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There are around 180 currencies in the world, but only a very small number of them play an outsized role in international trade, finance, and central bank foreign exchange reserves. In the modern era, the U.S. dollar has a dominant international presence, followed to a lesser extent by the euro and a handful of other currencies. Although the use of specific currencies is remarkably stable over time, with the status of dominant currencies remaining unchanged over decades, there have been decisive shifts in the international monetary system over long horizons. For example, the British pound only lost its dominant currency status in the 1930s, well after Britain stopped being the leading world economy. In a new study, we show that the currency that is used in international trade transactions is an active firm-level decision rather than something that is just fixed. This finding raises the question of what factors could augment or reduce the U.S. dollar’s dominance in world trade.
Raphael Auer, Jon Frost, Michael Lee, Antoine Martin, and Neha Narula
In the past year, a number of central banks have stepped up work on central bank digital currencies (CBDCs – see map). For central banks, are CBDCs just a defensive reaction to private-sector innovations in money, or are they an opportunity for the monetary system? In this post, we consider several long-standing goals of central banks in their support and provision of retail payments, why and how central banks tackle these issues, and where CBDCs fit into the array of potential solutions.
The question of how U.S. monetary policy affects foreign economies has received renewed interest in recent years. The bulk of the empirical evidence points to sizable effects, especially on emerging market economies (EMEs). A key theme in the literature is that these spillovers operate largely through financial channels—that is, the effects of a U.S. policy tightening manifest themselves abroad via declines in international risky asset prices, tighter financial conditions, and capital outflows. This so-called Global Financial Cycle has been shown to affect EMEs more forcefully than advanced economies. It is because higher U.S. policy rates have a disproportionately larger impact on rates in EMEs. In our recent research, we develop a model with cross-border financial linkages that provides theoretical foundations for these empirical findings. In this Liberty Street Economics post, we use the model to illustrate the spillovers from a tightening of U.S. monetary policy on credit spreads and on the uncovered interest rate parity (UIP) premium in EMEs with dollar-denominated debt.
In prior research, we documented evidence suggesting that digital payment adoptions have accelerated as a result of the pandemic. While digitalization of payment activity improves data utilization by firms, it can also infringe upon consumers’ right to privacy. Drawing from a recent paper, this blog post explains how payment data acquired by firms impacts market structure and consumer welfare. Then, we discuss the implications of introducing a central bank digital currency (CBDC) that offers consumers a low-cost, privacy-preserving electronic means of payment—essentially, digital cash.
Rod Garratt, Michael Lee, Brendan Malone, and Antoine Martin
The authors discuss a common distinction made between “token-based” and “account-based” digital currencies, noting that the distinction is problematic since Bitcoin and many other digital currencies satisfy both definitions.
Nicola Cetorelli, Linda S. Goldberg, and Fabiola Ravazzolo
The onset of the COVID-19 shock in March 2020 brought large changes to the balance sheets of the U.S. branches of foreign banking organizations (FBOs). Most of these branches saw sizable usage of committed credit lines by U.S.-based clients, resulting in increased funding needs. In this post, we show that branches of FBOs from countries whose central banks used standing swap lines with the Federal Reserve (“standing swap central banks”—SSCBs) met their increased funding needs by accessing dollars that flowed into the United States through their foreign parent banks. This volume of dollar inflows accounted for at least half of the late March aggregate take-up at SSCB dollar operations.
Nicola Cetorelli, Linda S. Goldberg, and Fabiola Ravazzolo
In March 2020, the Federal Reserve made changes to its swap line facilities with foreign central banks to enhance the provision of dollars to global funding markets. Because the dollar has important roles in international trade and financial markets, reducing these strains helps facilitate the supply of credit to households and businesses, both domestically and abroad. This post summarizes the changes made to central bank swap lines and shows that these changes were effective at bringing down dollar funding strains abroad.
Liberty Street Economics features insight and analysis from New York Fed economists working at the intersection of research and policy. Launched in 2011, the blog takes its name from the Bank’s headquarters at 33 Liberty Street in Manhattan’s Financial District.
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