From the SurvivalBlog Archives: Dumping of US Dollar Could Trigger “Economic September 11” (Posted August 29, 2005)

I very rarely post lengthy excerpts from other sources. However, I am essentially forced to in this case. You see, this prematurely archived article was posted at The Australian newspaper web site for just a few hours, earlier today. (Actually late afternoon on the 28th in the U.S., due to the time difference and being on the other side of the International Date Line). It was briefly on their “The World” page–one of their main pages. But it now shows up only in their archives. No explanation was given why it has mysteriously disappeared from their “The World” page. It appears to have been at least partially spiked. A tip of the hat to SurvivalBlog reader “Mr. Coffee” for alerting us to this story. I have made some edits for the sake of brevity and to avoid running afoul of “fair use” legalities.

Headline: Dumping of US Dollar Could Trigger ‘Economic September 11’

There is a potentially fatal flaw at the heart of the global economy: the strong possibility of financial meltdown following a collapse of confidence in the greenback, Clyde Prestowitz tells Bruce Stannard
29 August 2005

THE nightmare scenario that haunts global strategist Clyde Prestowitz is an economic September 11 — a worldwide financial panic triggered by a sudden massive sell-off of US dollars that would lead inexorably to the collapse of economies around the world. If that happens, Prestowitz predicts: “It would make the Great Depression of the 1930s look like a walk in the park.” Australia would be sucked into the vortex of such a recession, which would cause great hardship throughout the world, he warns. Prestowitz is not a doomsayer, neither is he alone in his views. As president of the Economic Strategy Institute, a Washington think tank, he is in regular contact with the most influential US business leaders, several of whom — Warren Buffet and George Soros included — have taken steps to hedge their currency positions against the possibility of a cataclysmic plunge in the greenback. “Right now,” he says, “we have a situation in which the US is running huge trade deficits — about $US650 billion ($766 billion) in 2004 — which are financed by borrowings from the central banks of Asia — mainly the Chinese and the Japanese. All the world’s central banks are chock-full of US dollars — they’re holding many more dollars than they really want. They’re holding those dollars because at the moment there’s no great alternative and also because the global economy depends on US consumption. If they dump the dollar and the dollar collapses, then the whole global economy is in trouble.

[Snipped for brevity]

“It doesn’t take any great stretch of the imagination to see what could happen if one of these central bank managers decides to dump dollars. We had a situation recently when a mid-level official at the Central Bank of Korea used the word ‘diversification’. It was a throwaway remark at some obscure lunch, but there was instantaneous overreaction. The US stock market fell by 100 points in 15 minutes because the implication was that South Korea might be shifting out of US dollars. “So picture this: you have a quiet day in the market and maybe some smart MBA at the Central Bank of Chile or someplace looks at his portfolio and says, ‘I got too many dollars here. I’m gonna dump $10 billion’. So he dumps his dollars and suddenly the market thinks, ‘My god, this is it!’ Of course, the first guy out is OK, but you sure as hell can’t afford to be the last guy out. “You would then see an immediate cascade effect — a world financial panic on a scale that would dwarf the Great Depression of the 1930s.” Prestowitz says the panic could be started by something as simple as a hedge-fund miscalculation. “We had exactly that scenario in the US recently,” he points out, “when a big hedge fund called Long Term Capital Management went belly-up. These guys were pros. They had two Nobel prize-winning economists writing their trading algorithms, and their traders were the creme de la creme among New York bond traders. “They made a big bet — a trillion dollars leveraged 20 to one, and they blew it. They went belly-up. That threatened to bring down the whole system so US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan had to organise a bail-out through the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. “Now consider this: there are currently 8000 hedge funds in the US alone. Every day $6 trillion of derivative instruments trade on international markets. If there are four people in the world who understand those trades, I’d be surprised. So the potential for another disaster is not insignificant. This is why Warren Buffet, chairman of investment giant Berkshire Hathaway, is betting $US21 billion against the dollar. This is why currency speculator and hedge fund manager George Soros has also made a big bet against the dollar. “Soros is one of the greatest currency speculators of all time. He was the guy who broke the British pound in the early 1990s by betting $US10 billion it would fall. He made a quick billion when it did. In 2002, he warned that the greenback was in danger of losing a third of its value.

[Snipped for brevity]

If the dollar started to melt down, the results could be really nasty. A 1930s-style global depression is not out of the question.”
To underscore the point that he is not alone in this, Prestowitz cites Paul Volcker, head of the Federal Reserve before Greenspan, who has said publicly there is a 75 per cent chance of a dollar crash in the next five years. “No wonder people look at this and say, ‘Holy cow!’,” he says. “No one knows for sure what will happen, but clearly the global markets could implode very quickly. The lack of an alternative to the dollar is the only reason it hasn’t taken a big fall already.” Prestowitz, formerly a trade adviser and negotiator for former US president Ronald Reagan, believes the US will continue to be the world’s most powerful economy for the foreseeable future. But he foreshadows an inexorable decline, a trend that is likely to continue “depending on the way we play our cards”.

[Snipped for brevity]

“America’s global hegemony is already under challenge, and that challenge is going to become more and more evident as the extent of the relative US economic decline becomes evident. Right now, the US dollar is probably 40 per cent overvalued versus the Japanese yen or the Chinese renminbi. How’s the US going to look as a global power when the dollar is at 50 per cent of its current value?”

JWR’s Comment: Hmmm… I wonder why they spiked this story, post facto? I’m curious to know if this story made it into print in the hard copy edition of the newspaper. Chalk this one up to FFTAGFFR, folks!

JWR’s Re-Posting Comment (October 21, 2007): Part of what was described in the preceding article has occurred. I anticipate further erosion of the US dollar on the FOREX. If the US Federal Reserve cuts interest rates again, then all bets are off. At this juncture it would not take much to start a full scale dollar panic. Be prepared. Limit your exposure to US dollar-denominated investments!