When Currency Pegs Break, Global Dominoes Fall

Wednesday, February 24, 2016
By Paul Martin

by Charles Hugh Smith
February 24, 2016

If all currencies floated freely on the global foreign exchange (FX) market, this dramatic rise would have easily predictable consequences: everything other nations import that is priced in dollars (USD) costs 35% more, and everything the U.S. imports from other major trading nations costs 35% less.

But some currencies don’t float freely on the global FX markets: they’re pegged to the U.S. dollar by their central governments. When a currency is pegged, its value is arbitrarily set by the issuing government/central bank.

For example, in the mid-1990s, the government/central bank of Thailand pegged the Thai currency (the baht) to the USD at the rate of 25 baht to the dollar.

Pegs can be adjusted up or down, depending on a variety of forces. But the main point is the market is only an indirect influence on the peg, not the direct price-discovery mechanism as it is with free-floating currencies.

If central states/banks feel their currency is becoming too strong via a vis the USD, they can adjust the peg accordingly.

Why do states peg their currency to the U.S. dollar? There are several potential reasons, but the primary one is to piggyback on the stability of the dollar without having to convince the market independently of one’s stability.

Another reason to peg one’s currency to the USD is to keep your currency weaker than the market might allow. This weakness helps make your exports to the U.S. cheap/ competitive with other nations that have weak currencies.

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