Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III brushed aside concerns of the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board and major U.S. trading partners yesterday and called the year-long fall of the dollar "orderly," saying that the drop has not hurt financial markets.
He added that the decline of the dollar, which has fallen more than 30 percent in relation to the Japanese yen, is expected to halt the continued record growth of America's trade deficit this year and lead to a decline in the deficit in 1987.
"Our view is, the decline of the dollar has been orderly," Baker told a combined hearing of subcommittees of the Senate Finance and Banking committees. The testimony marked his first appearance before Congress since world leaders at the Tokyo summit agreed last week to a closer coordination of their economic policies.
"It has not been precipitous. There has been no free fall. We have not had any difficulties placing American securities. We do not anticipate any," Baker continued.
Baker's comments came in the midst of great volatility in world currency markets, where traders are keeping an extremely close eye on official U.S. statements for signs of whether the Reagan administration wants the dollar to continue its fall or level off.
Traders said the dollar rose yesterday because of Baker's remarks. In Tokyo, it closed at 160.95 yen, up from 160.20 on Monday. Later, in London, it was at 161.12 yen, and in New York it closed at 163.40 yen compared with 160.55 late Monday.
Once again, Baker refused to say in his testimony whether the Reagan administration had set a bottom line for the fall of the dollar. He complained that traders were making too much of his cryptic statements about the proper balance of world currencies.
"For some time, we have been saying we don't have a target for the dollar, and we don't," he told the senators. "We are somewhat concerned about what we think are unwarranted interpretations that markets have attached to that statement."
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul A. Volker has warned publicly against the dollar falling too far too fast, which he said could make it harder for the United States to raise foreign capital to finance its deficit. He told Reuters yesterday that the fall of the dollar to a record low against the yen this week "doesn't make me happy."
In addition, West Germany and Japan, concerned that the fall in the dollar will hurt their export industries, have pressed the Reagan administration to stop its decline.
Japanese Finance Minister Noboru Takeshita called the dollar's fall excessive Monday, when it hit a record post-World War II low against the yen for the eighth time in 14 days. He said that Japan will intervene "as necessary" in an attempt to prop up the dollar.
The West German Bundesbank also has said it would intervene if the dollar continues its slide. But currency traders believe the Japanese and Germans are not strong enough to turn around the dollar unless the United States joins in.
In his testimony, Baker acknowledged holding "discussions" with other governments about stabilizing the dollar, but he declined in public testimony to reveal any details about those talks, including what he considered the proper level for the dollar.
The Reagan administration has pushed for a lower dollar to help America's trade posture by making U.S. products more competitive in overseas markets.
In an effort to cushion export-oriented Japanese industries from the fall of the dollar, Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone yesterday ordered his government to come up with an aid program that is expected to include low-cost loans. U.S. trade officials already have complained about similar proposals and vowed to retaliate if they increase the flow of Japanese exports to this country.