Wednesday, November 4, 2009

World Unlikely to Scrap Current Reserve System Despite Weak Dollar, Says CornerCap Investment Counsel

/PRNewswire/ -- Despite the recent credit crisis and headlines about the possible demise of the dollar as the world's dominant currency, it is unlikely that the world will scrap the current reserve system anytime soon, CornerCap Investment Counsel concluded in a recent report (go to for the complete report).

While the dollar will inevitably surrender some of its dominance, too many major players like China and OPEC have a vested interest in a financially strong U.S. to undermine the dollar's position too strongly, according to Cannon Carr, chief investment officer.

Instead, Carr anticipates an orderly transition to a post-dollar world, one that will take a decade or more, and probably with U.S. leadership.

"The dollar's position as the world's dominant currency has been key to our standard of living since World War II, and its standing plays a vital role in the U.S. recovery," Carr said. "Moving radically away from the U.S. dollar as the dominant currency would limit our return to economic growth, at a time when other countries need a healthy US to boost their own economies," he added.

However, high U.S. debt levels and deficits, when combined with a weak growth outlook, do increase the risk to a currency system tied to the dollar. With a sustained weak dollar, non-U.S. countries can find their exports expensive and their own economies influenced by poor policy choices by the US. So while other nations can tolerate a weak dollar, an irresponsibly sustained weak dollar jeopardizes their financial stability and could force them to seek more radical change to the reserve system.

What's more, without convincing economic growth (say 4% annually); the U.S. will have to balance national debt levels, deficits and government spending to manage the dollar's position. Special attention must be given to government spending (for growth, social programs, entitlements, or war), which is typically financed through taxation, borrowing, or inflation. Pushing too far in those areas would have serious ramifications for the dollar.

Carr believes the dollar's recent descent may reflect investors' increased risk tolerance rather than collapsing faith in the U.S. system. When fear reached its peak in October 2008, investors sought safety in U.S. Treasury instruments and the U.S. dollar. If fear returns, those two investment vehicles could be once again viewed as safe havens.

What does the dollar's outlook mean for investors? Pursuing radical strategies today are likely to yield sub-par investment results over time.

"We continue to believe deflationary forces may prevail for the immediate future but inflation has a higher probability in perhaps four to five years," Carr said. Predicting when that inevitable transition will occur is impossible, and CornerCap recommends diversified investment portfolios that balance the risk/reward across many uncertainties, including deflation, inflation, or a normal recovery.

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