The US Dollar’s share of global currency reserves dropped in the fourth quarter to around 59%, the lowest in 25 years, according to International Monetary Fund data. The slide came in a quarter when a gauge of the greenback fell the most since 2010, and amid questions about how long the dollar can maintain its status as the pre-eminent reserve currency. The Chinese renminbi is transforming into a force to be reckoned with in currency markets, with more yuan changing hands than ever before in London, the world’s leading foreign-exchange center.
“This is a slow burn theme, but we are of the view that we’re eventually headed into a ‘multiple reserve currency’ framework over time,” Bipan Rai, a strategist at CIBC, said via email. In the fourth quarter, the euro’s share of official foreign-exchange reserves climbed to 21.2% from 20.5%, while the yuan’s rose to almost 2.3% from 2.1%. The renminbi accounted for 1.94% in the final three months of 2019.
For Marc Chandler, chief market strategist at Bannockburn Global, the drop in the dollar’s share of global reserves is temporary and was driven by its slide against most currencies in the fourth quarter. He’s focusing on data that shows dollar holdings among central banks climbed to $7 trillion, a record, noting that the percentage changes are “distorted” by short-term valuation changes.
“The 59% is a statistical noise generated by a combination of valuation and material changes” in demand for the euro in the fourth quarter, he said in an email. “The dollar’s recovery in Q1 21 will reverse the valuation adjustment and will see the dollar share of reserves increase.”
With its rebound this year, the dollar is heading for its best quarterly performance in a year, up by 2.8%. The greenback is still the most dominant currency used, with data from the Bank for International Settlements showing it’s on one side of 88% of all trades.