The Dollar’s Imperial Circle
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 Fed’s Inaugural Conference on the International Roles of the U.S. Dollar
The U.S. dollar has played a preeminent role in the global economy since the second World War. It is used as a reserve currency and the currency of denomination for a large fraction of global trade and financial transactions. The status of the U.S. dollar engenders important considerations for the effectiveness of U.S. policy instruments and the functioning of global financial markets. These considerations include understanding potential factors that may alter the dominance of the U.S. dollar in the future, such as changes in the macroeconomic and policy environments or the development of new technologies and payment systems.
Will the U.S. Dollar Continue to Dominate World Trade?
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.