¿A dónde va el dólar fuerte?

En su primer viaje internacional, el nuevo Secretario del Tesoro de los Estados Unidos, Paul O’Neill, tuvo un tropiezo –al decir la verdad. Durante la administración Clinton, el Secretario del Tesoro Robert Rubin y después Lawrence Summers afirmaron que Estados Unidos tenía “una política de dólar fuerte”. O’Neill declaró que “no estamos siguiendo...una política de dólar fuerte”. Ante los ataques inmediatos por dar marcha atrás a una política sostenida durante tanto tiempo, rápidamente se retractó. Qué lástima, porque su comentario fue mucho más sensato que las afirmaciones de sus predecesores.

La verdad es que los Estados Unidos no tienen una política de tipo de cambio. Cuando Alan Greenspan pondera cuál será el siguiente movimiento de las tasas de interés en los EU, se presta poca atención al tipo de cambio del dólar frente al euro, el yen u otras divisas. Las decisiones de política monetaria del país dependen de la fuerza o debilidad de la economía interna y de la inflación. Si la economía se está desacelerando, si hay capacidad excesiva y si la inflación es baja, las tasas de interés se reducen; si la economía es fuerte, el exceso de la capacidad se limita y las presiones inflacionarias crecen, las tasas aumentan. La Reserva Federal tampoco interviene directamente en los mercados de divisas, salvo en circunstancias extraordinarias.

Sólo en un sentido se puede decir que EU tenga una política de “dólar fuerte”: la política monetaria de la Reserva Federal está diseñada para mantener baja la inflación. El dólar se mantiene “fuerte” en términos de su poder de compra de bienes y servicios estadounidenses. Pero eso no es lo que los mercados creían que significaba una política de “dólar fuerte”. Suponían que la política de dólar fuerte se refería al tipo de cambio. En este sentido, la política de “dólar fuerte” significaría que Estados Unidos tiene una política de “euro débil” o de “yen débil”. Tal cosa no existe.

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