Dollar’s Share Of Global Reserves Continues To Slide, Reserve Status Questioned
Further confirmation that the U.S. dollar is gradually losing its reserve status came today from an International Monetary Fund report on global holdings of foreign exchange reserves by central banks. The greenback, and the euro, lost share vis-à-vis the Japanese yen, the Australian, and the Canadian dollar, pointing to a “slow, gradual diversification” of reserve holdings.
With Christine Lagarde recently appointed General Manager in replacement of the disgraced Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the IMF released its latest “Composition of Official Foreign Exchange Reserves” (COMFER) which lists reserves held at central banks in 33 “advanced economies” and 105 “emerging and developing economies.” China, one of the largest holders of foreign reserves, is not included in the sample. (Read IMF Appoints Lagarde To Fix A Disgraced institution).
Attesting to the continued global loss of confidence in the U.S. dollar, the greenback’s share of the world’s reserve continued to slide in the fourth quarter of 2010, the latest data show. Interestingly, the trend can be explained entirely by valuation effects, with the trade-weighted dollar depreciating 4%% in that time frame.
The U.S.’ share of allocated reserves fell in the first quarter to 60.69%% from 61.53% from Q4 2010. Central Bank reserves move slowly, but the slide in the greenback’s share, which Nomura suggests would be even steeper if China was included in the sample, has been very pronounced if one takes a longer-term window.
A year before the latest data, Q1 2010, the greenback’s share stood at 61.64%, while in Q1 2001, ten years before, it stood at 72.3%. While USDs dominance was unquestioned a few years ago, it is anything but rare to speak of a move toward a multi-currency system, with the dollar still a primus inter pares [first among peers]. (Read Central Banks Dump Treasuries As Dollar’s Reserve Currency Status Fades).
Emerging and developing nations aggressively accumulated foreign reserves in the first quarter, as their high-growth economies attracted massive capital flows from so-called advanced economies. While rich nations added $65.5 billion in reserves, $1.6 billion of those in U.S. dollars, emerging markets added $366.3 billion, $65.8 billion of those in dollars. Regardless, EM central banks also sought further diversification, with the Japanese Yen as the main destination.
Emerging market central banks accumulated $6.6 billion in new JPY reserves in the first quarter, taking their allocation up to 2.9%. “While the increase appears small, it signifies that the yen has recently found favor amongst EM central banks as an alternative safe haven,” noted Nomura.
“Other” currencies, as denominated by the IMF, made up 20% of emerging market reserve accumulation in the first quarter. With the Canadian and Australian dollars as some of the biggest beneficiaries, the share of “other” currencies climbed up to 5.8%, from 5.1% in Q4 2010.
Euro share of global reserves crawled up a couple of percentage points to 26.6%, despite being shunned by EM central banks (where its share fell to 28.2%). With the euro gaining 5.8% against the dollar in the first quarter, the data indicates EM’s actively selling euros. “It is likely that central banks sought to rebalance their reserve portfolios in the wake of EUR strength and corresponding USD weakness. That is, they sold EUR and bought USD and other currencies to counter the sharp change in valuation,” explained Nomura’s analysts.
The IMF’s most recent COFER continues to support the thesis that the U.S. is losing its reserve status. Central banks are sticking to “relatively stable allocations of major currencies,” namely the U.S. dollar and the euro, yet they are gradually moving away, adding yen and “other” currencies. While the greenback will continue to play a predominant role in world trade, there can be no doubt that slowly, but surely, central banks will rely less and less on it.