The importance of the U.S. dollar in the context of the international monetary system has been examined and studied extensively. In this post, we argue that the dollar is not only the dominant global currency but also a key variable affecting global economic conditions. We describe the mechanism through which the dollar acts as a procyclical force, generating what we dub the “Dollar’s Imperial Circle,” where swings in the dollar govern global macro developments.
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.
Supply chain disruptions continue to be a major challenge as the world economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, recent developments related to geopolitics and the pandemic (particularly in China) could put further strains on global supply chains. In a January post, we first presented the Global Supply Chain Pressure Index (GSCPI), a parsimonious global measure designed to capture supply chain disruptions using a range of indicators. We revisited our index in March, and today we are launching the GSCPI as a standalone product, with new readings to be published each month. In this post, we review GSCPI readings through April 2022 and briefly discuss the drivers of recent moves in the index.
The economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic has been uneven across countries and sectors. While U.S. imports have rebounded to surpass their level before the collapse in 2020, U.S. exports remain far below their pre-pandemic level. This asymmetry in part reflects the different sectoral compositions of imports and exports. U.S. imports are driven by goods trade, while exports rely more heavily on services trade. A key component of services exports is foreign travel to the United States, which has dried up due to the suspension of nonessential travel imposed in March 2020. However, U.S. exports may now be at a turning point given the reopening of U.S. borders to all vaccinated travelers on November 8. We analyze the trajectory of U.S. services and how the lifting of the travel ban might contribute to the rebound of U.S. services exports.
The prices of U.S. imported goods, excluding fuel, have increased by 6 percent since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in February 2020. Around half of this increase is due to the substantial rise in the prices of imported industrial supplies, up nearly 30 percent. In this post, we consider the implications of the increase in import prices on U.S. industry inflation rates. In particular, we highlight how rising prices of imported intermediate inputs, like industrial supplies, can have amplified effects through the U.S. economy by increasing the production cost of goods that rely heavily on these inputs.
A number of studies have documented that market concentration among U.S. firms has increased over the last decades, as large firms have grown more dominant. In a new study, we examine whether this rising domestic concentration means that large U.S. firms have more market power in the manufacturing sector. Our research argues that increasing foreign competition over the last few decades has in fact reduced U.S. firms’ market power in manufacturing.
Starting in early 2018, the U.S. government imposed tariffs on over $300 billion of U.S. imports from China, increasing the average tariff rate from 2.7 percent to 17.5 percent. Much of the escalation in tariffs occurred in the second and third quarters of 2019. In response, the Chinese government retaliated, increasing the average tariff applied on U.S. exports from 5.7 percent to 20.4 percent. Our new study finds that the trade war reduced U.S. investment growth by 0.3 percentage points by the end of 2019, and is expected to shave another 1.6 percentage points off of investment growth by the end of 2020. In this post, we review our study of the trade war’s effect on U.S. investment.