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From the Arctic coasts of Iceland to the Southern Ocean shores of New Zealand, the financial crisis has humbled many of the world's currencies. As risk-averse investors have rediscovered the U.S. dollar, they have swiftly pounded down currencies that until recently had been highfliers. Especially hard-hit have been countries such as Australia and South Africa with large mining industries, as slower economic growth has popped what had been a steadily inflating resources bubble.

There are some holdouts against the dollar's rise. In Japan, the yen is up 13% year-to-date against the greenback. China's yuan is up 6.8%. Having a strong currency has its disadvantages, especially for exporters in both countries. Japanese giants like Sony (SNE), for instance, are now less competitive against Korean rivals, as the Korean won has dropped 27% against the dollar this year, making it one of the weakest of all the major currencies. The Chinese currency's appreciation is causing problems for manufacturers in coastal China's industrial centers, where many recession-hit factories are in danger of going out of business.