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Financial bailout may crush U.S. dollar

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's plan to end the rout in U.S. financial markets may derail the dollar's three-month rally as investors weigh the costs of the rescue.

The combination of spending $700 billion on soured mortgage-related assets and providing $400 billion to guarantee money- market mutual funds will boost U.S. borrowing as much as $1 trillion, according to Barclays Capital interest-rate strategist Michael Pond in New York.

While the rescue may restore investor confidence to battered financial markets, traders will again focus on the twin budget and current-account deficits and negative real U.S. interest rates.

“As we get to the other side of this, the dollar will get crushed,” said John Taylor, chairman of New York-based International Foreign Exchange Concepts Inc., the world's biggest currency hedge-fund firm, which manages bout $15 billion.

The dollar fell against the euro and 14 of the world's most-traded currencies on Sept. 19 as Paulson unveiled the plan, even as the Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 4 percent. The plan may end the rally that began in June and drove the U.S. currency up 10 percent versus the euro, 2 percent against the yen and almost 13 percent compared with Brazil's real, strategists said.

Paulson's plan, sent to Congress Saturday, would mark an unprecedented government intrusion into markets and increase the nation's debt ceiling by 6.6 percent to $11.315 trillion. Officials may also start a $400 billion Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. pool to insure investors in money-market funds.

Long-term benefit?

Although the dollar may suffer short-term, at least one analyst says the U.S. government's planned rescue will strengthen the currency before long. Paulson's proposals will return foreign-exchange markets to the trend of the past months, according to Adam Boyton, senior currency strategist at Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank AG, the world's biggest currency-trading bank. Since the end of June, the Dollar Index has gained 7.2 percent.

“It's a positive plan that's ultimately good for the dollar,” said New York-based Boyton. “It reduces risk and volatility and gets the focus back on macroeconomic fundamentals, which suggest weakness throughout the rest of the globe next year, with returning strength in the U.S.”

The U.S. economy may expand 1.5 percent next year, according to the median estimate of 80 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. That compares with 1.1 percent for the euro-region and 1.15 percent for Japan, the world's second-largest economy.

The rescue comes as the U.S. budget deficit and the current-account balance, the broadest measure of trade, grow. The Congressional Budget Office projects the spending shortfall will increase to $438 billion next year from $407 billion. The current account deficit is up from $167.24 billion in December.

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