Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Why Europe Recovers Before the US

Here is a great article on why I like the Euro:

Jerry Bowyer CNBC 24 Sep 2009

“I will not let anyone tell me that we must spend more money." - German Chancellor Angela Merkel, March 29th, 2009

America works even when it's tried in Western Europe, and the old world fails even when it's tried in North America.

This past spring, United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown and United States President Barack Obama attempted to launch a "global new deal." They attempted to persuade other developed countries, especially in the European Union, to embark on a coordinated program of very high stimulus spending.

Angela Merkel led the opposition, issuing a resounding 'nein'. French President Nicholas Sarkozy added his 'non' to the chorus shortly thereafter. The rest is history. The Obama administration enacted a stupendously large spending program; the United Kingdom followed suit. The European Union resisted the clarion call of international Keynesianism and left the recovery largely to the private sector.

And then, something fascinating happened: They recovered, and we did not. Some of these numbers are a little close to the line and clearly other factors were involved too: The US has had the largest stimulus so far, Britain after that, Germany slightly less than Britain and France much less.

So far,the GDP data shown below indicates that the second quarter (that is, roughly the spring season) growth numbers showed expansion in the two countries that most conspicuously failed to used Keynesian tools. The data also shows that the two countries which most stubbornly hewed to the Keynesian line continued to contract.

Famed French economist Guy Sorman recently told me, "We invented the word 'entrepreneur', exported it to you, and then forgot it. Now, you are sending it back to us."

He's right. At precisely the moment when the United States is shifting toward discarded European solutions such as nationalization, inflation, and fiscal manipulation, a number of European countries are liberalizing their markets.

Angela Merkel has been described by many observers as the German version of Margaret Thatcher. The entrepreneurial Sarkozy ran on a platform of creating a France that "wakes up early."

Not all of this is a matter of electoral shift. The European Union has some structural factors which have helped it resist bad policies. For example, the Union itself imposes certain spending and debt limits on member countries. These limits emboldened European politicians who resisted Anglo-American policy bullying.

Furthermore, the European experience with hyperinflation earlier in the twentieth century persuaded them to focus their central bank exclusively on matters of price stability. The United States, on the other hand, has given our own central bank a "dual mandate" for inflation control to be balanced by low unemployment. In other words, the fiscal phrenology of the Philips curve was hard-wired into the very structure of the Fed.

It's not over yet; there are promising signs that perhaps last year's electoral swing to the left was a summer/fall fling rather than a serious relationship. Time will tell.

But for now, we see played out across the Atlantic a dictum uttered by Someone who was neither a European nor an American: The last shall be first, and the first shall be last.

And it has resulted in debt that the children of the children being born today will be paying off.

It also means the USD must weaken against the Euro in the long term.

It is now just a matter of time - KT.

AUD and NZD trades

I re-established my long NZD and AUD trades yesterday.

Bought AUD2m sold USD at 0.8670.
Bought NZD2m sold USD at 0.7160.

Target 0.9000 and 0.7500.

Review at .8000 and 0.6800

A weaker greenback?

I totally agree with this article from Reuters. The USD will continue to weaken in a big way!

Neal Kimberley (Reuters 28 September)
Twenty-four years ago, major nations called for depreciation of the dollar to rebalance the global economy.

Now, as another effort at rebalancing looms, the dollar will again bear the brunt - though officials will try to ensure its fall is less dramatic this time.

That's the implication of President Barack Obama's announcement this week that he will push world leaders for a new global "framework" in which the United States would cut its huge trade and budget deficits.

Agreeing on this framework would be politically difficult, since it would require policy changes by many countries - China, for example, would probably have to rein in its explosive export-led growth.

But as the euro's climb to a new one-year high versus the dollar this morning shows, markets are starting to think the rebalancing process may start as soon as this week's Pittsburgh summit of leaders from the Group of 20 nations.

The Plaza Accord of 1985 called for "orderly appreciation of the main non-dollar currencies against the dollar"; it was followed by central banks' coordinated intervention to ensure that happened.

This time, with the world shakily emerging from a financial crisis, policymakers are likely to try to manage the dollar's drop in a more low-key fashion.

They are unlikely to issue an explicit call for the dollar to fall. In fact, the U.S. Treasury may continue proclaiming its "strong dollar policy" in an attempt to keep the markets calm.

No one in the G20 wants to risk a freefall of the dollar that could disrupt global trade as it recovers from recession. And in contrast to the 1980s, developing nations such as China are now challenging the dollar's long-term role as the world's top reserve currency.

The dollar's premier status helps the United States to obtain foreign capital and in order to keep that access, Washington is likely to encourage central banks around the world to continue holding dollars. This would require slow depreciation of the currency rather than a panicky slide.

So unless policymakers completely lose control of the forex markets - which cannot entirely be ruled out - the dollar's slide is likely to be slower and smaller than it was after the Plaza Accord, when the currency sank about 50 percent versus the yen between Sept. 22, 1985 and the end of 1987.

The overall direction of the dollar does not look in doubt, however. Top presidential adviser Lawrence Summers has said he wants a U.S. economy that is "more export-oriented and less consumption-oriented".

A lower dollar is a logical tool to achieve that goal, and letting the currency weaken would probably be faster and easier than most other big policy steps to reshape the U.S. economy, such as tax changes and health reform.

The International Monetary Fund, which is advising G20 nations on economy policy, is hinting heavily at the need for currency realignment.

In a report released this week, it said "current policies and the assumed constellation of exchange rates may not be sufficient for the needed rebalancing of demand."

It added that policy reforms by the world's big economies to restore growth "would be more effective if accompanied by a real effective renminbi appreciation, offset by euro and dollar depreciation".

An international understanding on dollar depreciation may well not be reached in Pittsburgh. A French official said last Friday that Pittsburgh would merely set the stage for future talks on foreign exchange rates.

"At this stage there will not be currency discussions, but the framework that we hope to put in place...is a way of discussing later the question of exchange rates," said the official, who declined to be named.

But giving China and other developing countries more power in the IMF and the World Bank could be part of an informal quid pro quo in which China quietly undertook to resume appreciating the yuan against the dollar.

The rise of the euro as high as $1.4821, breaking the December 2008 peak of $1.4719, is a technical signal that the market thinks the dollar is increasingly vulnerable.

For many traders, the break suggests a good chance of a rise to at least the psychologically important level of $1.50 in coming weeks or months. Yup

The European Central Bank might seek to limit speculation against the dollar by expressing concern about such a move. But the market does not appear to worry that the ECB could actually intervene to support the dollar.

When the European Union's Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said last week that excessive appreciation of the euro could hurt Europe's economy, the euro fell back only marginally and briefly.

The market knows that even at levels just above $1.5000, the euro would remain well below its all-time high against the dollar of $1.6038, hit in July 2008.

And any rise of the euro against the dollar in the current circumstances would probably be seen by policymakers as the result of general dollar weakness, not excessive euro strength. When euro/dollar reached its July 2008 peak, euro/yen hit a similar high; now, euro/yen is a full 35 yen lower.

The Japanese may also be willing to see their currency strengthen. Before new Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii took office this month, he said a strong yen was generally good as it boosted the purchasing power of Japanese. He is keeping his head down now!

Fujii subsequently backed away from that comment, but speculation will remain that after sweeping to power last month, the Democratic Party of Japan may try to shift the country away from its reliance on exports and its opposition to yen strength.

In the context of a G20 drive to rebalance the global economy, this could easily cause the market to think the yen should be trading stronger than 90 to the dollar.
Do not be long USD's, as it will not be pretty in the long term!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

US dollar carry trade starting to look shaky

For those USD bulls out there?

Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss and Wanfeng Zhou
NEW YORK, Sept 17 (Reuters)

A risky strategy using the US dollar to finance bets in higher-yielding currencies such as the Australian dollar could unwind quickly if this year's rally in global stocks fades.

Record low US interest rates, a commitment by the Federal Reserve to refrain from tightening monetary policy for a long period of time, along with improving global economic prospects have prompted investors to sell the US dollar in carry trades the last few weeks.

Carry trades involve transactions in which investors borrow in a low interest currency and use the funds to invest in higher-yielding assets in other countries. These strategies thrive in an environment of low volatility and economic expansion.

A nearly 70 percent surge in the broader MSCI world stock index from its low in March this year has also enhanced the carry trade's appeal. The Australian dollar , on the other hand, a carry trade beneficiary which moves in tandem with stocks, has risen 23 percent versus the greenback.

But dollar carry trades could have a shorter lifespan than most people think. A sustained pullback in stocks could dim the carry trade's attraction." Everybody's piling into equities and selling the dollar in carry trades and the main driver is not recovering earnings, it's the fact that prices keep going up," said Andrew Wilkinson, senior market analyst at Interactive Brokers in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Not too long ago, the yen and Swiss franc, with their near-zero interest rates, were the preferred funding currencies in carry trades. But a couple of weeks ago, the cost of benchmark three-month interbank dollar funds fell below those of the yen and Swiss franc. "It wouldn't surprise me that in the middle of one or two earnings cycles, people would reevaluate global prospects for growth," Wilkinson said. "So it makes me wonder how fast you can short the dollar without running the risk of a fast snapback in your face."

In many regions, less bleak economic data has morphed into upbeat reports and it seems the rebound in stocks and the dollar's sell-off has taken on a self-reinforcing quality despite persistent worries about rough times in credit and a weak lending trend by banks.

Analysts also say the interest-rate environment is too uncertain for a dollar-carry trade to survive for too long, and they believe the yen carry trade will re-emerge because of Japan's wide output gap. The output gap refers to the difference between an economy's current output and its maximum potential output. A wider gap reflects declining wages and lower inflation, and it impedes a central bank's ability to raise interest rates.

Japan's rates were low for years, which made such trades easier, but analysts do not foresee such a repeat in the U.S. "Japan has a much larger output gap than the U.S.," said Paresh Upadhyaya, portfolio manager, at Putnam Investments in Boston. "I don't believe U.S. rates will remain low for a long enough period of time for the dollar to cement its status on a multi-year basis as a funding currency."

Analysts give U.S. dollar carry trades a shelf life of six months to one year -- nowhere near the yen's lifespan of almost a decade as a carry trade vehicle. Samarjit Shankar, managing director of global FX strategy at BNY Mellon in Boston, said much uncertainty remains about the outlook for the rate-tightening cycle once the global recovery takes hold."

Interest rates will be changing quite a bit going forward. It's a much more fluid situation in terms of the attraction of lower rate currency for funding the carry trade."

Technical indicators are also starting to suggest that dollar selling is getting overextended.In the options market, traders say over a three-month horizon, euro puts, or bets the euro will fall, are getting more expensive than calls, referring to options which reflect expectations the currency will rise. This shows that as the euro rises, more and more investors are buying downside protection in case it falls.

Meanwhile, according to Barclays Capital's implied probability distribution data, which is useful in pricing call and put options, the market has also attached a high probability that the dollar will rally against the yen. Barclays fair value estimates predicted a decline of 0.3 percent in the latest week, but the actual fall in spot was 2.6 percent, making the greenback 6.2 percent undervalued. That's the largest undervaluation in the last 12 months.

These numbers suggest a turn higher in dollar/yen is imminent as positioning has become overstretched.This was also evident in Barclays' implied distribution data. The probability of dollar/yen trading above 94.57 yen was about 25 percent in the latest week compared with a 22.8 percent chance the pair will move below 86.4 yen.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Have booked profits on some trades today.

Have taken profit as follows:

AUD/USD Long AUD2m short USD at 0.7312.
Closed at 0.8610

Gain of 1298 points.

NZD/USD Long NZD2m shortUSD at .6241.
Closed at 0.7010

Gain of 769 points.

EUR/USD Long EUR1m short USD at 1.4465
Closed at 1.4550.

Gain of 85 points.

Still have AUD/JPY and NZD/JPY carry trades.

Will update on gains to date etc tomorrow if I get time.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

EUR/USD position

Added a new position.

Bought 1m EUR at 1.4465 sold USD.

Did this yesterday on the break higher. Was doubtful whether it would go on , so have a stop on it at 1.4450.

We will see how weak this USD really is.