News / Economy

    As US Averts Default, Japan, China Brace for Next Dollar Drama

    A man holding a mobile phone is reflected in an electronic board displaying foreign currency rates against the Japanese yen and market indices from around the world outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Oct. 11, 2013.
    A man holding a mobile phone is reflected in an electronic board displaying foreign currency rates against the Japanese yen and market indices from around the world outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Oct. 11, 2013.
    Reuters
    Deal or no deal, the U.S. Congress' dance with default impressed policymakers and investors in China and Japan with just how vulnerable their own economic revival plans are to the next political tantrum on Capitol Hill.
     
    The 11th-hour agreement on Wednesday between Congressional Republicans and Democrats to raise the limit on U.S. government borrowing and end a 16-day government shutdown also averted a default on U.S. Treasury bonds that had threatened the global economy and financial system.
     
    But Congress gets another chance to hold U.S. creditworthiness hostage early next year ahead of a new February 7 deadline to approve a debt ceiling increase.
     
    “We're glad a deal has been struck,” said a Japanese policymaker, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “But the uncertainty will remain and it will be the same thing all over again early next year.”
     
    He and other Japanese officials say they have already developed contingency plans that include flooding Japan's banking system with cash to keep markets functioning however panicked investors become. And analysts say China, whose Communist leaders are due to hold a key policy meeting next month, may step up a push for global acceptance of its currency, the yuan or renminbi, as an alternative to the U.S. dollar in international trade.
     
    “They might actually consider accelerating the process,” said Vincent Chan, head of equity research at Credit Suisse in Hong Kong. “You strengthen the case of making the renminbi a genuine international currency, because the Americans are unreliable.

    Near-debt experience
     
    Perhaps no two economies outside the United States have more at stake in Washington's recurring drama than Japan and China.
     
    Not only are they the second- and third-largest economies, but they lend Washington more money than any other single nation. China held $1.28 trillion in U.S. Treasury securities at the end of July and Japan owned $1.14 trillion. A default would likely have devastated the value of their holdings.
     
    More than that, though, both nations have adopted policies to revitalize their own economies that to some extent rely on the improving economic appetite, stable currency and increasing indebtedness of the world's largest economy.
     
    China is trying to deflate a dangerous credit bubble and wealth imbalances with a series of reforms that include slowly easing controls on moving money into and out of the country and allowing its currency to gently appreciate.
     
    Analysts predict investors faced with a U.S. default would try to sell dollars for yuan, forcing China's central bank to either buy up dollars at a time when the government issuing them isn't honoring its obligations or allow a rapid increase in the yuan's value that would hurt exports and worsen the country's credit bubble.
     
    In a sign of such market pressure, the yuan hit a record high on Friday for a fifth consecutive day against the dollar, partly as investors worried about the economic impact of the U.S. shutdown.
     
    “If China allows the yuan to rise sharply, it could be very risky given the possible asset bubbles in the country,” said He Yifeng, an economist at Hongyuan Securities in Beijing.
     
    Japan, meanwhile, is trying to end 20 years of deflation and anemic growth with a blend of policies named for their chief proponent, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “Abenomics” relies on reviving domestic consumption and investment in part by weakening the yen, boosting the earnings and stock prices of giant exporters like Toyota Motors Corp and Hitachi Ltd .
     
    A U.S. default would likely prompt investors to buy yen.
     
    “That would undoubtedly pose a headwind against Abenomics, which has much depended on a weak yen and higher share prices buoyed by the feel-good mood it has generated,” said Masamichi Adachi, senior economist at JPMorgan Securities in Tokyo.

    Quid pro quo
     
    A default also stands to hamper a U.S. recovery and with it a nascent rebound in global exports. A default in the first quarter of 2014 would hit just as Japan's economy girds for an April sales tax increase and as China's economy loses the effects of accelerated public works spending and re-stocking of inventories.
     
    There are no bond markets large enough to give China and Japan an alternative to U.S. Treasuries for the dollars they accumulate selling exports. So the prospect of another U.S. default drama next year is likely to lend new urgency to China's preferred solution: conducting less trade in dollars and more in renminbi.
     
    About 18 percent of China's total trade is settled in yuan and it has registered a sharp increase this year after stagnating for most of last year.
     
    Much of the increase has come in China's trade with economies outside the United States or the European Union, its biggest demand centers, although it accelerated plans to internationalize the currency with agreements this month with Britain and the European Central Bank.
     
    Achieving more trade in yuan, however, means giving China's trading partners a place to invest their renminbi as easily as they invest their dollars in U.S. Treasuries now.
     
    That means opening China further to foreign investment, a realization that could strengthen the hand of officials advocating faster reform.
     
    “China can only be strong when its currency is a real alternative,” said Chan at Credit Suisse. “But to be an alternative you have to have an open market.”

    You May Like

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.8869
    JPY
    USD
    112.70
    GBP
    USD
    0.6894
    CAD
    USD
    1.3922
    INR
    USD
    68.241

    Rates may not be current.