Posts Tagged ‘dollar’

August 13th, 2009


Currency Intervention: Kiwis don’t fly (Episode 2)

2 years seems a long time but feels like yesterday. In that period the NZ$ fell from 0.82 to 0.49 and now is back trading just below 0.68. Wow…talk about currency whiplash.

So back then I suggested the RBNZ should think about selling as much NZ$ as they could. Why? Why go against prevailing market sentiment which is that intervention doesn’t really work and simply provides a target for the speculating hordes which incidentally account for 95% of the volume of daily trades.

That’s a fair sentiment when your currency is falling but when it’s rising? And when you have an eye popping foreign debt of almost 140% of GDP……that’s foreign debt not overall debt.

And yet the punters keep buying the NZ$. Perhaps they know something I don’t. Maybe 50 years worth of oil has been discovered in the Southern Basin. Who knows?

The point is that at some point that money has to be paid back and at the moment, due to the sneaky monster that is compound interest, we can’t even get close to reducing it.

But now is the time to strike.

Again I would like to suggest that the RBNZ starts selling NZ$. When you have a lot of something to sell it’s always best to do it when others are keen to buy. Now is that chance.

By selling NZ$ now and paying back, or at least holding for that same purpose, it will take the pressure off the very precarious dependency we have on overseas lenders.

This doesn’t eliminate the debt but simply transfers it to a domestic situation where it can be managed at lower rates and where there is no threat of having to suddenly repay.

How can the RBNZ do this? Again this is very simple. Print NZ$ and buy US$. There is no change to the actual money supply just how the debt is denominated.

Considering the implosion Iceland experienced and the unfolding disaster that is Ireland (surviving only due to its membership of the Euro), it makes complete sense just to get on with this now.

To allow foreign debt to be run at such a level is financial mismanagement of the highest level.

It also shows a willingness to be dictated to and dependent on overseas interests. This makes no sense at all when the country’s economy security is at stake.

July 24th, 2009

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Chimerica: $ Dis-Ease rumbles on

To the joy of conspiracy theorists everywhere, the new “United Future World Currency” coin was presented at the recent G8 summit in Italy. So far though its just a piece of alloy metal but hey value is in the eye of the holder.

As usual it was the Russian President, Dimitry Medvedev, giving the $ a good roasting and moving the debate forward to the minting process. But really how far advanced is this process and how serious are they? More to the point what would a global currency unit look like?

To answer the first question is simple: I have no idea. At the political level it is mere grandstanding usually for the domestic audience. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that most politicians have little understanding of how the global financial system works (no different from anyone else!) but back in the offices of Treasuries and Central Banks it may be a different story.Though I was struck by the recent bizarre questioning of Bernanke over the issue of $ currency swaps with central banks. It’s a classic.

I do think though that the Eurasian block are serious about making this move. Each step is a step closer to creating a multipolar currency whether its based on the Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), a Commodity Backed Currency (CBC) or an Energy Backed Currency (EBCU). Even the Amero could be a consideration.

But the key outcome will be whether we move from a Fiat based system to a hard currency system. That would make a major change in the structure to the global system perhaps taking us back to Keynes’s suggestion, the Bancor. If we stay with a Fiat system then we simply exchange one piece of paper for another.A hard backed system would certainly restore some much needed reality to the meaning and value.

What’s clear is that the US has become a fiscal disaster and holders of paper issued by the US have said enough is enough: your paper is not “as good as gold“.

July 6th, 2009

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$ Watch: BRICs get down to business in Yekaterinburg

Yekaterinburg could well be a name to remember much like Maastricht, Yalta, Bretton Woods and other places that carry major political history on the back of their relative obscurity. A few weeks ago the big 4 players, Brazil, Russia, China and India, met to in Yekaterinburg to discuss the vexed issue of the $, US assets and US global financial dominance.

As I’ve discussed before there is a major shift underway in the way the global market is structured. Not just in terms of currencies but also trade and influence. The BRICs have a powerful case to make: 40% of global currency reserves and almost half the world’s population (though Russia’s population is declining, a somewhat serious issue).

There is a strong feeling that the US has acted recklessly overt he last 30 years in flooding the world with $ and creating huge imbalances which have caused such chaos in global markets. So whilst there is always plenty of posturing and grandstanding, especially from the Russians, there is a real case for the US to answer:

– Global trade imbalances.

– Cowboy capitalism.

– Turbo boosted monetary expansion.

– Instability in global financial markets.

It’s also interesting that the meeting of the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) was held at the same tim and the US was not invited even though it wanted to attend. There is a strong argument that there is no real alternative to the $ but that doesn’t excuse the facts. One dominant currency has not helped create a stable system. It has simply allowed to issuer to experience huge profits from seigniorage and wield extraordinary political and economic power.

And can we really take the rating agencies seriously? They are all US based organisations. Ultimately whether the $ loses influence or not depends on the alternatives. I still believe a commodity backed currency is a likely development, given the nations involved.

At the same time the development of local currencies will help create a more stable and complex system. For now though expect more talk about a $ alternative and expect it to be driven by the BRIC crew starting with the upcoming G8 summit in Italy.

June 3rd, 2009

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$ out of favour as reality sinks in

It’s been nearly 9 months since the $ started to show signs of meltdown fever. Except the meltdown was the rush to buy $ as a hedge against collapsing markets and disappearing credit lines.

In the last few months we have seen markets bottom and even recover some poise, aided and abetted by the action of nearly last resort, quantitative easing. There was nothing left in the toolbox really.

So far so good in some respects. The S+P has rallied 37% off its lows…….mind you its lows were 57% down from the highs and the index still stands 42% off the highs of the last few years. Not that the numbers really matter. The main news is that markets are functioning…still.

And the $ balloon has finally burst with QE signaling a chance to sell the $ without worrying what the equity markets were doing. The Kiwi$ has rallied 32% from its March low even outpacing the hammered Pound, up 21% from its low of $1.35.

Markets can do very strange things. Even whilst the $ was rallying to extreme highs against all currencies, no one really wanted to own it. Now people really really don’t want to own it.

This is all very well but this type of volatility is impossible to manage. How can any investment manager talk about average returns of 10% a year when markets are moving at this rate. How can any business hedge currency risk when currencies are moving like this.

The bigger problem for the US is trying to stop the snowball effect that may happen if markets really decide to dump the $. The noises coming from China may be regarded as monetary brinksmanship but with Russia, looking very wolflike these days, nibbling in behind, it’s becoming a more serious issue.

There’s a lot of politics involved in this but the positioning is clear: the US is weak not just economically but militarily. The exhausting foray into Iraq has stretched the US war machine as well as seriously impacting on its reputation. Historically the ability to create coin or currency was usually backed up by military power. One of the first actions by invading nations was to replace the local currency with its own.

This makes currency both a political and economic issue. So whilst there is unlikely to be any immediate change in the $ role as global reserve currency, there is no doubt that the dance of change is underway.

The short term problem for China is its huge ownership of US bonds and other paper. So they wouldn’t be happy with a complete collapse right now but it seems like less money will be staying in $ and more will be finding a new home whilst they work out how a new global currency system might operate.

But with GM falling apart and US unemployment rising to severe levels, concerns over the health of the $ will only continue to mount.

October 26th, 2008

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Currency Watch: Global Currency Crisis developing

The recent rush for the $ has exposed a global currency crisis that seems to be gathering momentum.

So far we have seen Iceland bankrupted, South Korea facing a huge run on the Won, Argentina seizing private pensions, Hungary and Denmark raising rates and general deleveraging in emerging markets.

At the same time even the majors have taken a pounding. In the last 3 months against the $ the Euro has fallen 22%, the Pound 22%, the Aussie 38%, the Kiwi 29% and the Canadian 28%. The latter 3 suffering more because of their links to commodity markets which have also collapsed.Against the Yen just add another 10%.

Those falls are enormous.

The major factors here are:

– Credit issues.

– Current Account position.

– Commodities.

– Interest Rates.

If you have a large current account deficit and huge overseas borrowing (like Australia and New Zealand) then you will struggle given the problems with credit availability. At the same time lower currencies provide an opportunity to reduce those deficits. No more cheap imports for the Antipodeans.

This poses real problems for the US. Although the Yen is taking some of the slack with a major appreciation, a strong $ is hardly what the US are looking for at the moment given their huge current account problems. However we are entering into a situation where there are bigger issues at play.

A full scale unwind of the global currency net position would see surplus countries holding the upper hand. China with its vast $ reserves has plenty of options on the table. There is an interesting analysis on Naked Capitalism with some good links.

The most interesting proposal from Brad Setser at the CFR is for China (and other large $ holders) to diversify their $ holdings and buy assets from other deficit countries. Although its hard to see China doing this it makes sense as part of the eventual rebalancing of currencies and capital that must happen if we are not to see a huge race to the bottom in currency land.

This would help out the US in taking the heat over a resurgent $ and it would take the heat out of the impending meltdown of cross border capital flows. It may even help avert a potential meltdown in the Euro which grows closer by the day.

The era of running big deficits thanks to leveraged debt finance and derivative products is over. The November 15th War Council will certainly push to reform and regulate markets though that bolted years ago and the stable has burnt down.

Other suggestions proposed are:

– A return to a gold backed global currency. This is just fiat in a different form. It has some merit as a stable, hard store of value in which supply is reasonably easy to manage but it has already failed several times in recent memory.

– A commodity/energy back currency. The EBCU proposal by Richard Douthwaite still is a favourite of mine because it links natural resources, climate change and money together. It’s real unlike gold as it connects energy to money and energy is what we are concerned with, in terms of transforming it and using it in our daily lives.

Hopefully all of these approaches will be on the table when our financial “wizards” meet shortly.

In the meantime it will be a case of holding one’s breath and hoping for the best with possible intervention ahead.

At worst expect markets to close and capital controls to be applied.

April 12th, 2008


G7 calls for major review of global financial system

The G7 communique from the current meeting makes for interesting reading. Their focus has been wide ranging and, for a change, not just on currencies though the headline statement does make a clear reference to recent moves.

What I took note of was their concerns around bank capital. This is really where the crunch point is located. They call for the Basel Committee to review liquidity risk management guidelines and a quick disclosure of write downs ands revaluations (or in reality devaluations).

The accounting for off balance sheet items was also raised, particularly the valuation of assets in a time of financial stress. That should cause palpitations amongst traders of credit default swaps. Quite frankly some of this stuff can only be valued when its traded. The idea that there is some kind of two way market is really a myth. That in itself should make regulators, as well as bank shareholders, sit up and think about some of the toxic trades sitting around on the books.

They also call for a speedy implementation of Basel II. I think they should tear up Basel II and move straight onto Basel III but more on that another time.

They realise the game is up and the time has come for a thorough overhaul of the system itself. It will be interesting to see how this plays out as more and more unwinding takes place. As far as currencies go, China was gently reminded to hurry up and revalue the Yuan and the market was reminded that G7 wasn’t happy about some of the moves we had in March.  Whether that helps the $ is anyone’s guess but they better have an intervention plan up their sleeves before the $ takes another big dump.

The markets had a nice rally but reality is never too far away in markets and the last couple of weeks may have just been a pause for thought.

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"I’m a Londoner who moved to Christchurch, New Zealand in 2002. After studying economics and finance at Manchester University and a couple of years of backpacking, I ended up working in the financial markets in London. I traded the global financial markets on behalf of investment banks for 11 years. Since moving to NZ, I have been an angel investor, budget advisor, director, trustee, mentor and business consultant. I'm currently a Councillor at Christchurch City Council and a Trustee of the Volunteer Army Foundation and the Christchurch Arts Festival Trust. I write about the intersection of economic, social and environmental issues."

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