Parier avec l’argent du ménage

Nombreux sont ceux à se demander pourquoi le dollar ne s’est pas encore effondré. Les Etats-Unis devront-ils un jour payer la note des gigantesques déficits commerciaux accumulés depuis une décennie ? En incluant le paiement des intérêts sur les déficits précédents, l’addition se montait à 800 milliards de dollars, uniquement pour 2006, soit près de 6,5 pour cent du PIB. Plus inquiétant encore, les emprunts américains absorbent plus des deux tiers des épargnes excédentaires combinées de tous les pays ayant constitué des réserves dans le monde, y compris la Chine, le Japon, l’Allemagne et les pays de l’OPEC.

Investir aux Etats-Unis n’est pas particulièrement rentable pour les étrangers. Au contraire, leurs retours sur investissements sont nettement inférieurs à ceux des investissements faits par les Américains à l’étranger. À une époque où les cours de la bourse et les prix de l’immobilier ne cessent de grimper, les banques centrales du Japon et de la Chine détiennent près de deux billions de dollars en obligations à faible taux d’intérêt, dont une grande partie est constituée par des hypothèques et des bonds du Trésor américains. Cette énorme subvention octroyée de fait aux contribuables américains, est, sous bien des aspects, le plus important programme d’assistance internationale qui soit.

Si la compétitivité américaine est si faible, par quelle magie le dollar se maintient-il ? La plupart des analystes sérieux prédisent depuis longtemps un déclin régulier du dollar contre les devises des principaux partenaires commerciaux des Etats-Unis, en particulier des pays asiatiques et des marchés émergents. Comment donc expliquer qu’il n’y ait pas eu davantage d’ajustement entre les devises ?

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