The dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency provides little benefit to the U.S., according to a new study from the McKinsey Global Institute.
“Some observers assume that the U.S. continues to enjoy an ‘exorbitant privilege’ because of the dollar’s reserve currency status, as former French Finance Minister Valéry Giscard d’Estaing charged in the 1960s,” the study says.
“But MGI finds that the U.S. may not enjoy much of a privilege at all. In 2007-2008, a normal year for the world economy, the net financial benefit to the U.S. was between $40 billion and $70 billion.” That’s only 0.3 to 0.5 percent of GDP.
In the crisis year ended in June 2009, the net benefit was between negative $5 billion and $25 billion, McKinsey said.
That’s because the dollar rose 10 percent in that year, thanks to its safe haven status. And that increase limited U.S. exports by making them more expensive in foreign currencies.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of having the world’s reserve currency is that it almost guarantees foreign buyers for U.S. government bonds.
“We estimate that these purchases have reduced the U.S. borrowing rate by 50 to 60 basis points in recent years, generating a financial benefit of $90 billion,” McKinsey said.
Whatever the benefits of the dollar’s reserve status, many experts expect the currency to rise further in coming months. Bloomberg’s dollar sentiment index rose to 51.99 in December from 42.42 in November.
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