UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations warned on Wednesday of a possible crisis of confidence in, and even a “collapse” of, the U.S. dollar if its value against other currencies continued to decline.
In a mid-year review of the world economy, the UN economic division said such a development, stemming from the falling value of foreign dollar holdings, would imperil the global financial system.
The report, an update of the UN “World Economic Situation and Prospects 2011” report first issued in December, noted that the dollar exchange rate against a basket of other key currencies had reached its lowest level since the 1970s.
This trend, it said, had recently been driven in part by interest rate differentials between the United States and other major economies and growing concern about the sustainability of the U.S. public debt, half of which is held by foreigners.
“As a result, further (expected) losses of the book value of the vast foreign reserve holdings could trigger a crisis of confidence in the reserve currency, which would put the entire global financial system at risk,” it said.
The 17-page report referred at another point to the “still looming risk of a collapse of the United States dollar.”
Rob Vos, a senior UN economist involved with the report, said if emerging markets “massively start selling off dollars, then you can have this risk of a slide in the dollar.
“We’re not saying the collapse is imminent, but the factors are further building up that we could quickly come to that stage if other things are not improving quickly on other fronts — like the risk of the U.S. not being able to service its obligations,” he told Reuters.