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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

All . Time . Low .
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Ten days ago I was at a conference in Paris. It's a wonderful place, but I thought, Oh great, I pick the very week the dollar hits an all-time low versus the euro. Having begun around parity, or 1 to 1, in 1999, the euro fell to just $0.80 during the super-strong dollar days of the late '90s and early '00s. But in the ensuing years, the currencies completely reversed course. By my visit the euro had rocketed to $1.52, making an already extravagantly expensive city positively absurd. As I bought little trinkets and chocolates for my children, I felt like a real sucker. I was clearly traveling the wrong way. All of Europe right now is in New York City buying up cheap luxuries and savoring perfectly affordable meals at Le Cirque.

Today, the dollar fell further, to $1.55 vs. the euro. So it turns out I did not get the absolute very worst deal of all time. Awesome. I feel so much better.

But seriously. The dollar has reached crisis levels. Oil and gold are at all-time highs. The inflation alarms are blinking fast and bright. After a rebound yesterday following the Fed's creative, targeted and short-term liquidity injection, stocks and bonds are back in panic mode.

A key point: The weak dollar is subtracting -- or at least diverting -- much of the liquidity the Fed thinks it is adding. People and companies are taking money out of the U.S. They're trying to get out of dollars and into oil, gold, Treasuries, Europe, and China as quickly as possible. Foreign investors, who have every reason to believe the U.S. approves of the dollar fall, aren't buying dollar assets for fear their investments will evaporate. Another side point: With our China yuan policy of forced appreciation, it creates a free hot money carry-trade into yuan and out of dollars.

Tomorrow I'll participate in an event at the U.S. Chamber, where one of our favorite economists, David Malpass of Bear Stearns, will survey the dollar problem and the global economy and offer a relatively easy and free solution to the Administration: Demand a stronger dollar.

People would be amazed not only how fast the dollar would reverse course but also how quickly other markets would turn up as well.

With the dollar at crisis levels, as it exacerbates the subprime, credit, and inflation problems, I'm holding out hope this little event could finally jolt Washington to its senses and turn the currency, commodity, credit, and stock markets around.

posted by Bret Swanson @ 7:32 PM | Monetary Policy , Trade

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