"The 'dollar zone' still accounts for more than half of the global economy. In countries whose currencies are more stable against the dollar than against the euro, reserve composition that favors the dollar produces more stable returns in terms of the domestic currency," they said.
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"This alternative interpretation implies that currency shares could shift rapidly, as happened between the world wars."
The survey covers 24 different economies which represent 28 percent of the official foreign exchange reserves from nations outside of the top three biggest economies. it also included samples for the private sector and found a similar correlation in reserve holdings.
"The logic underlying both private and official behavior is straightforward. The dollar looks less risky as an investment or a borrowing currency the more closely the domestic currency moves with the dollar," McCauley and Chan said. "If correct, these findings have implications for the future of the renminbi."
Rapid growth of the Chinese economy might therefore not be sufficient for the renminbi to eclipse the dollar in official reserve holdings, they added. This would only be possible if it showed "substantial independent movement" against the major currencies and if its neighbors, they said, calling it a possible "renminbi bloc."