Aug 7, 2019

A "Mar-a-Lago Accord" could weaken the dollar

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
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Data: Investing.com, Macrotrends; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Fears of a major currency devaluation by China have gripped the market in recent days, but if history is a guide, it's really a dollar devaluation that should worry investors.

The big picture: President Trump's dissatisfaction with the dollar's strength and the boiling trade war with China are setting the stage for a second Plaza Accord, or this time a "Mar-a-Lago Accord," experts say, with the dollar falling and the yuan rising.

Why it matters: A weak dollar makes U.S. exports more competitive internationally, but also weakens Americans' purchasing power.

Background: In September 1985, the U.S. joined with France, Germany, Japan and the U.K. to create the Plaza Accord, an agreement to reduce the value of the dollar, particularly against the Japanese yen.

  • The value of the dollar fell by 51% versus the yen from 1985 to 1987, and by 1995, it had dropped more than 70%.

What they're saying: "The stronger dollar is bad not just for the US, but also for countries with significant amounts of dollar denominated debt. Think most emerging markets," Douglas Borthwick, managing partner at Makro Intelligence, tells Axios in a message.

  • "There comes a time when the dollar is so strong that it is destabilizing to the world economy. The way out of that is a Plaza Accord. A re-alignment of exchange rates."

How it works: In addition to helping U.S. multinational firms and emerging market countries with high amounts of debt in dollars — which gets more expensive as the dollar appreciates — major exporting countries in Europe as well as Japan would benefit from a stronger yuan because it would make their exports more competitive against China's.

What's next? Kuniyuki Hirai, head of trading at investment bank MUFG, says he sees the yuan falling as low as 6.05 per dollar in the not-too-distant future.

Yes, but: Many are skeptical of Trump's ability to reach a multilateral deal of this size and scope, given his general antagonism toward allies and adversaries alike, or that China would allow such an agreement. But China may not have a choice.

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