Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Poor, Poor American Dollar

I have a treat for my readers--The Atlantic's (December 2008, p. 62) interview with Gao Xiqing, who oversees and invests $200 billion of China's $2 trillion U.S. dollar holdings. This interview is one of the best ones I've ever read because of the government official's openness:

Below are my favorite two parts from the interview, one about the American dollar, and the other about derivatives:

Everyone is saying, “Oh, look, the dollar is getting stronger!” [As it was when we spoke.] I say, that’s really temporary. It’s simply because a lot of people need to cash in, they need U.S. dollars in order to pay back their creditors. But after a short while, the dollar may be going down again. I’d like to bet on that!

I have been converting my dollars into Canadian dollars recently. I already have euros (FXE) and some Swiss francs (FXF). We'll see in a year whether my decision was the right one. I felt compelled to diversify my U.S. dollar holdings, because they were earning around 1% in interest, while competing currencies had much higher interest rates and the possibility of greater upside.

As for derivatives, here is what Mr. Gao had to say:

If you look at every one of these [derivative] products, they make sense. But in aggregate, they are bullsh*t. They are crap. They serve to cheat people.

Mr. Gao explains derivatives by comparing them to multiple mirror reflections of one actual product. It's such a perfect analogy, I'm surprised no mainstream American publication has mentioned it until now.

Kudos to The Atlantic and Mr. Fallows for publishing this interview.

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