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World News and Trends: Instability returns to currency markets, world economy

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Instability returns to currency markets, world economy

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Since its launch at the beginning of last year, the euro has lost almost a third of its value against the U.S. dollar. This means Europeans are spending considerably more on imported items, including fuel for their vehicles. It also means Americans are finding it harder to sell their products to the European market, the biggest single marketplace in the world.

International economists and bankers agree that the European countries' economies overall are fairly strong so there is no logical reason for the euro to fall. That the currency is new and unknown may be one reason for the lack of confidence in it, but the main reason, according to those who supposedly know, is that European investors continue to buy into the lucrative American market, where returns on their investment are higher than back home.

The continuing U.S. trade deficit would normally cause the dollar to decline in value, making it easier for America to sell its products around the world. The deficit reached an all-time high this summer. By the end of the year it will be about $400 billion. That's the biggest trade deficit any country has ever had. The deficit appears set to continue as Americans continue to buy more from overseas than they sell to other countries.

Under normal circumstances this would be a cause for grave concern, but the rest of the world seems content for now to reinvest that $400 billion into the American economy. Many American companies are being bought out by foreign companies.

Currency fluctuations are caused mainly by perceptions and resulting speculation. When people in various countries perceive that the U.S. economy is doing well they want to buy into it and reap the rewards of their investment. If their perception should change, "things could turn nasty very quickly," as a commentator on National Public Radio put it recently.

If the rest of the world suddenly decided it was no longer willing to finance America's trade deficit, the dollar would plummet in value around the world, and other nations would start looking for an alternative international trading currency. We could then see the euro rising in value against the dollar.

A repeated lesson for Christians in times of uncertainty is not to put their trust in money. Repeatedly, throughout history, people have lost substantial amounts through periods of financial instability and economic upheaval. Just two years ago many fortunes were lost during the last major crisis in the world's financial system when the Russian currency collapsed, followed by similar falls in currency values across Asia.

Jesus Christ taught Christians to put their trust and confidence elsewhere: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal" (Matthew 6:19-20).