The economic impact of the King Dollar in the summer of 2018

One of the problems of currency analysis is the way that when you are in the melee it is hard to tell the short-term fluctuation from the longer-term trend. It gets worse should you run into a crisis as Argentina found earlier this year as it raised interest-rates to 40% and still found itself calling for help from the International Monetary Fund. The reality was that it found itself caught out by a change in trend as the US Dollar stopped falling and began to rally. If we switch to the DXY index we see that the 88.6 of the middle of February has been replaced by 95.38 as I type this. At first it mostly trod water but since the middle of April it has been on the up.

Why?

If we ask the same question as Carly Simon did some years back then a partial answer comes from this from the testimony of Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell yesterday.

Over the first half of 2018 the FOMC has continued to gradually reduce monetary policy accommodation. In other words, we have continued to dial back the extra boost that was needed to help the economy recover from the financial crisis and recession. Specifically, we raised the target range for the federal funds rate by 1/4 percentage point at both our March and June meetings, bringing the target to its current range of 1-3/4 to 2 percent.

So the heat is on and looks set to be turned up a notch or two further.

 the FOMC believes that–for now–the best way forward is to keep gradually raising the federal funds rate.

One nuance of this is the way that it has impacted at the shorter end of the US yield curve. For example the two-year Treasury Bond yield has more than doubled since early last September and is now 2.61%. This means two things. Firstly if we stay in the US it is approaching the ten-year Treasury Note yield which is 2.89%. If you read about a flat yield curve that is what is meant although not yet literally as the word relatively is invariably omitted. Also that there is now a very wide gap at this maturity with other nations with Japan at -0.13% and Germany at -0.64% for example.

At this point you may be wondering why two-year yields matter so much? I think that the financial media is still reflecting a consequence of the policies of the ECB which pushed things in that direction as the impact of the Securities Markets Programme for example and negative interest-rates.

QT

QT or quantitative tightening is also likely to be a factor in the renewed Dollar strength but it represents something unusual. What I mean by that is we lack any sort of benchmark here for a quantity rather than a price change. Also attempts in the past were invariably implicit rather than explicit as interest-rates were raised to get banks to lend less to reduce the supply of Dollars or more realistically reduce the rate of growth of the supply. Now we have an explicit reduction and it has shifted to narrow ( the central banks balance sheet) money from broad money.

 In addition, last October we started gradually reducing the Federal Reserve’s holdings of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities. That process has been running smoothly.  ( Jerome Powell).

You can’t always get what you want

It may also be true that you can’t get what you need either which brings us to my article from March the 22nd on the apparent shortage of US Dollars. This is an awkward one as of course market liquidity in the US Dollar is very high but it is not stretching things to say that it is not enough for this.

Non-US banks collectively hold $12.6 trillion of dollar-denominated assets – almost as much as US banks…….Dollar funding stress of non-US banks was at the center of the GFC. ( GFC= Global Financial Crisis). ( BIS)

The issue faded for a bit but seems to be on the rise again as the Libor-OIS spread dipped but more recently has risen to 0.52 according to Morgan Stanley. What measure you use is a moving target especially as the Federal Reserve shifts the way it operates in interest-rate markets but they kept these for a reason.

In October 2013, the Federal Reserve and these central banks announced that their liquidity swap arrangements would be converted to standing arrangements that will remain in place until further notice.

Impact on the US economy

The situation here was explained by Federal Reserve Vice-Chair Stanley Fischer back in November 2015.

To gauge the quantitative effects on exports, the thick blue line in figure 2 shows the response of U.S. real exports to a 10 percent dollar appreciation that is derived from a large econometric model of U.S. trade maintained by the Federal Reserve Board staff. Real exports fall about 3 percent after a year and more than 7 percent after three years.

Imports are affected but by less.

The low exchange rate pass-through helps account for the more modest estimated response of U.S. real imports to a 10 percent exchange rate appreciation shown by the thin red line in figure 2, which indicates that real imports rise only about 3-3/4 percent after three years.

And via both routes GDP

The staff’s model indicates that the direct effects on GDP through net exports are large, with GDP falling over 1-1/2 percent below baseline after three years.

The impact is slow to arrive meaning we are likely to be seeing the impact of a currency fall when it is rising and vice versa raising the danger of tripping over our own feet in analysis terms.

What happens to everyone else?

As the US Dollar remains the reserve currency if it rises everyone else will fall and so they will experience inflation in the price of commodities and oil. This is likely to have a recessionary effect via for example the impact on real wages especially as nominal wage growth seems to be even more sticky than it used to be.

Comment

Responses to the situation above will vary for example the Bank of Japan will no doubt be saying the equivalent of “Party on” as it will welcome the weakening of the Yen to around 113 to the US Dollar. The ECB is probably neutral as a weakening for the Euro offsets some of its past rise as it celebrates actually hitting its 2% inflation target which will send it off for its summer break in good spirits. The unreliable boyfriend at the Bank of England is however rather typically likely to be unsure. Whilst all Governors seem to morph into lower Pound mode of course it also means that people do not believe his interest-rate hints and promises. Meanwhile many emerging economies have been hit hard such as Argentina and Turkey.

In terms of headlines the UK Pound £ is generating some as it gyrates around US $1.30 which it dipped below earlier. In some ways it is remarkably stable as we observe all the political shenanigans. I think a human emotion is at play and foreign exchange markets have got bored with it all.

Another factor here is that events can happen before the reasons for them. What I mean by that was that the main US Dollar rise was in late 2014 which anticipated I think a shift in US monetary policy that of course was yet to come. As adjustments to that view have developed we have seen all sorts of phases and we need to remember it was only on January 25th we were noting this.

The recent peak was at just over 103 as 2016 ended so we have seen a fall of a bit under 14%

Back then the status quo was

Down down deeper and down

Whereas the summer song so far is from Aloe Blacc

I need a dollar, dollar
Dollar that’s what I need
Well I need a dollar, dollar
Dollar that’s what I need

Me on Core Finance

 

 

 

Advertisements

The link between “currency wars” and central banks morphing into hedge funds

The credit crunch era has brought us all sort of themes but a lasting one was given to us by Brazil’s Finance Minister back in September of 2010. From the Financial Times.

“We’re in the midst of an international currency war, a general weakening of currency. This threatens us because it takes away our competitiveness,” Mr Mantega said. By publicly asserting the existence of a “currency war”, Mr Mantega has admitted what many policymakers have been saying in private: a rising number of countries see a weaker exchange rate as a way to lift their economies.

The issue of fears that countries were undertaking competitive devaluations was something which raised a spectre of the 1920s being repeated. I note that Wikipedia calls it the Currency War of 2009-11 which is in my opinion around 7 years too short as of the countries mentioned back in the FT article some are still singing the same song and of course Japan redoubled its efforts and some with the advent of Abenomics.

The Euro

It was only last week that we looked at the way Germany has undertaken a stealth devaluation ironically in full media view via its membership of the Euro. But also of course if QE is a way of weakening your currency then the ECB ( European Central Bank) has had the pedal to the metal as it has expanded its balance sheet to around 4.5 billion Euros. On this road it has become something of an extremely large hedge fund of which more later but currently hedge funds seem to be fans of this.

If we combine this with the positive trade balance of the Euro area which has been reinforced this morning by Germany declaring a 25.4 billion current account surplus in November we see why the Euro was strong in the latter part of 2017. We also see perhaps why it has dipped back below 1.20 versus the US Dollar and the UK Pound £ has pushed above 1.13 to the Euro as currency traders wonder who is left to buy the Euro in the short-term?

But let us move on noting that a deposit rate of -0.4% and QE of 30 billion Euros a month would certainly have been seen as a devaluation effort back in September 2010.

Turning Japanese

Has anyone tried harder than the Japanese under Abenomics to reduce the value of their currency? We have seen purchases of pretty much every financial asset ( including for newer readers commercial property and equities) as the Bank of Japan balance sheet soared soared to nearly ( 96%) a years economic output or GDP. This did send the Yen lower but in more recent times it has not done much at all to the disappointment of the authorities in Tokyo. Is that behind this morning’s news that the Bank of Japan eased its bond buying efforts? Rather than us turning Japanese are they now aping us gaijin? It is too early to say but it is intriguing to note that December was a month in which the Bank of Japan’s balance sheet actually shrank. Care is needed here as for example the US Federal Reserve is in the process of shrinking its balance sheet but some data has seen it rise.

Perhaps the Bank of Japan should play some George Michael from its loudspeakers.

Yes I’ve gotta have faith…
Mmm, I gotta have faith
‘Cause I gotta have faith, faith, faith
I gotta have faith-a-faith-a-faith

South Korea and the Won

Last week we got a warning that a new currency wars outbreak was on the cards as this was reported. From CNBC.

South Korea’s central bank chief said that the bank will leave its currency to market forces, but would respond if moves in the won get too big. Lee Ju-yeol said the Bank of Korea will take active steps when herd behavior is seen.

Not quite a full denial but yesterday forexlive reported something you are likely to have already guessed.

Bank of Korea is suspected to have bought around $1.5 billion in USD/KRW during currency trading today.

As we wonder what herd was seen in the Won as of course the “Thundering Herd” or Merrill Lynch is no longer with us? Also as this letter from the Bank of Korea to the FT last year confirms Korea does not play what Janet Kay called “Silly Games”.

First, Korea does not manage exchange rates to prevent currency appreciation. The Korean government does not set a specific target level or direction of the exchange rate. The Korean won exchange rate is basically determined by the market, and intervention is limited to addressing disorderly market movements.

Next time lads it would be best to leave this out.

Second, Korea’s current account surplus should not be understood as evidence of its currency undervaluation.

Of course not. Anyway the Won has been strong.

The South Korean currency surged almost 13 percent last year, as an expanding trade surplus and the nation’s first interest-rate increase in six years boosted its allure. (Bloomberg).

Another way of looking at that is to look back over the credit crunch era. We do see that the Won dropped like a stone against the US Dollar to around 1600 but with ebbs and flows has returned to not far from where it began to the 1060s. Of course we can get some more insight comparing more locally and if we look at the real trade-weighted exchange rates of the BIS ( Bank for International Settlements) then there was a case against the Yen in fact a strong one. Compared to 2010= 100 the Japanese Yen was at 73.7 ( see above) but the Won was at 113. However the claim of a strong currency might get the Chinese knocking at the South Korean’s door as the Yuan was at 121.4.

China

Perhaps the Chinese are now on the case as Bloomberg reports.

The yuan, which headed for its biggest drop in two months on the news, is allowed to move a maximum of 2 percent either side of the fixing. Analysts said the change shows China is confident in the yuan’s current trajectory, which has been one of steady appreciation.

Hedge Fund Alert

There are two pieces of good news for the modern theory of central banks morphing into hedge funds around this morning so let us first go to Switzerland.

According to provisional calculations, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) will report a profit in
the order of CHF 54 billion for the 2017 financial year. The profit on foreign currency
positions amounted to CHF 49 billion. A valuation gain of CHF 3 billion was recorded on
gold holdings. The net result on Swiss franc positions amounted to CHF 2 billion

With all that profit the ordinary Suisse may wonder why they are not getting more?

Confederation and cantons to receive distribution of at least
CHF 2 billion

Whilst the SNB behaves like a late Father Christmas those in charge of the ever growing equity holdings at the Bank of Japan may be partying like it is 1999 and having a celebratory glass of sake on this news.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 reaches fresh 26-year high; ( FT)

Meanwhile a not so polite message may be going from the ECB to the Bank of Finland.

The European Central Bank has sold its bonds of scandal-hit retailer Steinhoff , data showed on Monday, potentially suffering a loss of up to 55% on that investment. (Reuters)

Comment

So there you have it as we see that the label “currency wars” can still be applied albeit that the geography of the main outbreak has moved across the Pacific. Actually Japan was always in the game and it is no surprise that its currency twin the Swiss Franc is the other central bank which has become a subsidiary of a hedge fund. That poses a lot of questions should the currency weaken as the Swissy has albeit so far only on a relatively minor scale. There have been discussions so far this year about how bond markets will survive less QE but I do not see anyone wondering what might happen if the Swiss and Japanese central banks stopped buying equities and even decided to sell some?

For all the fire and fury ( sorry) there remains a simple underlying point which is that if one currency declines falls or devalues then others have to rise. That is especially awkward for central banks as they attempt to explain how trying to manipulate a zero-sum game brings overall benefits.

 

What is happening with the Swiss Franc?

One of the features of the credit crunch era has been the strength of the Swiss Franc. This has been for two interrelated reasons. The first is simply that Switzerland has been seen as something of a safe haven in these troubled times. The second as we have looked at many times comes from what was called the Carry Trade. This involved people and companies from other parts of the world borrowing in Swiss Francs because in something getting ever harder to believe interest-rates were much higher in their own domestic currencies than they were in the Swissy. In particular those taking out mortgages in some parts of eastern Europe with Hungary and Poland to the fore and also in places like Cyprus took out Swiss Franc mortgages to take advantage of the lower “carry” or interest-rate. The catch was the fact that there was an exchange rate risk which was obscured by the fact that the size of the trade put downwards pressure on the Swiss Franc ( and the Japanese Yen which was its currency twin in this regard). Accordingly it looked as if a financial triumph was on its way where interest-rate gains came with exchange-rate benefits. What could go wrong?

As the credit crunch hit there was a safe haven demand for Swiss Francs accompanied by some beginning to reverse their carry trades and the two reinforced each other. This meant that those who had taken Swiss Franc mortgages in eastern Europe found that the amount owed headed higher in their own currency and as the monthly repayments depended on the amount owed they headed higher too. The same happened to business borrowers. As more cut their losses the pressure was built up even more on those who remained. Meanwhile Switzerland was left feeling like a tennis ball bouncing around on a foreign currency ocean with consequences described the summer of 2011 by the Swiss National Bank like this.

The massive overvaluation of the Swiss franc poses a threat to the development of the economy in Switzerland and has further increased the downside risks to price stability.

It was afraid of a pricing out of the Swiss economy as it became less competitive. In September of that year it made something of a ground breaking announcement.

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) is therefore aiming for a substantial and sustained weakening of the Swiss franc. With immediate effect, it will no longer tolerate a EUR/CHF exchange rate below the minimum rate of CHF 1.20. The SNB will enforce this minimum rate with the utmost determination and is prepared to buy foreign currency in unlimited quantities.

On that road the SNB became an enormous hedge fund with at the time of writing some 724.4 billion Swiss Francs in its foreign currency reserves. An odd consequence of this is that it would have welcomed this news overnight. From Reuters.

Shares in the world’s most valuable company surged 6 percent after-hours to a record of more than $159, taking its market capitalization above $830 billion.

As 20% of its assets are in equities the SNB will be happy and the last number I saw had it holding some 15 million shares in Apple. However even “utmost determination” apparently has its bounds as this told us in January 2015.

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) is discontinuing the minimum exchange rate of CHF 1.20 per euro. At the same time, it is lowering the interest rate on sight deposit account balances that exceed a given exemption threshold by 0.5 percentage points, to −0.75%.

So the full set had been deployed in terms of monetary policy of foreign exchange intervention and negative interest-rates. But it was not enough and the retreat by the SNB was followed by another Swiss Franc surge causing worries for not only Switzerland but more losses for those who had borrowed in it.

Ch-ch-changes

More recently there has been signs and hints of a possible crack in the dam of Swiss Franc strength. At the end of last week Bloomberg was pointing out that it was at its weakest since the January 2015 announcement and that this was driven by stop-loss buying from Japanese banks. Whilst my career has seen regular episodes of stop-loss buying by Japanese banks across many instruments which begs the question of whether they ever make profits this is an interesting connection between what were the two currency twins. CNBC summarised the situation like this.

The franc fell sharply against the euro in morning deals, trading at 1.13 Swiss francs, a three percent drop on the week. Against the dollar, it hit a month low of 0.9724 Swiss francs.

This morning has seen the Euro rise to 1.143 Swiss Francs as the new beat goes on.

Swiss Cheese

The Financial Times notes that the hole in Swiss cheese production may be in the process of being fixed.

 

Its competitiveness wounded by the strong Swiss franc, Switzerland has imported more cheese than it has exported in some recent months — an unhappy state of affairs for producers of Gruyère and Emmental. “It would be great to get back to a reasonable exchange rate,” says Manuela Sonderegger, of Switzerland Cheese Marketing.

A real world impact of the exchange rate moves although of course it will take a while for the weaker level of the Swiss Franc to have any significant impact.

Comment

There is quite a bit to consider here so let us look at what is in play. We cannot rule out that this is a consequence of thin summer markets but it is also true that a weakening has been in play for a few months. One initial driver may have been the strong phase of the US Dollar offering an alternative but the main player now is the Euro area. The better phase for it economically is now being accompanied by a stronger Euro signalled by the way it has moved above 1.18 versus the US Dollar and in a lesser way by the UK Pound £ being just under 1.12.

Thus the SNB will be hoping for a continuation of the stronger Euro and thus has a vested interest in the next move of Mario Draghi and the ECB. It will be hoping that it will withdraw more of its stimulus measures once the summer and indeed elections are over. Of course now the web gets increasingly tangled as the ECB will not be that keen on further rises in the Euro as it moves it reduces its “price stability” target. This particular currency war is now in the world of strength rather than weakness which of course sends another Ivory Tower or two collapsing as we note there is still 60 billion Euros a month of QE from the ECB.

Also if we look wider there will be implications. For example we may hear a sigh of relief from eastern Europe but also what if the rally continues and the SNB gets the chance to trim its reserves. As it has been a factor in driving equity markets higher would it be a sign of a turn? That is a fair way away from here but much more nearby has been the recent disarray in the claimed safe haven of Bitcoin. It makes me wonder if this has impacted the Swiss Franc but am struggling to think of a causal link.

Let me finish with another potential consequence which would be quite a change which would be an interest-rate rise in Switzerland. Could it get away from negative interest-rates before the next downturn strikes or is it trapped there?

 

Brazil has its very own currency war

This week has been one where the political topic of impeachment has affected financial markets. Like so many things these days it started with the Donald but then as the week developed headed south to the sound of samba music. From the BBC.

Brazilian President Michel Temer says he will not quit, amid allegations he authorised paying bribes to silence a witness in a huge corruption scandal……….Opposition parties have been demanding snap elections and his impeachment.

This would add to the impeachment of the previous President Dilma Rousseff in what must now seem something of a conveyor belt to ordinary Brazilians.

The Real

As events unfolded I was reminded of the famous statement from Brazil’s Finance Minister from September 2010.

“We’re in the midst of an international currency war, a general weakening of currency. This threatens us because it takes away our competitiveness,” Mr Mantega said. By publicly asserting the existence of a “currency war”, Mr Mantega has admitted what many policymakers have been saying in private: a rising number of countries see a weaker exchange rate as a way to lift their economies. ( Financial Times)

Back then he was complaining mostly about the US Dollar which had fallen by around 25% against the Brazilian Real as the US Federal Reserve expanded its balance sheet after large interest-rate cuts. Well presumably he would have been happier with what happened yesterday although probably not the cause.

The real tumbled 8 per cent to 3.38 against the US dollar, wiping out all of this year’s gains and taking the currency back to its level of last December. The real had been trading below 3.10 to the dollar as recently as Wednesday.

If we look back we see that Finance Minister Mantega has in more recent years much to cheer if he was a fan of a lower currency. Back in September 2010 when he made his speech some 1.7 Reals purchased a single US Dollar so approximately half the current rate. In fact the Real had been even lower as it had fallen to more than 4 versus the US Dollar in late 2015 and early 2016. In more recent times it has rallied as foreign investors purchased Brazilian assets in the hope that the reforms of the current President would improve the economy.

You may like to note that the currency fall took place in spite of the fact that Brazil has interest rates that seem rather extraordinary from our continent of near zero and indeed negative official ones.

the Copom unanimously decided to reduce the Selic rate by one percentage point, to 11.25 percent per year, without bias.

Although as you can see they have been easing policy in 2017.

Equity markets and leverage

These plunged as well and led to a moment which will have Snoopy from the Peanuts cartoons back on the roof of his kennel wailing “When,when,when will I ever learn……?”

The 3x Brazil ETF ends the day down 48.2%, the largest single day decline for an ETF in history. Maravilhoso.  ( @charliebilello ).

Ouch! Although someone did suggest there has been a worse decline.

Not quite. There was a certain Europe listed 5x Swiss Franc ETF that did worse on a certain Jan day in 2015. ( @garobhai)

What was that about sorrows coming in battalions rather than single spies?

An economic depression

I have looked at the economic woes of Brazil before and note the central banker euphemisms of the Central Bank of Brazil.

The economy continues to operate with a high level of economic slack, reflected in the low industrial capacity utilization indices and, mainly, in the unemployment rate.

Yesterday the Brazilian statistics office released its latest unemployment data.

In the 1st quarter of 2017, the compound labor underutilization rate (which aggregates the unemployed persons, time-related underemployed persons and potential workforce) stood at 24.1%, which represents 26.5 million persons. In the 4th quarter 2016, for , this rate was of 22.2% and, in the 1st quarter of 2016, it was 19.3%.

Well played to them in having an underemployment rate rather than an unemployment one. Unfortunately it is not only high it is rising quite sharply and as an aside it reminds us that Brazil has a large population. It is not quite so easy to find the unemployment rate itself but I did finally spot it.

The unemployment rate ( 13.7%) advanced in all Major Regions in the 1st quarter of 2017 in relation to 4th quarter of 2016.

If the double-digit rate of unemployment is to fall then Brazil will need some economic growth but last Friday’s service data showed the reverse.

In March, the services sector recorded decrease of 2.3% in the volume of sales over the previous month (seasonally-adjusted series), after having recorded a growth of 0.4% in February (reviewed) and 0.0% in January (reviewed). This is the highest decrease of the series initiated in 2012….

Compared to a year ago there has in fact been a sharp decline.

In the non-adjusted series, in the comparison with March 2016, the sector posted decrease of 5.0%, following the downward trend of 5.3% in February (reviewed) and 3.5% in January. With such results, the cumulative rate in the year stood at -4.6% and, in 12 months, at -5.0%.

The retail sales sector is not helping either.

In the seasonally-adjusted series, the extended retail trade – which includes retail plus the activities of vehicles, motorcycles, parts and pieces and of construction material – once again registered a negative change in volume of sales over the immediately previous month (-2.0%)…….Compared with March 2016, the extended retail trade retreated 2.7% in volume of sales (34th consecutive negative rate) and -1.2% in nominal revenue.

34 months of declining retail sales is yet another depressionary signal is it not?

What about inflation?

The picture had been improving although the level is high for these times.

The Extended National Consumer Price Index (IPCA) of April recorded a change of 0.14%……..In the last twelve months, the index was down to 4.08%, below the 4.57% result of the previous month, becoming the lower rate in 12 months since July 2007, when it was at 3.74%

The fall was mostly due to something of a shambles on the electricity front although of course Brazil is far from alone in that.

The 6.39% drop in the item electricity represented discounts over bills, as a result of the decision of the Brazilian Electricity Regulatory Agency (Aneel), so as to make up for the overcharge, in 2016, of the so-called Reserve Energy Charge (EER) destined to pay the Angra III power plant.

The price of chocolate went up by 10.23% on an annual basis which is yet another country that does not reflect falls in the price of cocoa.

Comment

So far I have avoided looking at the economic depression in growth or Gross Domestic Product terms so let us now catch up with that.

In 2016, the GDP fell 3.6% in relation to the previous year, slightly lower than the 2015 result, when it had been 3.8%. There were drops in Agriculture (-6.6%), Industry (-3.8%) and Services (-2.7%). The GDP totaled R$ 6,266.9 billion in 2016.

The GPD fell 0.9% in the 4th quarter of 2016 against the 3rd quarter, considering the seasonally adjusted series. It is the eighth consecutive negative result in this kind of comparison. Agriculture grew 1.0%, whereas Industry (-0.7%) and Services (-0.8%) fell.

The only real ripple of good news I can find is that wheat production has been strong in 2017 so far so maybe agriculture will continue to grow. I note that the central bank was not especially optimistic in its April report and neither was the Markit manufacturing survey from earlier this month although it did not expect a further decline.

However, rising from 49.6 in March to 50.1 in April, the latest reading was indicative of broadly unchanged business conditions facing goods producers.

So the political and financial crisis as so often is hitting an economy when it is already down. I also note that when a shock hits even interest-rates of 11.25% do not protect a currency which is a lesson that has been taught many times before. Although for buyers of the Real at current levels there are likely to be fewer interest-rate cuts in 2017 now for obvious reasons. For s start the lower currency if sustained will lead to higher inflation.

As to quality of life even the recent Olympics has been seen to have a dark side. From the Guardian yesterday.

The area where most of our homes once stood is now a large concrete car park that is usually empty and insufferably hot. It is sad. There used to be 650 families here. Today, there are 20……..Hosting was a mistake. When the Games were over, those that already had money and investments – the hotel owners, businessmen, building companies, tourist agents and government officials – were better off, while the country and the people were left with the bill.

What is the economic impact of the post Brexit UK Pound fall?

Yesterday saw England rudderless and confused with a poor performance from Sterling. But enough about the football although let me congratulate Iceland and wish them good luck in the next round. As we have a spell of market calm this morning with the FTSE 100 up 2% at 6100 as I type this and even the poor battered UK Pound £ rising above US $1.33 there are opportunities to take stock. An early lesson is a type of shock effect both emotionally and in the way that financial markets can move far far faster than the economy can respond. Whilst it has many flaws in other areas rational expectations economics has some success here although of course the obvious rejoinder is what do we rationally expect now?

Ratings Agency Downgrades of the UK

Once upon a time these bodies bestrode the world and economic agents were afraid of them . If they sliced a notch off a credit rating then the “bond vigilantes” would ride into town driving sovereign bond yields higher and making it more expensive for that country to borrow. The credit crunch hurt them in two ways starting with the way that debt they rated as “AAA” turned out to be a lot further down the alphabet in reality. Also as events like the Euro crisis hit they ended up chasing events rather than leading. They have survived because the need for measurement and analysis has risen in the credit crunch era and that has offset to some extent the plummet in their credibility.

So let us get to what they told the UK yesterday. From Standard and Poors

Ratings On The United Kingdom Lowered To ‘AA’ On Brexit Vote; Outlook Remains Negative On Continued Uncertainty.

This had particular emphasis for headline writers as it was the last of the ratings agencies to have the UK as AAA. Around 5 years ago I pointed out that we did not really deserve such a rating as whilst we have our own currency and could always print as much as we wanted that would likely be accompanied by a lower value of the UK Pound £. Also Fitch wanted a slice of the action as Reuters reported.

Fitch Ratings cut Britain’s credit rating on Monday and warned more downgrades could follow, joining Standard & Poor’s in judging that last week’s vote to leave the European Union will hurt the economy.

Fitch downgraded the United Kingdom’s sovereign rating to “AA” from “AA+” and said the outlook was negative – meaning that it could further cut its judgment of the country’s creditworthiness.

Some kept a sense of humour about it all.

Fitch downgrades UK to AA/neg now (@NicTrades )

A Wider Perspective

These days the story does not end there as you see there are much wider trends and themes at play. Overnight we have seen yet another example of the move lower in sovereign bond yields.

| *JAPAN’S GOVERNMENT BONDS ALL YIELD LESS THAN 0.1% FOR 1ST TIME

Apologies for the capitals used. If we move beyond that there is plenty of scope for reflection that the highest sovereign yield in Japan is not even 0.1%! Each time we see such a move I point out that business models which depend on yield such as pensions and annuities cannot work anymore.  The ten-year yield is now -0.22% which fits poorly with all the proclamations of economic recovery. Overall we see this.

Japan’s long yields on the road to zero. 40-year falls to record 0.08%, some 80% of JGB market is now sub-zero ( @HaidiLun )

Back in the UK

The story of the bond vigilantes riding into town has quite a reverse here. It was only yesterday that I pointed out that our benchmark 10 year Gilt had seen its yield fall below 1%. So yields are surging today in response to the downgrade? Er well no, as it is at 0.97% as I type this so on the edge of all-time lows ( since 18th century according to Ed Conway of Sky). This is a little higher than the lowest of yesterday but not much and this of course is a response to the higher level of the stock market. The thirty year Gilt yield is at 1.83% which in terms of my time following it is simply incredible.

So those looking for a response to the ratings downgrade only have inverse responses with Gilt yields extraordinarily low and the stock market and UK Pound £ rallying.

The impact of the lower UK Pound £

There have been a lot of headlines about the UK Pound £ saying it is a 31 year low or was yesterday. Many have forgotten to point out this is against the US Dollar which of course has been in a strong phase and overall we have seen falls but mostly smaller ones elsewhere such as to 1.20 versus the Euro.

As we have reached a calmer phase I can complete some calculations as the Bank of England only compiles its trade weighted index daily and is based on yesterday’s close. Thus we came into 2016 at just over 90 and are now at approximately 80. So using the old Bank of England rule of thumb we have seen a move equivalent to a Bank Rate reduction of 2.5% so far in 2016. Compared to this time last year it is more like 3.25%.

We can expect an inflationary push as well especially as the fall has been loaded towards the US Dollar. Many basic commodities will be seeing a push higher from this as it added to a falling trend anyway although there will be some offsetting from the falls in the oil price over the past few days. Over the past year the oil price (Brent crude oil -24%) has fallen more than the UK Pound £ (-15%) but over the last week it has fallen by less. So upwards but not by as much as those who have missed the oil price fall have suggested.

Comment

There continues to be much to consider as a multitude of economic events occur together. What it shows us is how tightly the world financial and economic system is tied together. Some of this is good as in manufacturing efficiency but some of it is not so good as complacency and bluster about the banks turns to near panic in an instant. On that subject whilst he is not always right this poses a question. From De Welt.

George Soros is betting 100 million Euros against Deutsche Bank

Meanwhile we have received an increase in uncertainty followed by an inflationary economic boost provided by the fall in the UK Pound £. Just what some at the Bank of England have called for over the years so it is no surprise to see former Governor Baron King reappearing in the news. In fact quite a few economists have called for that although it is nice to see the Resolution Foundation backing up one of my themes.

Housing wiped out 2/3 of post-2002 income gain. RF report on underplayed role of housing in living standards squeeze.

Steve McClaren

If you need some light relief at a difficult time you should watch this rather spectacular effort.

 

 

 

Monetary policy seems to have been delegated to the currency markets

Last night was simply superb at what might be called the battle of Stamford Bridge where at times an exciting football match broke out leading to a 2-2 scoreline which meant that previously lowly Leicester City are champions of the premier league. Well done to them and their fans and it was a shame that the sonic booms of the RAF Typhoons in the air were over another town beginning with a L namely Leeds. It makes me think how bad we are as humans at comparing events with perceived ultra low probability. From Hilary Evans.

Betting odds in August. Leicester to win Premier League 5000-1 Elvis to be found alive working in a chip shop in Macclesfield 2000-1

Oh and the 2000-1 bet was probably influenced by fans of this song from Kirsty MacColl.

There’s a guy works down the chip shop swears he’s elvis

However there is another event or two be precise two events taking place now that according to economic theory should not be happening and we find them in the currency markets.

The currency depreciators in fact appreciate

There has been a change in 2016 and what it represents is that the two main central banks which are trying to lower their currency have in fact seem them rally. This morning there were two clear notable sights in markets as the Euro pushed towards 1.16 versus the US Dollar and the Japanese Yen strengthened though 106 to 105.6. This will have Mario Draghi of the ECB spluttering on his morning espresso or cappuccino and perhaps ordering an extra glass of chianti with his lunch. Actually as Mario notes that around a third of the new bank rescue fund for Italy has already been used he may raise his chianti order to the whole bottle!

Meanwhile in Japan Governor Kuroda will not be in a mood to celebrate the 3 day Golden Week break and of course if anyone has had an anti-Midas touch it is him. As in essence the policy of Abenomics he was appointed to enforce involved a lower Yen there is an obvious problem with it rising. In fact even hard-core supporters must be struggling to name an arrow of Abenomics that is even partially working right now and I wait to see how the many in the media deal with this reality.

Let us analyse the scale of what has taken place here. It reminds me of quite a few instances in UK economic policy where the UK Pound £ has done exactly the reverse of both plans and hopes for it.

The Euro

As a backdrop we need to recall that the ECB has cut its deposit and current account interest-rate to -0.4% and raised its monthly amount of QE (Quantitative Easing) bond purchases to 80 billion Euros a month, or just shy of a trillion a year. What has it got for that?

If we look at the chart against the US Dollar we see that the falls were in 2014 and early 2015 and that over the past year the Euro is now up by over 3%. This fits with my theory that the main currency falls from a policy of QE happen in advance of it as expectations build and that the reality of it sees a situation where the boat often has already sailed. If we look at the effective or trade weighted exchange rate it fell from 104 to 89 in early April 2015 but has since rallied to 95.

A couple of years ago we did get a “Draghi Rule” for measuring the impact of all this.

Now, as a rule of thumb, each 10% permanent effective exchange rate appreciation lowers inflation by around 40 to 50 basis points.

So the same inflation which he is trying to raise will in fact be reduced by around 0.3% by the Euro strength.

Oh and the ECB is also pot-shotting at the behaviour of other central banks. Whilst I welcome that it is catching up a little with my “early-wire” theme it seems to have forgotten that it used to give private-briefings to hedge funds.

Eleven out of these 21 announcements exhibit some pre-announcement price drift in the “correct” direction, i.e., in the direction of the price change consistent with the announcement surprise. For seven of these announcements the drift is substantial.

 

The Yen

Whilst the Yen has been something of a currency twin with the Euro it has been in the worst place as you see it has rallied against it as well. Cue more pictures of Governor Kuroda with his face in his hands. Back in late 2014 it just failed to make 150 Yen per Euro compared to the 122.5 now. Thus the Yen has surged and with apologies for it being tardy with updates but the trade weighted Yen courtesy of the Bank of England has risen from 127 to 141 over the past year.

Sadly the Bank of Japan has not published any form of the Draghi Rule as I suppose it is anti their culture. But of the rules we do have I think it applies the most so we see that inflation will be some 0.6% lower due to the appreciation over the past year. The calculation assumes we remain here as do the ones above and they give plenty of food for thought.

Another way of looking at the situation is that Abenomics has jumped into the TARDIS of Doctor Who and travelled back to November 2013.

The UK

There has been a reversal here too as the falls of early 2016 have been followed by a recovery to US $1.47. The trade weighted index has recouped about half of its earlier losses with in essence the 2016 falls being against the two currencies discussed above. Of course so much is in flux but with UK manufacturing weak and the Pound stronger we could easily see someone at the Bank of England vote for a Bank Rate cut. At which point we see yet another reversal for Forward Guidance.

Australia

If we look to the land “down under” we see that the Reserve Bank of Australia cut interest-rates by 0.25% to 1.75% this morning. This did seem to be aimed at one particular target.

though an appreciating exchange rate could complicate this.

As the “Aussie” has fallen I guess they will be happy. Those familiar with the UK experience will feel a chill down their spines as the note the use of “rebalancing” in a situation proving central banks all borrow from each other.

The US Dollar

Here we get the most awkward situation for economic theory as it is raising interest-rates and therefore should have a strong dollar. Reality by contrast fits much more nicely with my anticipation and expectation theme especially as the Federal Reserve seems to have forgotten and redacted its own Forward Guidance. The Dollar Index had a couple of goes at passing 100 but now is at 92. According to US Federal Reserve vice-Chair Fischer that will raise GDP by between 0.8% and 1.2%

So we have the country which was tightening monetary policy via interest-rate rises ( although in reality we do not need the plural as only one has happened so far) and a higher currency is now seeing easing via currency falls. Oh what a tangled web and all that..

Comment

I have left one elephant in the room until now which is the supposed existence of a Shanghai Accord. Some elements of it do seem to be in play but I am cautious about conspiracy theories especially in currency markets. Maybe that is because I am British as the UK Pound £ has spent so much time at the “wrong” level meaning that we have not been able to control it! Maybe just the existence of the theory has contributed to what we have seen especially as we note that the moves were already in play well before the accord.

But as the moment most currencies seem to be getting what their central banks do not want! Still according to the Rolling Stones that may not be all bad.

You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometime you find
You get what you need

 

 

 

 

Currency Wars continue to rage in the Far East

Today we travel to the other side of the world to review a small country which departed from a larger companion in 1965. But do not worry I am not looking at implications for Brexit today but noting the salvo fired this morning in the currency wars by the city-state of Singapore. Here is the statement from the Monetary Authority of Singapore or MAS.

 MAS will therefore set the rate of appreciation of the S$NEER policy band at zero percent, beginning 14 April 2016.

This replaced this.

 In October 2015, MAS kept the Singapore dollar nominal effective exchange rate (S$NEER) policy band on a modest and gradual appreciation path, but reduced its rate of appreciation slightly.

Which replaced this from January 2015.

MAS will therefore continue with the policy of a modest and gradual appreciation of the S$NEER policy band.  However, the slope of the policy band will be reduced.

These policy moves represent a clear change from the previous policy of currency appreciation. This started in 2012 and was an anti-inflation measure. However back in January 2015 the MAS was noting this.

The depreciation of the S$ against the broad-based strength of the US dollar was partly offset by the appreciation of the S$ against the Malaysian ringgit, euro, and Japanese yen. Thus, movements in the S$NEER have been relatively muted compared to bilateral S$ movements against the major currencies.

So they were seeing a feature of the times as we note that in addition to its domestic neighbour we see that 2 of the main currency depreciators are on the list and on the other side the strong US Dollar was on the list too. Even effective or trade weighted exchange rates can be an example of “you can’t always get what you want” to quote the Rolling Stones. The switch today seems to be an example of trying “to get what you need” as Singapore sets out a plan which no longer includes a rising currency.

At this point let me pose the question, how many countries these days will accept a rising currency and where does that leave those who want theirs to fall?

Why have they done this?

If we look at the outlook for inflation and growth we see this.

CPI-All Items inflation will remain negative throughout 2016……..According to the Advance Estimates released by the Ministry of Trade and Industry today, the Singapore economy registered 0% growth on a quarter-on-quarter seasonally adjusted annualised basis in Q1 2016, following the 6.2% expansion in Q4 2015.

Ouch! That is quite a growth slow down is it not? Anyway in a familiar theme it is all apparently Johnny Foreigner’s fault.

The outlook for the global economy has dimmed since October…….held down by sluggish external conditions….a less favourable external environment……subdued growth in Singapore’s major trading partners.

Can we continue all blaming each other? That is a clear central banking theme these days as they all sing along with Lilly Allen’s album “It’s not me it’s you” Also I note the use of the current central banking buzzword “vigilant”.

Also you may note that there is no change to interest-rates. I suspect that having reduced its deposit rate to 0% the MAS has – wisely in my view – decided not to plunge into the icy cold world of negative interest-rates, for now at least.

Oh and there was a time where mild disinflation and a growth rate expected to be between 1 and 3% in 2016 would have been seen as an economic nirvana. How times change….

Never believe anything until it is officially denied!

From the MAS

This is not a policy to depreciate the domestic currency,

From Bloomberg

Singapore’s dollar slid 1.2 percent to S$1.3667 to the U.S. currency as of 6:51 a.m. in London, the biggest drop since Aug. 11.

Actually it also took a few other currencies with it as the phrase “competitive devaluations” came back into use.

New Zealand’s dollar tumbled 1.2 percent to 68.38 U.S. cents, the ringgit declined 0.9 percent to 3.9088 per dollar and Indonesia’s rupiah weakened 0.4 percent to 13,210.

Actually the South Korean Won fell by as much too.

Japan and the Yen

There is quite an irony in the Yen being described as an appreciator and there will be much chuntering into their sake at both the Bank of Japan and the Ministry of Finance at this description. But we know that in spite of this weeks decline the Yen at 109.2 versus the US Dollar is up some 8.5% on a year ago. They are of course still “watching” it although today’s spokesman seems to have been smoking something strong.

CHIEF GOVT SPOKESMAN: CAUTIOUS OF ONE-SIDED FOREX MOVES, READY TO TAKE APPROPRIATE STEPS IF NEEDED. (h/t @moved_average)

Oh and as of this morning the Yen has strengthened against many of its neighbours as they follow the Singaporean Dollar lower. Indeed the Yen weakened after comments like this. From Bloomberg.

Even if Japan wants a weaker yen, any government action would be futile as “Abenomics is nearing its best-before date,” said Eisuke Sakakibara, in charge of intervention at the Ministry of Finance from 1997 to 1999. He said an expansion of Bank of Japan stimulus would only temporarily slow the yen’s gains to 100 by year-end.

He picked the turn nicely.

China

Here the foreign exchange news gets swamped by the US Dollar exchange rate but the official communique at the beginning of this month said this.

On March 31, 2016, the CFETS RMB exchange rate index closed at 98.14, losing 1.50 percent from the end of February;

The new effective exchange rate has fallen from 100.94 at the turn of the year to 97.64 now so China’s leaders will have been reflecting on a gradual depreciation so far in 2016. This will be welcome as they struggle to keep the dream alive.

However whilst a 0.8% fall against the Singaporean Dollar to 4.75 may not be a major factor in Chinese calculations the fact that other currencies have fallen with it changes things. We will have to wait and see how they respond to this. They will also be noting that the Euro has drifted lower like the Yen this week as the currency environment shows a hint of ch-ch-changes.

Comment

The MAS has decided that a lower currency is something to which they can sing along to with The Cars.

I guess you’re just what I needed
I needed someone to feed
I guess you’re just what I needed
I needed someone to bleed

The environment has changed as they usually only make such a move in response to a recession and further food for thought is provided by the fact that at the end of last year economic growth was at 6.2%. Is that a new lower bound?

As to other devaluation/depreciation efforts we wonder in terms of album titles, Who’s next?

Still I guess those selling property near me in Nine Elms and at Battersea Power Station will be very grateful if new Far Eastern buyers emerge ahead of any future competitive devaluations. According to the mood music from there they may be sorely needed……

BP

Large losses seem to have been accompanied by a large pay rise for the Chief Executive and this response raised a smile.

think of how much bigger the loss could have been if he wasn’t being properly incentivised! (h/t @RealFinney)