockwork. This started to change in the late 1960s. Lyndon Johnson was bogged down in Vietnam and subject to massive domestic pressures for reform. He opted to run a ‚guns and butter‘ economy and tried to fund both the war and new social programs—mostly through deficit-financed government spending. As a result, the U.S. current account fell into deficit with the rest of the world in 1971/72. This meant that countries that were owed money by America could ask for their payments in gold.“ – bto: Und es kam zum Abfluss von Gold aus den USA.
  • This was the international equivalent of a bank run. (…) the Americans realized that they were stuck. If their trade partners kept asking for gold to be shipped, they would soon find America’s vaults empty. President Nixon appeared on television on a Sunday and (closed the gold window). (…) The Americans, however, were clearly signaling that the dollar would be a paper currency moving forward.“ – bto: … aber natürlich mit einem Wert, gegen den er stabil sein sollte – gegenüber dem Öl.
  • The first to describe the new system that emerged was the American economist Michael Hudson. In 1972 Hudson published a neo-Marxist book entitled Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire. Hudson’s book was ruthlessly critical of the U.S. system. He claimed that the new nonconvertible dollar was going to be used to extract huge quantities of goods from the rest of the world in exchange for paper.“ – bto: Das haben sie getan.
  • To this day, the Americans have used the hegemonic status of the dollar to live beyond their means; they have taken a critique leveled against their monetary system by a neo-Marxist economist and turned it into a tool of geopolitical hegemony. The reserve currency status of the dollar props up its value even though for many decades the United States has run enormous trade deficits with the rest of the world.“ – bto: Die Frage ist natürlich: Kann man das auf Dauer machen? Und: Kann man es auch dann noch machen, wenn man das Papier nicht normal entwertet, sondern beschlagnahmt?
  • „(…) how much more expensive would imported goods become for ordinary Americans in the event of the dollar becoming just one currency amongst many? That depends on how much the dollar relies for its value on its reserve currency status. No one knows that because no one can know it. Since the dollar has always been the reserve currency in the modern, postwar era, we have no point of historical comparison. Thus, we have no idea whatsoever how much of the U.S. dollar’s value derives from its reserve currency status.“ – bto: Hinzukommt, dass sobald wir es erfahren, es nicht wieder rückgängig zu machen sein dürfte.
  • What we can say, however, is how much various depreciations of the U.S. dollar would raise domestic prices—and erode living standards in a heavily indebted country. The table below estimates the likely impact of various dollar depreciations on both consumer prices and import prices, obtained by linear regression analysis.“ – bto: Wobei das gar nicht so schlimm aussieht – Konsumenteninflation von unter 20 Prozent bei einer Halbierung.

Quelle: Philip Pilkington

  •  First, the model used to derive these estimates can only capture first-order effects. Since the initial price increases will likely feed into other price increases, the actual impact on overall consumer prices could be higher — especially if these price hikes occur in an already inflationary environment. Second, while a rise in domestic consumer prices can usually be balanced out for workers through a rise in their wages, a rise in the price of imports cannot. Therefore, these estimates show a permanent hit to the living standards of the American consumer; they cannot be reversed through domestic wage hikes, as these hikes will only further drive down the value of the U.S. dollar. The American consumer will have to eat them.“ – bto: Das wäre dann durchaus erheblich.
  • There is no policy that could reverse the effects of the fall of the dollar reserve currency completely. But there are policies that could help ease the transition: a therapeutic, not a cure. The most promising is a policy of import substitution. This could be done simply enough. The United States — and other countries worried about their currencies — should set up an investment bank. This investment bank should have its debt backed by the central bank, which should be allowed buy this debt at a 0 percent interest rate. The debt contracts will be perpetual, and the bonds will never be redeemed. Limits should be set on the issuance of this debt according to the needs of the import substitution program, preferably on the basis of a five-year plan in order to avoid political interference.“ – bto: Das klingt kompliziert und würde wohl nichts anderes bedeuten als das Drucken von Geld.
  • The investment bank will then work with domestic industry to produce these goods and will subsidise the price difference between the domestic product and the foreign product. So, for example, if a Chinese-manufactured toaster costs $10 wholesale and an American equivalent costs $15 due to higher domestic labor costs, the investment bank will subsidise the American equivalent to the tune of $5 per unit. An import substitution program such as this will ease the transition away from a world dependent on the dollar reserve currency. It will also encourage high quality domestic manufacturing jobs. It can even be used as a regional development strategy.“ – bto: In gewisser Hinsicht machen das die USA bereits.
  • Perhaps something will change in the coming months. But it seems possible that we have reached the end of an era — one that began in 1945, shifted gears in 1971, and may now be approaching its terminus. A multipolar world is emerging before our eyes, while the unipolar power of the United States and its allies is slipping away. It is time to begin thinking more strategically.“ – bto: Das gilt auch für Deutschland.

americanaffairsjournal.org: „The End of Dollar Hegemony?“, 22. März 2022