Saturday, October 06, 2007

By Lisa Twaronite, MarketWatch

The Federal Reserve's decision last month to cut interest rates by a larger-than-expected half-percent point sent the already-weakening greenback to an all-time record low against a basket of six major currencies. In the third quarter, the euro appreciated more than 5% against the dollar, most of the gains coming in September alone.

'Even though the typical person isn't immediately affected, the U.S. economy is less well off.' — Howard Chernick, economist

Weakness in the dollar means prices of imported goods, particularly oil, will go up, raising the risk of inflation. American consumers will be paying more soon, with the looming threat of paying even more later on.

"The inflation risk from higher import prices will be the dominant initial effect," said Howard Chernick, an economics professor at Hunter College in New York. "The most immediate effect is imports denominated in dollars -- mainly oil. We already saw a spike in oil prices. So a bit down the line, that's 10 to 15 cents more per gallon of gas at the pump."

it could also make funding those imbalances more difficult. The U.S. has to attract billions of dollars a day from foreign investors, and a weakening currency makes dollar-based assets less attractive because of the consequences it can have on their long-term value.

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