Moral Outrage
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Time ticking for US dollar as world’s reserve currency

The Fed’s relentlessly easy monetary policy combined with Congress’s reckless spending have driven investors out of the United States and into Asia, South America and elsewhere in search of higher returns and more sustainable growth. This incoming wall of money puts the central bankers in these countries in a bind. If they do nothing, the result can be asset bubbles and inflation. These nations can raise interest rates or let their own currencies appreciate, at the risk of slower economic growth. Rather than endure that adjustment, many countries are resorting to capital controls and other administrative measures to try to stop the inflow.

Over the past year, Brazil has introduced taxes on stock and bond investment and raised bank reserve requirements; Indonesia has introduced holding periods for government bonds; South Korea has limited banks’ ability to engage in foreign-currency financing, among other things; Peru and Turkey have taken action, too. Yet their currencies have in many cases continued to rise and the money keeps coming in.

So it was little surprise earlier this month when IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn joined the parade and endorsed capital controls as a necessary “tool” to be used on a “temporary basis,” ending the fund’s long-time commitment to free flows of capital. The last time the International Monetary Fund did this was amid the Mexico monetary crisis of the mid-1990s.

The world is starting to protect, and perhaps ultimately free, itself from America’s weak dollar standard. China is allowing more trade to be conducted in yuan, a first step toward making it a global currency. At a meeting of developing countries—the so-called BRICs—in China recently, leaders called for “a broad-based international reserve currency system providing stability and certainty.” They weren’t referring to the dollar.

[Wall Street Journal]

More on the economies of China and the US

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