“What Makes a ‘Safe’ Currency?
A nation’s currency is issued by its central bank and a central bank is structured like any other bank– it has assets and liabilities. On the asset side of the balance sheet are things like government bonds and gold….Its liabilities include the nation’s money supply, technically known as central bank ‘notes’. Look at those US dollars, Canadian dollars, British pounds, etc. in your wallet. You’ll see they’re actually ‘notes’ issued by the central bank, i.e. liabilities. @Economic Developments
- A Central Bank’s capital ratio: Just like any other bank, healthy central banks hold portfolios of high quality assets and those assets should exceed liabilities by a substantial margin. This is known as a bank’s capital ratio, and it represents a bank’s margin of safety in the event of a crisis. Consequently, ‘safe’ currencies are issued by well-capitalized central banks with a high capital ratio.
- A government’s balance sheet: It’s also critical to check the government’s balance sheet [because] central banks that get in trouble will require a government (i.e. taxpayer) bailout and heavily indebted governments won’t have the ability to do this.
The U.S. Dollar
[The two points above] automatically eliminate the U.S. dollar because the Federal Reserve’s capital ratio is a laughable 1.53% and, since the U.S. government’s debt is nearly $17 trillion, there’s no chance Uncle Sam can bail out the Fed.
The British Pound, Euro, Japanese Yen and Canadian Dollar
This reasoning also eliminates the British pound, euro, and yen. Even the Canadian dollar is not in good shape given the country’s debt level and the razor-thin capital (0.53%) at the Bank of Canada.
The Singapore Dollar
Singapore is an interesting case. In its just-published annual report, the Monetary Authority of Singapore announced that it lost $8 billion last year trying to keep its currency depressed against the US dollar. This is astounding… and suggests more than anything that this absurd dollar-centric fiat system is on the way out.
Singapore’s central bank balance sheet is still in much better condition than the West with a 7.2% capital ratio and the government there has zero net debt, so the Singapore dollar is far safer than the dollar or euro.
The Safest Major Currency Is the Norwegian krone
Looking at the numbers, the answer is simple. It’s the Norwegian krone.
Norway’s central bank, which issues the krone, has among the highest capital ratios of any central bank in the world at 23.3%.
The Norwegian government has zero net debt, i.e. its total financial assets far exceed debt.
Norway isn’t part of some supranational body like the European Union, which means that Norway cannot be stuck with some other nation’s liabilities (just as we see Luxembourg stuck with a share of Greece’s bailout)
The krone is not pegged to any other currency, so it can’t be dragged down with a sinking ship.