The Economist IN TOKYO last week the bigwigs of international finance paid close attention to a speech by Ben Bernanke, chairman of Americaâ€™s Federal Reserve. His speech urged them, in effect, to pay less attention. Many policymakers in emerging markets complain that Fed easing destabilises their economies, contributing to higher inflation and asset prices. Mr Bernanke pointed out that emerging economies can insulate themselves from his decisions by simply decoupling their currencies from the dollar. It is their habit of shadowing Americaâ€™s currency, however loosely, that obliges emerging economies to ease monetary policy whenever he does.
Policymakers may heed Mr Bernankeâ€™s wordsâ€”freeing them to ignore his decisionsâ€”sooner than he thinks. In a (more thinly attended) speech on the same day, a deputy governor of Chinaâ€™s central bank pointed out that China no longer hoovers up dollar reserves with its past abandon. And according to a new study by Arvind Subramanian and Martin Kessler of the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, DC, the dollarâ€™s influence is waning in the emerging world. Currencies that used to shadow the greenback are no longer following it so closely. Some are floating more freely. But in other cases they are steadily falling under the spell of a different currency: the yuan.
Some inflation-prone emerging economies, such as Ecuador, have adopted the dollar as their official currency. Others, such as Jordan, peg their exchange rate to it. These official policies are one measure of the dollarâ€™s international role. Messrs Subramanian and Kessler use a different measure, based on the way exchange rates behave in the market. They identify currencies that tend to move in sympathy with the dollar in its daily fluctuations against a third currency, such as the Swiss franc. This â€œco-movementâ€ could reflect market forces, not official policies. It need not be a perfect correlation. It need only be close enough to rule out coincidence. Read More: http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21564880-yuan-displacing-dollar-key-currency?fsrc=scn/tw/te/pe/turningfromgreentored