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IMF Reports Shift Away from Dollar In International Reserves, Warns Of Rise In Nontraditional Reserve Currencies

Recent data from the IMF’s COFER reveals a gradual decline in the dollar’s global reserve share, amidst diversification trends.

Recent data from the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF’s) Currency Composition of Official Foreign Exchange Reserves (COFER) point to an ongoing gradual decline in the United States dollar’s share of allocated foreign reserves of central banks and governments, a new report has indicated.

Citing the data, the IMF in a blog post on Tuesday stated that the US dollar continues to cede ground to non-traditional currencies in global foreign exchange reserves, although it remains the pre-eminent reserve currency.

According to the blogpost jointly authored by the IMF trio of Serkan Arslanalp, Barry Eichengreen and Chima Simpson-Bell,

“dollar dominance—the outsized role of the US dollar in the world economy—has been brought into focus recently as the robustness of the US economy, tighter monetary policy and heightened geopolitical risk have contributed to a higher greenback valuation.

“At the same time, economic fragmentation and the potential reorganisation of global economic and financial activity into separate, non overlapping blocs could encourage some countries to use and hold other international and reserve currencies.”

It noted that recent data from the IMF’s Currency Composition of Official Foreign Exchange Reserves (COFER) point to an ongoing gradual decline in the dollar’s share of allocated foreign reserves of central banks and governments.

“Strikingly, the reduced role of the US dollar over the last two decades has not been matched by increases in the shares of the other “big four” currencies—the euro, yen, and pound.

“Rather, it has been accompanied by a rise in the share of what we have called nontraditional reserve currencies, including the Australian dollar, Canadian dollar, Chinese renminbi, South Korean won, Singaporean dollar, and the Nordic currencies. The most recent data extend this trend, which we had pointed out in an earlier IMF paper and blog,” the IMF blogpost said.

It stressed that these non-traditional reserve currencies are attractive to reserve managers because they provide diversification and relatively attractive yields, and because they have become increasingly easy to buy, sell and hold with the development of new digital financial technologies (such as automatic market-making and automated liquidity management systems).

This recent trend, it added,  is all the more striking given the dollar’s strength, which indicates that private investors have moved into dollar-denominated assets, adding that so would it appear from the change in relative prices.

It explained that this a reminder that exchange rate fluctuations can have an independent impact on the currency composition of central bank reserve portfolios.

“Changes in the relative values of different government securities, reflecting movements in interest rates, can similarly have an impact, although this effect will tend to be smaller, insofar as major currency bond yields generally move together.

“In any event, these valuation effects only reinforce the overall trend. Taking a longer view, over the last two decades, the fact that the value of the US dollar has been broadly unchanged, while the US dollar’s share of global reserves has declined, indicates that central banks have indeed been shifting gradually away from the dollar,” the report said.

However, the report noted that at the same time, statistical tests do not indicate an accelerating decline in the dollar’s reserve share, contrary to claims that US financial sanctions have accelerated movement away from the greenback.

“To be sure, it is possible, as some have argued, that the same countries that are seeking to move away from holding dollars for geopolitical reasons do not report information on the composition of their reserve portfolios to COFER.

“Note, however, that the 149 reporting economies make up as much as 93 per cent of global FX reserves. In other words, non-reporters are only a very small share of global reserves.

“One nontraditional reserve currency gaining market share is the Chinese renminbi, whose gains match a quarter of the decline in the dollar’s share.

“The Chinese government has been advancing policies on multiple fronts to promote renminbi internationalisation, including the development of a cross-border payment system, the extension of swap lines, and piloting a central bank digital currency. It is thus interesting to note that renminbi internationalisation, at least as measured by the currency’s reserve share, shows signs of stalling out.

“The most recent data do not show a further increase in the renminbi’s currency share: some observers may suspect that depreciation of the renminbi exchange rate in recent quarters has disguised increases in renminbi reserve holdings.

“However, even adjusting for exchange rate changes confirms that the renminbi share of reserves has declined since 2022,” the report said.

Ndubuisi Francis

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