The United States dollar (sign: $; code: USD) is the official currency of the United States. The U.S. dollar is normally abbreviated as the dollar sign, $, or as USD or US$ to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies and from others that use the $ symbol. It is divided into 100 cents.
The U.S. dollar is the currency most used in international transactions and is the world's reserve currency.Several countries use it as their official currency, and in many others it is the de facto currency, and is also used as the sole currency in some British Overseas Territories.
The Constitution of the United States of America provides that the United States Congress shall have the power "To coin Money".As an exercise of that power, Congress enacted Section 5112 of Title 31 of the United States Code. Section 5112 provides that United States dollars shall be issued in two forms: (1) a coin made of a copper alloy and (2) a coin made of pure silver.Those coins are both designated in Section 5112 as "legal tender" in payment of debts.The Sacagawea dollar is one example of the copper alloy dollar. The pure silver dollar is known as the American Silver Eagle. Section 5112 also provides for the minting and issuance of other coins, which have values ranging from one-hundredth of one dollar to fifty dollars.These other coins are more fully described in Coins of the United States dollar.
The Constitution provides that "a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time".That provision of the Constitution is made specific by Section 331 of Title 31 of the United States Code.The sums of money reported in the "Statements" are currently being expressed in U.S. dollars (for example, see the 2009 Financial Report of the United States Government).The U.S. dollar may therefore be described as the unit of account of the United States.
The word "dollar" is one of the words in the first paragraph of Section 9 of Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution. In that context, "dollars" is a reference to the Spanish milled dollar, a coin that had a monetary value of 8 Spanish units of currency, or reales. In 1792 the U.S. Congress adopted legislation titled An act establishing a mint, and regulating the Coins of the United States. Section 9 of that act authorized the production of various coins, including "DOLLARS OR UNITS-each to be of the value of a Spanish milled dollar as the same is now current, and to contain three hundred and seventy-one grains and four sixteenth parts of a grain of pure, or four hundred and sixteen grains of standard silver". Section 20 of the act provided, "That the money of account of the United States shall be expressed in dollars, or units... and that all accounts in the public offices and all proceedings in the courts of the United States shall be kept and had in conformity to this regulation". In other words, this act designated the United States dollar as the unit of currency of the United States.
The U.S. dollar bill uses the decimal system, consisting of 100 equal cents (symbol ¢). In another division, there are 1,000 mills or ten dimes to a dollar, or 4 quarters to a dollar. However, only cents are in everyday use as divisions of the dollar; "dime" is used solely as the name of the coin with the value of 10¢, while "eagle" and "mill" are largely unknown to the general public, though mills are sometimes used in matters of tax levies and gasoline prices. When currently issued in circulating form, denominations equal to or less than a dollar are emitted as U.S. coins while denominations equal to or greater than a dollar are emitted as Federal Reserve notes (with the exception of gold, silver and platinum coins valued up to $100 as legal tender, but worth far more as bullion). Both one-dollar coins and notes are produced today, although the note form is significantly more common. In the past, "paper money" was occasionally issued in denominations less than a dollar (fractional currency) and gold coins were issued for circulation up to the value of $20 (known as the "double eagle," discontinued in the 1930s). The term eagle was used in the Coinage Act of 1792 for the denomination of ten dollars, and subsequently was used in naming gold coins. In 1854, James Guthrie, then Secretary of the Treasury, proposed creating $100, $50 and $25 gold coins, which were referred to as a "Union," "Half Union," and "Quarter Union,"thus implying a denomination of 1 Union = $100.
Today, USD notes are made from cotton fiber paper, unlike most common paper, which is made of wood fiber. U.S. coins are produced by the United States Mint. U.S. dollar banknotes are printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and, since 1914, have been issued by the Federal Reserve. The "large-sized notes" issued before 1928 measured 7.42 inches (188 mm) by 3.125 inches (79.4 mm); small-sized notes, introduced that year, measure 6.14 inches (156 mm) by 2.61 inches (66 mm) by 0.0043 inches (0.11 mm).
In the 16th century, Count Hieronymus Schlick of Bohemia began minting coins known as Joachimstalers (from German thal, or nowadays usually Tal, "valley", cognate with "dale" in English), named for Joachimstal, the valley where the silver was mined (St. Joachim's Valley, now Jáchymov; then part of the Holy Roman Empire, now part of the Czech Republic).Joachimstaler was later shortened to the German Taler, a word that eventually found its way into Danish and Swedish as daler, Dutch as daalder, Ethiopian as talari, Italian as tallero, Flemish as daelder, and English as dollar.Alternatively, thaler is said to come from the German coin Guldengroschen ("great guilder", being of silver but equal in value to a gold guilder), minted from the silver from Joachimsthal.
The colloquialism buck (much like the British term "quid") is often used to refer to dollars of various nations, including the U.S. dollar. This term, dating to the 18th century, may have originated with the colonial fur trade. Greenback is another nickname originally applied specifically to the 19th century Demand Note dollars created by Abraham Lincoln to finance the costs of the Civil War for the North. The original note was printed in black and green on the back side. It is still used to refer to the U.S. dollar (but not to the dollars of other countries). Other well-known names of the dollar as a whole in denominations include "greenmail", "green", and "dead presidents", (the last because late presidents are represented on the bills).
Grand, sometimes shortened to simply G, is a common term for the amount of $1,000. The suffix k (from "kilo-") is also commonly used to denote this amount (such as "$10k" to mean $10,000). In street slang, when someone refers to a "large" or "stack", they are usually referring to any amount of $1,000, such as "fifty large", meaning $50,000. Banknotes' nicknames are the same as their values (such as five, twenty, etc.) The $5 bill has been referred to as a "fin" or a "fiver" or a "five-spot;" the $10 bill as a "sawbuck," a "ten-spot," or a "Hamilton"; the $20 bill as a "double sawbuck," or a "Jackson"; the $1 bill is sometimes called a "single," or a "buck," the $2 bill a "deuce," "Tom," "Jefferson," or a "T.J." and the $100 bill is nicknamed a "Benjamin," "Benji," or "Franklin" (after Benjamin Franklin, who is pictured on the note), C-note (C being the Roman numeral for 100), Century Note, or "bill" ("two bills" being $200, etc.). The dollar has also been referred to as a "bone" or "bones" (i.e., twenty bones is equal to $20) or a "bean". The newer designs are sometimes referred to as "Bigface" bills, or "Monopoly Money". Some people refer to U.S. money as "cha-chingers," "bucks," "green-backs," and also "smackers."
In Panama, the equivalent of buck is "palo" (literally "stick"). In Ecuador, the dollar is referred to as "lata". Puerto Ricans, both in Puerto Rico and in the U.S., may refer to the dollar as a peso. In French-speaking areas of Louisiana, the dollar is referred to as a piastre which is pronounced "pee-as", and cents by the French holdover of sous, pronounced "soo." In Mexico, in some places prices in dollars are referred to as "en americano" ("in American"). (In Mexico, peso is used primarily for the Mexican peso.) In Peru, a nickname for the U.S. dollar is coco, which is a pet name for Jorge (George in Spanish), a reference to the portrait of George Washington on the $1 note.
The symbol $, usually written before the numerical amount, is used for the U.S. dollar (as well as for many other currencies). The sign's ultimate origins are not certain, though it is possible that it comes from the Pillars of Hercules which flank the Spanish Coat of arms on the Spanish dollars that were minted in the New World mints in Mexico City, Potosí, Bolivia, and in Lima, Peru. These Pillars of Hercules on the silver Spanish dollar coins take the form of two vertical bars and a swinging cloth band in the shape of an "S".
An equally accepted, and better documented, explanation is that this symbol for peso was the result of a late eighteenth-century evolution of the scribal abbreviation "ps." The p and the s eventually came to be written over each other giving rise to $.
A fictional possibility suggested is that the dollar sign is the capital letters U and S typed one on top of the other. This theory, popularized by novelist Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged , does not consider the fact that the symbol was already in use before the formation of the United States.
The first dollar coins issued by the United States Mint (founded 1792) were similar in size and composition to the Spanish dollar. The Spanish, U.S. silver dollars, and Mexican silver pesos circulated side by side in the United States, and the Spanish dollar and Mexican peso remained legal tender until 1857. The coinage of various English colonies also circulated. The lion dollar was popular in the Dutch New Netherland Colony (New York), but the lion dollar also circulated throughout the English colonies during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Examples circulating in the colonies were usually worn so that the design was not fully distinguishable, thus they were sometimes referred to as "dog dollars".
The U.S. dollar was created and defined by the Coinage Act of 1792. It specified a "dollar" to be based in the Mexican peso at 1 dollar per peso and between 371 and 416 grains (27.0 g) of silver (depending on purity) and an 'eagle" to be between 247 and 270 grains (17 g) of gold (again depending on purity). The choice of the value 371 grains arose from Alexander Hamilton's decision to base the new American unit on the average weight of a selection of worn Spanish dollars (and later Mexican peso). Hamilton got the treasury to weigh a sample of Spanish dollars and the average weight came out to be 371 grains. A new Spanish dollar was usually about 377 grains in weight, and so the new US dollar was at a slight discount in relation to the Spanish dollar. The gold equivalent of the Spanish dollar in sterling was £1 = $4.80, whereas the gold equivalent of the US dollar was £1 = 4.86?. This exchange rate with sterling remained right up until Britain abandoned the gold standard in 1931.
The Coinage Act of 1792 set the value of an eagle at 10 dollars, and the dollar at 1/10th eagle. It called for 90% silver alloy coins in denominations of 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/10, and 1/20; it called for 90% gold alloy coins in denominations of 1, 1/2, 1/4, and 1/10.
The value of gold or silver contained in the dollar was then converted into relative value in the economy for the buying and selling of goods. This allowed the value of things to remain fairly constant over time, except for the influx and outflux of gold and silver in the nation's economy.
The early currency of the USA did not exhibit faces of presidents, as is the custom now. In fact, George Washington was against having his face on the currency, a practice he compared to the policies of European monarchs. The currency as we know it today did not get the faces they currently have until after the early 1900s; before that "heads" side of coinage used profile faces and striding, seated, and standing figures from Greek and Roman mythology and generic native Americans. The last coins to be converted to profiles of historic Americans were the dime (1946) and the Dollar (1971).
For articles on the currencies of the colonies and states, see Connecticut pound, Delaware pound, Georgia pound, Maryland pound, Massachusetts pound, New Hampshire pound, New Jersey pound, New York pound, North Carolina pound, Pennsylvania pound, Rhode Island pound, South Carolina pound and Virginia pound.
Silver and gold standards
From 1792, when the Mint Act was passed, the dollar was pegged to silver at 371.25 grains, or 24.75 grains (1.604 g) of gold. Many historians erroneously assume gold was standardized at a fixed rate in parity with silver, however there is no evidence of Congress making this law. This has to do with Alexander Hamilton's suggestion to Congress of a fixed 15:1 ratio of silver to gold, respectively. The gold coins that were minted however, were not given any denomination whatsoever and traded for a market value relative to the Congressional standard of the silver dollar. 1834 saw a shift in the gold standard to 23.2 grains (1.50 g), followed by a slight adjustment to 23.22 grains (1.505 g) in 1837 (16:1 ratio).
In 1862, paper money was issued without the backing of precious metals, due to the Civil War. Silver and gold coins continued to be issued and in 1878 the link between paper money and coins was reinstated. This disconnection from gold and silver backing also occurred during the War of 1812. The use of paper money not backed by precious metals had also occurred under the Articles of Confederation from 1777 to 1788. With no solid backing and being easily counterfeited, the continentals quickly lost their value, giving rise to the phrase "not worth a continental". This was a primary reason for the "No state shall... make any thing but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts" clause in article 1, section 10 of the United States Constitution.
The Gold Standard Act of 1900 abandoned the bimetallic standard and defined the dollar as 23.22 grains (1.505 g) of gold, equivalent to setting the price of 1 troy ounce of gold at $20.67. Silver coins continued to be issued for circulation until 1964, when all silver was removed from dimes and quarters, and the half dollar was reduced to 40% silver. Silver half dollars were last issued for circulation in 1969.
Gold coins were confiscated in 1933 and the gold standard was changed to 13.71 grains (0.888 g), equivalent to setting the price of 1 troy ounce of gold at $35. This standard persisted until 1968. Between 1968 and 1975, a variety of pegs to gold were put in place. The price was at $42.22 per ounce before August 15, 1971 saw the U.S. dollar freely float on currency markets.
According to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the largest note it ever printed was the $100,000 Gold Certificate, Series 1934. These notes were printed from December 18, 1934 through January 9, 1935, and were issued by the Treasurer of the United States to Federal Reserve Banks only against an equal amount of gold bullion held by the Treasury. These notes were used for transactions between Federal Reserve Banks and were not circulated among the general public.
Official United States coins have been produced every year from 1792 to the present.
- Half-cent 1792 - 1857
- Penny 1793-present
- 2-cent 1864-1873
- 3-cent 1851-1873
- Half Dime 1792-1873 (Not to be confused with the Nickel below also worth 5 cents)
- Nickel 1866-present
- Dime 1792-present
- 20-cent 1875-1878
- Quarter 1796-present
- Half dollar 1794-present
- Dollar coin (United States) 1794-present
- Quarter Eagle ($2.5 gold coin) 1792-1929
- Three-dollar piece 1854-1889
- Half Eagle ($5 gold coin) 1795-1929
- Eagle ($10 gold coin) 1795-1929
- Double Eagle ($20 gold coin) 1850-1933
Collector coins for which everyday transactions is non-existent.
American Eagles originally were not available from the Mint for individuals but had to be purchased from authorized dealers. In 2006 The Mint began direct sales to individuals of uncirculated bullion coins with a special finish, and bearing a "W" mintmark.
American Silver Eagle $1 (1 troy ounce) silver bullion coin 1986-Present
American Gold Eagle $5 (1/10 troy oz), $10 (1/4 troy oz), $25 (1/2 troy oz), and $50 (1/4 troy oz) Gold bullion coin 1986-Present
American Platinum Eagle ($10, $25, $50, and $100 platinum coin) 1997-present
United States commemorative coins - special issue coins
$50.00 (Half Union) 1915
Presidential Proofs (see below) 2007-present
Technically, all these coins are still legal tender at face value, though some are far more valuable today for their numismatic value, and for gold and silver coins, their precious metal value. It should be noted that from 1965 to 1970 the Kennedy half dollar was the only circulating coin with any silver content though the Mint still makes what it calls Silver Proof sets for collectors.
In addition, an experimental $4.00 (Stella) coin was also minted, but never placed into circulation and is properly considered to be a pattern rather than an actual coin denomination.
The $50 coin mentioned was only produced in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (1915) celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal. Only 1,128 were made, 645 of which were octagonal; this remains the only US coin that was not round as well as the largest and heaviest US coin ever.
From 1934 to present the only denominations produced for circulation have been the familiar penny, nickel, dime, quarter, half dollar and dollar. The nickel is the only coin still in use today that is essentially unchanged (except in its design) from its original version. Every year since 1866, the nickel has been 75% copper and 25% nickel, except for 4 years during World War II when nickel was needed for the war.
It should be noted the United States Mint produces Proof Sets specifically for collectors and speculators. Silver Proofs tend to be the standard designs but with the dime, quarter, half dollar, and in some cases the dollar having silver content. Another type of proof set is the Presidential Dollar Proof Set where four special $1 coins are minted each featuring a president.
- 2007 had George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison
- 2008 had James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, and Martin Van Buren
- 2009 had William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James K. Polk, and Zachary Taylor
- 2010 has Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, and Abraham Lincoln
- 2011 is to have Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, and James A. Garfield
The first United States dollar was minted in 1794. Known as the Flowing Hair Dollar, it contained 416 grains of "standard silver" (89.25% silver and 10.75% copper), as specified by Section 13 of the Coinage Act of 1792. It was designated by Section 9 of that Act as having "the value of a Spanish milled dollar".
Dollar coins have not been very popular in the United States.Silver dollars were minted intermittently from 1794 through 1935; a copper-nickel dollar of the same large size, featuring President Dwight D. Eisenhower, was minted from 1971 through 1978. Gold dollars were also minted in the 1800s. The Susan B. Anthony dollar coin was introduced in 1979; these proved to be unpopular because they were often mistaken for quarters, due to their nearly equal size, their milled edge, and their similar color. Minting of these dollars for circulation was suspended in 1980 (collectors' pieces were struck in 1981), but, as with all past U.S. coins, they remain legal tender. As the number of Anthony dollars held by the Federal Reserve and dispensed primarily to make change in postal and transit vending machines had been virtually exhausted, additional Anthony dollars were struck in 1999. In 2000, a new $1 coin, featuring Sacagawea, (the Sacagawea dollar) was introduced, which corrected some of the mistakes of the Anthony dollar by having a smooth edge and a gold color, without requiring changes to vending machines that accept the Anthony dollar. However, this new coin has failed to achieve the popularity of the still-existing $1 bill and is rarely used in daily transactions. The failure to simultaneously withdraw the dollar bill and weak publicity efforts have been cited by coin proponents as primary reasons for the failure of the dollar coin to gain popular support. There are indications that the dollar coin's failure was also due to the reluctance of armored transport companies to make the necessary adjustments to handle the new coins, and the government's reluctance to mandate it.The result of the armored carriers' unwillingness to handle the new coins was that they virtually never reached merchants in quantities sufficient to be given out as change on a routine basis, or for retail clerks to become used to handling them.
In February 2007, the US Mint, under the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005,introduced a new $1 US Presidential dollar coin. Based on the success of the "50 State Quarters" series, the new coin features a sequence of presidents in order of their inaugurations, starting with George Washington, on the obverse side. The reverse side features the Statue of Liberty. To allow for larger, more detailed portraits, the traditional inscriptions of "E Pluribus Unum," "In God We Trust," the year of minting or issuance, and the mint mark will be inscribed on the edge of the coin instead of the face. This feature, similar to the edge inscriptions seen on the British £1 coin, is not usually associated with US coin designs. The inscription "Liberty" has been eliminated, with the Statue of Liberty serving as a sufficient replacement. In addition, due to the nature of US coins, this will be the first time there will be circulating US coins of different denominations with the same President featured on the obverse (heads) side. (Lincoln/penny, Jefferson/nickel, Franklin D. Roosevelt/dime, Washington/quarter and Kennedy/half dollar.) Another unusual fact about the new $1 coin is Grover Cleveland will have two coins with his portrait issued due to the fact he was the only US President to be elected to two non-consecutive terms.
Early releases of the Washington coin included error coins shipped primarily from the Philadelphia mint to Florida and Tennessee banks. Highly sought after by collectors, and trading for as much as $850 each within a week of discovery, the error coins were identified by the absence of the edge impressions "E PLURIBUS UNUM IN GOD WE TRUST 2007 P". The mint of origin is generally accepted to be mostly Philadelphia, although identifying the source mint is impossible without opening a mint pack also containing marked units. Edge lettering is minted in both orientations with respect to "heads", some amateur collectors were initially duped into buying "upside down lettering error" coins.Some cynics also erroneously point out that the Federal Reserve makes more profit from dollar bills than dollar coins because they wear out in a few years, whereas coins are more permanent. The fallacy of this argument arises because new notes printed to replace worn out notes which have been withdrawn from circulation bring in no net revenue to the government to offset the costs of printing new notes and destroying the old ones. As most vending machines are incapable of making change in banknotes, they commonly accept only $1 bills, though a few will give change in dollar coins.
Most U.S. coins bear a mint mark as part of the design, usually found on the front of the coin near the date although in the past it was more commonly found on the reverse. The Philadelphia Mint issues coins bearing a letter P (or no mark at all), while the Denver Mint uses a letter D. The San Francisco Mint uses an S, though no coins have been released from that mint for general circulation since 1980. It does, however, continue to strike proof coins for collectors. The West Point Mint uses a W, though this is rarely seen as the West Point mint generally only makes high denomination coins (with face values over $1.00) which are not meant for everyday use. A CC mark, for the Carson City Mint, was used for a short time in the mid-nineteenth century, but the mint at that location was only a temporary establishment. The New Orleans Mint used a mint mark O. It operated from the 1830s until the American Civil War, and again from 1879 to 1909. The letter D was also used for coinage of the Dahlonega Mint from 1837 to 1861, and C was used for the Charlotte Mint during the same timespan. The latter two mints struck gold coins only.
The U.S. Constitution provides that Congress shall have the power to "borrow money on the credit of the United States".Congress has exercised that power by authorizing twelve private companies-the Federal Reserve Banks-to issue Federal Reserve Notes. Those notes are "obligations of the United States" and "shall be redeemed in lawful money on demand at the Treasury Department of the United States, in the city of Washington, District of Columbia, or at any Federal Reserve bank."Federal Reserve Notes are designated by law as "legal tender" for the payment of debts.Congress has also authorized the issuance of more than 10 other types of banknotes, including the United States Note and the Federal Reserve Bank Note. The Federal Reserve Note is the only type that remains in circulation since the 1970s.
The largest denominations of currency currently printed or minted by the United States are the $100 bill and the $100 one troy ounce Platinum Eagle.
- $1 and $2 color: White and rich gray
- $5 color: Gray and some purple
- $10 color: Light yellow
- $20 color: Light green
- $50 color: Deep blue and purple
- $100 color: Rich light blue (Series 2009 redesign is scheduled for release on February 10, 2011)
Currently printed denominations are $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100. Notes above the $100 denomination ceased being printed in 1946 and were officially withdrawn from circulation in 1969. These notes were used primarily in inter-bank transactions or by organized crime; it was the latter usage that prompted President Richard Nixon to issue an executive order in 1969 halting their use. With the advent of electronic banking, they became less necessary. Notes in denominations of $500, $1,000, $5,000, $10,000, and $100,000 were all produced at one time; see large denomination bills in U.S. currency for details. These notes are now collector's items and are worth more than their face value to collectors.
The design of the notes has been accused of being unfriendly to the visually impaired. A U.S. District Judge ruled on November 28, 2006 that the American bills gave an undue burden to the blind and denied them "meaningful access" to the U.S. currency system. The judge ordered the Treasury Department to begin working on a redesign within 30 days.
Means of issue
New dollars are issued when the Federal Reserve elects to fund the purchase of debt, primarily U.S. Treasury Bonds, by creating new reserves rather than financing the purchase with existing reserves. When the bond issuer spends the money, new dollars enter circulation.
In theory, Federal Reserve Notes are like checks: liabilities drawn on the Federal Reserve Bank. The Fed offsets these liabilities by holding U.S. Treasury Bonds as assets, which are backed by the U.S. Government's ability to levy taxes and repay.
When compared to hard money backed by gold or silver, this debt-based approach has the advantage of making the currency elastic, giving the government a means of expanding or contracting the money supply in response to changing economic conditions. The disadvantage of this approach is inflation. The money supply must be continually expanded in order to finance interest payments on the debt by which it is issued. This devalues the currency, causing inflation.
The 5th paragraph of Section 8 of Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution provides that the U.S. Congress shall have the power to "coin money" and to "regulate the value" of domestic and foreign coins. Congress exercised those powers when it enacted the Coinage Act of 1792. That Act provided for the minting of the first U.S. dollar and it declared that the U.S. dollar shall have "the value of a Spanish milled dollar as the same is now current".
The dollar is also used as the standard unit of currency in international markets for commodities such as gold and petroleum (the latter sometimes called petrocurrency is the source of the term petrodollar). Some non-U.S. companies dealing in globalized markets, such as Airbus, list their prices in dollars.
The U.S. dollar is the world's foremost reserve currency. In addition to holdings by central banks and other institutions there are many private holdings which are believed to be mostly in $100 denominations. The majority of U.S. notes are actually held outside the United States. All holdings of US dollar bank deposits held by non-residents of the US are known as eurodollars (not to be confused with the euro) regardless of the location of the bank holding the deposit (which may be inside or outside the U.S.) Economist Paul Samuelson and others maintain that the overseas demand for dollars allows the United States to maintain persistent trade deficits without causing the value of the currency to depreciate and the flow of trade to readjust. Milton Friedman at his death believed this to be the case but, more recently, Paul Samuelson has said he now believes that at some stage in the future these pressures will precipitate a run against the U.S. dollar with serious global financial consequences.
The dollar as international reserve currency
The U.S. dollar is an important international reserve currency along with the euro. The euro inherited this status from the German mark, and since its introduction, has increased its standing considerably, mostly at the expense of the dollar. Despite the dollar's recent losses to the euro, it is still by far the major international reserve currency, with an accumulation more than double that of the euro.
In August 2007, two scholars affiliated with the government of the People's Republic of China threatened to sell its substantial reserves in American dollars in response to American legislative discussion of trade sanctions designed to revalue the Chinese yuan.The Chinese government denied that selling dollar-denominated assets would be an official policy in the foreseeable future.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said in September 2007 that the euro could replace the U.S. dollar as the world's primary reserve currency. It is "absolutely conceivable that the euro will replace the dollar as reserve currency, or will be traded as an equally important reserve currency."
U.S. Dollar Index
The U.S. Dollar Index (Ticker: DXY) is the creation of the New York Board of Trade (NYBOT). It was established in 1973 for tracking the value of the USD against a basket of currencies, which, at that time, represented the largest trading partners of the United States. It began with 17 currencies from 17 nations, but the launch of the euro subsumed 12 of these into one, so the USDX tracks only six currencies today.
The Index is described by the NYBOT as "a trade weighted geometric average".The baseline of 100.00 on the USDX was set at its launch in March 1973. This event marks the watershed between the fixed-rate system of the Bretton Woods regime and the floating-rate system of the Smithsonian regime. Since then, the USDX has climbed as high as the 160s and drifted as low as the 70s.
The USDX has not been updated to reflect new trading realities in the global economy, where the bulk of trade has shifted strongly towards new partners like China and Mexico and oil-exporting countries while the United States has de-industrialized.
Dollarization and fixed exchange rates
Other nations besides the United States use the U.S. dollar as their official currency, a process known as official dollarization. For instance, Panama has been using the dollar alongside the Panamanian balboa as the legal tender since 1904 at a conversion rate of 1:1. Ecuador (2000), El Salvador (2001), and East Timor (2000) all adopted the currency independently. The former members of the U.S.-administered Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, which included Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands, chose not to issue their own currency after becoming independent, having all used the U.S. dollar since 1944. Two British dependencies also use the U.S. dollar: the British Virgin Islands (1959) and Turks and Caicos Islands (1973).
Some countries that have adopted the U.S. dollar issue their own coins: See Ecuadorian centavo coins, Panamanian Balboa and East Timor centavo coins.
Some other countries link their currency to U.S. dollar at a fixed exchange rate. The local currencies of Bermuda and the Bahamas can be freely exchanged at a 1:1 ratio for USD. Argentina used a fixed 1:1 exchange rate between the Argentine peso and the U.S. dollar from 1991 until 2002. The currencies of Barbados and Belize are similarly convertible at an approximate 2:1 ratio. In Lebanon, one dollar is equal to 1500 Lebanese pound, and is used interchangeably with local currency as de facto legal tender. The exchange rate between the Hong Kong dollar and the United States dollar has also been linked since 1983 at HK$7.8/USD, and pataca of Macau, pegged to Hong Kong dollar at MOP1.03/HKD, indirectly linked to the U.S. dollar at roughly MOP8/USD. Several oil-producing Arab countries on the Persian Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, peg their currencies to the dollar, since the dollar is the currency used in the international oil trade.
The People's Republic of China's renminbi was informally and controversially pegged to the dollar in the mid-1990s at ¥?8.28/USD. Likewise, Malaysia pegged its ringgit at RM3.8/USD in 1997. On July 21, 2005 both countries removed their pegs and adopted managed floats against a basket of currencies. Kuwait did likewise on May 20, 2007,and Syria did likewise in July 2007.However, after three years of slow appreciation, the Chinese yuan has been de facto re-pegged to the dollar since July 2008 at a value of ¥6.83/USD; although no official announcement had been made, the yuan has remained around that value within a narrow band since then, similar to the Hong Kong dollar.
Belarus, on the other hand, pegged its currency, the Belarusian ruble, to a basket of foreign currencies (U.S. dollar, euro and Russian ruble) in 2009.
In some countries such as Peru and Uruguay, the USD is commonly accepted although not officially regarded as a legal tender. In Mexico's border area and major tourist zones, it is accepted as if it were a second legal currency. Many Canadian merchants also accept US dollars, albeit sometimes only at face value. In Cambodia, US notes circulate freely and are preferred over the Cambodian riel for large purchases,with the riel used for change to break 1 USD. After the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, U.S. dollars are accepted as if it were legal tender. Prices of most big ticket items such as houses and cars are set in U.S. dollars
Dollar versus euro
Not long after the introduction of the euro (€ ; ISO 4217 code EUR) as a cash currency in 2002, the dollar began to depreciate steadily in value, as it did against other major currencies. From 2003 to 2005, this depreciation continued, reflecting a widening current account deficit. Although the current account deficit began to stabilize in 2006 and 2007, depreciation persisted. The fallout from the subprime mortgage crisis in 2008 prompted the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates in September 2007, and again in March 2008, sending the euro to a record high of $1.6038, reached in July 2008.
In addition to the trade deficit, the US dollar's decline was linked to a variety of other factors, including a major spike in oil prices. Economists such as Alan Greenspan suggested that another reason for the decline of the dollar was its decreasing role as a major reserve currency. Chinese officials signaled plans to diversify the nation's $1.9 trillion reserve in response to a falling U.S. currency which also set the dollar under pressure.
However, a sharp turnaround began in late 2008 with the onset of the global financial crisis. As investors sought out safe-haven investments in US treasuries and Japanese government bonds from the financial turmoil, the Japanese yen and United States dollar sharply rose against other currencies, including the euro.At the same time, however, many countries such as China, India and Russia announced their intentions to diversify their foreign reserve portfolios away from the US dollar.
The European sovereign debt crisis that unfolded in 2010 sent the euro falling to a four-year low of $1.1877 on June 7, as investors considered the risk that certain Eurozone members may default on their government debt.The euro's decline in 2008-2010 had erased 50 percent of its 2000-2008 rally.
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