When investors across the world look beyond their own borders, they often put money in assets denominated in US dollars. This demand is crucial for the dollar maintaining its global importance and role as the world’s preferred reserve currency, suggests research by Chicago Booth’s Ralph S. J. Koijen and Princeton’s Motohiro Yogo, who add that were investors to seek safety elsewhere, this could have big implications for currency markets and the US economy.
The researchers deconstructed the convenience yield, or premium associated with holding the US
dollar. They calculate it to have been 1.3 percentage points between 2008 and 2017. That is, had the US dollar lost its special status, it would have depreciated, and the expected annual appreciation would have been 1.3 percent a year higher thereafter. And parsing out which investors mattered most in terms of supporting the convenience yield, they identify Pacific investors (in Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, and Singapore), followed by European investors and those in offshore financial centers such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. European investors alone, for example, accounted for 0.35 percentage points of the dollar’s convenience yield—so if only these investors were to decide to hold a different currency, it is likely that the dollar would weaken by 0.35 percentage points.