Could cryptocurrency dethrone the dollar?

Bank of England Gov. Mark Carney believes that virtual currency is likely to replace the dollar as ‘king of the foreign exchange market.’ (AFP/File)
Updated 01 September 2019

Could cryptocurrency dethrone the dollar?

  • The greenback is likely to lose its sparkle owing to globalization, economists believe

LONDON: Bank of England Gov. Mark Carney has suggested that a virtual currency, modeled on Facebook’s Libra, could one day replace the dollar as king of the foreign exchange market.

The BoE chief aired vague proposals for a so-called “Synthetic Hegemonic Currency” at the recent Jackson Hole Symposium of central bankers.

Here is a brief assessment of why the greenback is losing its lustre and the outlook for Carney’s proposed new digital currency, which would be supported by major central banks around the world.

The dollar has been the world’s reference currency since the Bretton Woods agreement in 1944, when various key units were fixed to the value of the greenback. It has retained its global supremacy ever since, thanks to the economic and political clout of the US.

“The dominant currency is always that of the world’s biggest political power,” noted Philippe Waechter, head of research at Ostrum Asset Management.

The dollar accounted for almost 62 percent of global foreign exchange reserves in the first quarter of 2019, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The European single currency was second with 20.2 percent, while China’s yuan comprised only 2 percent despite the country’s rise to the rank of the world’s second biggest economy behind the US.

Although the dollar has lost its sparkle owing to globalization and the changing world economic order, gyrations in the US unit still impact economies elsewhere.

“US developments have significant spillovers onto both the trade performance and the financial conditions of countries even with relatively limited direct exposure to the US economy,” Carney said at the recent bankers’ meet in Wyoming.

When the greenback appreciates, so do repayments for many emerging nations because their debts tend to be denominated in dollars. The BoE chief, who steps down in January, added: “In the longer term, we need to change the game.”

The public sector, in the form of central banks, could instead provide the best support for a new virtual currency, according to Carney. “It is an open question whether such a new (cryptocurrency) would be best provided by the public sector, perhaps through a network of central bank digital currencies,” he said.

Yet central bankers and world leaders alike remain anxious over the current crop of virtual currencies because they are unregulated.

US President Donald Trump himself has lashed out at Bitcoin and Libra for being “based on thin air” and having no standing or dependability — unlike the dollar.

Commentators believe Washington is unlikely to allow the greenback to lose its cherished status as the world’s premier reserve currency.

“The United States will simply not allow it to happen without a fight. Nobody in its position would,” said Rabobank analysts.

Make or break days for global oil ahead of OPEC crunch meeting

Updated 08 April 2020

Make or break days for global oil ahead of OPEC crunch meeting

  • OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, were on Thursday scheduled to take part in virtual discussions with non-OPEC members, led by Russia, about a possible deal to revive the OPEC+ alliance
  • On Friday, energy ministers from the G20 nations, under the presidency of Saudi Arabia, will convene in another digital forum that will bring in the third part of the global oil equation – the US

DUBAI: The global energy world, in the midst of crisis as demand slumps to unprecedented levels due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, faces two days that could make – or break – the oil industry for months to come.
Leading producers from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), led by Saudi Arabia, were on Thursday scheduled to take part in virtual discussions with non-OPEC members, led by Russia, about a possible deal to revive the OPEC+ alliance that fell apart in Vienna at the beginning of last month.
Then, on Friday, energy ministers from the G20 nations, under the presidency of Saudi Arabia, will convene in another digital forum that will bring in the third important part of the global oil equation – the US, currently the biggest oil producer in the world.
If no deal is reached from the two days of oil summits, the immediate prospect looms of a further fall in crude prices and, with global storage facilities already filling rapidly, the possibility of major exporters “shutting in” oil fields, jeopardizing future production.
Energy experts say the purpose of the meetings is two-fold: To reach agreement on how to limit the vast quantities of oil that are still being produced even as demand collapses; and to present some kind of united front in geopolitical terms in the face of the biggest economic recession since the 1930s.
The most visible immediate sign of any success from the meetings will be an increase in the price of crude oil on global markets. Brent crude, the Middle East benchmark, has lost nearly half its value in the past month.
The first aim – to try to balance oil supply and demand – is the more difficult. Global demand has fallen by at least 20 per cent from the usual daily consumption of around 100 million barrels, oil economists have calculated.
But, following the collapse of the OPEC+ deal that was putting a lid on supply, all producers have been pumping more crude. Saudi Arabia is producing more than 12 million barrels per day (bpd), a bigger volume than at any time in its history. All OPEC members, as well as Russia, have said they will increase output.
In this stand-off, US President Donald Trump intervened last week to say that he had spoken to Saudi and Russian leaders and that he “expected” a cut of 10 million, possibly even 15 million, bpd.
That looks like wishful thinking. For one thing, it would not rebalance markets. Anas Al-Hajji, managing partner of US-based Energy Outlook Advisers, said: “The amount of the cut is relatively small given the major drop in demand.”
There are also some difficult relationships to smooth over in the OPEC+ alliance. Saudi Arabia and Russia exchanged angry statements last weekend, each accusing the other of starting the oil price war. Iran, with big reserves but hampered by US sanctions from exporting in large quantities, said that it might not take part in the conference.
The choreography of the two meetings also presents hurdles. The US will not be present at the OPEC+ meeting, but American Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette said he would take part in the G20 event.
Because it is a free-market industry, America cannot order its oil producers to reduce output, but most analysts are agreed any attempt to rebalance global supply would be impossible without a US contribution.
By going first, Saudi Arabia and Russia are “playing blind” without knowing what the Americans are thinking. Neither would want to agree big price-restoring cuts only for US producers – under big financial pressure at current levels – to swoop back into the market.
This week there have been some signs that the Americans are considering their own versions of cutbacks. The biggest US company, Exxon Mobil, said it would reduce capital expenditure on future projects by 30 percent; the US Energy Information Administration said oil production would fall by nearly 1 million bpd this year, in response to falling demand and financial pressures.
But even if the Saudis and Russians cut substantially alongside other big OPEC producers such as the UAE, and the Americans enter a long-term pattern of falling demand, it is still hard to see how cuts could reach the 10 million barrels Trump “expects,” let alone 15 million.
J. P. Morgan, the big US investment bank, said that it expects OPEC+ to come up with combined cuts of about 4.3 million barrels, most of that coming from Saudi Arabia, Russia and the UAE. “If it’s 4.3 million it only puts off the day when global storage gets filled completely,” said Robin Mills, CEO of Qamar Energy consultancy.
Storage facilities are nearly at the brim. Malek Azizeh, director of the premium facilities at the Fujairah Oil Terminal in the UAE, joked that he was going to hang a sign on the terminal gates: “Thanks, but no tanks.”