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.
The sharp slowdown in China’s property sector has reignited debate over the country’s future role as a net provider of savings to the global economy. The debate revolves around whether a sustained decline in property investment will spur a long-term increase in China’s current account surplus, given the country’s high savings rate. However, China’s rapidly aging population presents opposing forces that complicate this story. The shift of a large share of its population from working life to retirement will reduce savings supply even as a shrinking labor force will reduce investment demand. In this post, we focus on the demographic part of the story and find that this force will exert considerable downward pressure on China’s current account surplus in coming years.
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 have become a major challenge for the global economy since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Factory shutdowns (particularly in Asia) and widespread lockdowns and mobility restrictions have resulted in disruptions across logistics networks, increases in shipping costs, and longer delivery times. Several measures have been used to gauge these disruptions, although those measures tend to focus on selected dimensions of global supply chains. In this post, we propose a new gauge, the Global Supply Chain Pressure Index (GSCPI), which integrates a number of commonly used metrics with an aim to provide a more comprehensive summary of potential disruptions affecting global supply chains.
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 Liberty Street Economics post from last summer by Matthew Higgins and Thomas Klitgaard contained an assessment of the Phase One trade agreement between the United States and China. The authors of that note found that, depending on how successfully the deal was implemented, the impact on U.S. economic growth could have been substantially larger than originally foreseen by many of its critics, as a result of the fact that the pandemic had depressed the U.S. economy far below its potential growth path. Here we take another look at these considerations with the benefit of an additional year’s worth of trade data and a much different economic environment in the United States.
It may be hard to remember given the pandemic, but trade tensions between the United States and China eased in January 2020 with the inking of the Phase One agreement. Under the deal, China committed to a massive increase in its purchases of U.S. goods and services, with targets set for various types of products. At the time of the pact, the U.S. economy was operating near full capacity, and any increase in U.S. exports stemming from the pact would likely have resulted in only a small boost to growth. The environment is now starkly different, with the U.S. economy operating far below potential. While the promised increase in Chinese purchases seems unlikely to be achieved, any appreciable increase in exports from the agreement could deliver a meaningful boost to the economy.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on trade between the United States and China so far. As workers became sick or were quarantined, factories temporarily closed, disrupting international supply chains. At the same time, the trade relationship between the United States and China has been characterized by rising protectionism and heightened trade policy uncertainty over the last few years. Against this background, this post examines how the recent period of economic disruptions in China has affected U.S. imports and discusses how this episode might impact firms’ supply chains going forward.
The imposition of Section 301 tariffs on about half of China’s exports to the United States has coincided with a fall in imports from China and gains for other countries. The U.S.-China trade conflict also appears to be accelerating an ongoing shift in foreign direct investment (FDI) from China to other emerging markets, particularly in Asia. Within the region, Vietnam is often cited as a clear beneficiary of these trends, a rising economy that could displace China, to some extent, in global supply chains. In this note, we examine the data and conclude that Vietnam is indeed gaining market share, but is too small to replace China anytime soon.