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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good critique on commonly held views about the dollar, February 10, 2010
This review is from: Making Sense of the Dollar: Exposing Dangerous Myths about Trade and Foreign Exchange (Hardcover)
What Marc Chandler looks to do with Making Sense of the Dollar is dispute many of the commonly held views about the US currency, international trade, and related economic and political considerations. Viewing the book from the perspective of a forex trader, I found it to be a very interesting and potentially enormously useful read. In some places the author could have provided more evidence to support his assertions, and in places he gets repetitive, but the book certainly contains a lot of thought-provoking and informative material.

Chandler presents what he sees as ten myths related to the dollar and his criticisms of them. The myths he includes which most are specifically interesting in regards to gaining insight into the workings of the dollar from the perspective of a forex trader or market observer are:

1. The Trade Deficit Reflects US Competitiveness
2. The Current Account Deficit Drives the Dollar
6. The Dollar's Privileged Place in the World is Lost
9. The Weak US Dollar Boost Exports and Drives Stock Markets

This isn't to say the others aren't worth reading. It's just that these four most directly get to the major issues a lot of market watchers cite as to why the dollar has lost or can be expected to lose its high standing.

The trade and current account deficits are things many folks, professional and otherwise, point to as unsustainable issues which eventually will have to correct - to the detriment of the dollar. Chandler says both are flawed measures based on outdated methodologies which do not properly account for modern trade and capital flow. That's the focus of Myths 1 and 2.
In regards to Myth 6 about the dollar losing its stature, the author brings up a number of defenses for the greenback. One of them is the view that I myself have expressed on several occasions that one of the reasons that the dollar is the top reserve currency is the breadth and depth of the US financial markets. No other country or region can come close to matching them, making the US the place where excess savings looking for a safe place to sit comes, as witnessed by the dollar's gains during risk aversion. This is why the greenback has not actually lost ground to in terms of the total % of global reserves.

Regarding the idea that lowering the dollar's exchange rate will boost exports and reduce imports (Myth 9), Chandler indicates that there's no real evidence to support that notion. For example, he notes that in the early 90s a pair of Congressmen suggested the dollar was 20% overvalued and needed to come down to close the trade gap. The dollar trended down for most of the decade, losing about 20% of its value in that span, but the trade deficit actually expanded. The author also points out that much of the cost of import goods to US citizens is actually added on to them once they reach our shores, so that the value of the dollar isn't really a major influence on the prices we see. And of course he also points out that the largest portion of our imports comes in the form of oil and related products, the demand for which is relatively inelastic over the short- to intermediate-term.

New forex traders can often be heard to ask questions about what fundamental factors drive exchange rates, and with good reason. It can be a very confusing market in that regard as things which are clear drivers in one direction at one point in time can be drivers in the other direction later. Chandler does a really good job in the space of a couple of pages in the 10th myth chapter of addressing the primary factors impacting the forex market and the concept of currency valuation. That's really the only place "trading" of currencies is discussed. The rest of the book is more focused on looking at the big macro dollar picture.

As much as Chandler makes some interesting points about Capitalism vs. Socialism, in my view he spends too much time on the subject (Myths 5 & 8). One could even ask whether he needed to address it at all, but I was fine with it. He just got a bit repetitive on the subject.

The bottom line as far as Chandler is concerned is that the dollar is just fine the way it is and that attempts to focus on imports and exports and weaken the dollar to influence them could produce serious negative consequences. I definitely recommend Making Sense of the Dollar to anyone interested in the macro view of the dollar and global currency markets.
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