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Archive for November, 2007

Fed to Cut Rates Next Month?

Nov. 30th 2007

In recent speeches, two high-ranking officials from America’s Federal Reserve Bank gave conflicting indications regarding the likelihood of rate cuts next month. Both officials were deliberately ambiguous in their speeches, though one went so far as to rule out a rate cut while the other hinted at its inevitability. Nonetheless, analysts used the speeches to buttress their conclusion that a rate cut is probable. In fact, the futures market has priced in a 94% chance that rates will be cut by 25 basis points at the next meeting, on December 11. Likewise, it seems a rate cut has already been priced into the USD, which was virtually unaffected by this story. MSNBC reports:

On the currency markets, the heightened expectations of a US rate cut cut did little to hurt the dollar, as investors took the view that the currency’s recent weakness had gone far enough.

Read More: Fed stance sends equities soaring

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Central Banks, US Dollar | No Comments »

Gulf States to End Dollar Peg

Nov. 28th 2007

Earlier this week, we reported that the members of OPEC are mulling the possibility of pricing oil contracts in a basket of currencies, rather than solely in Dollars.  In a
related move, the members of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) are also rethinking their exchange rate policies. Currently, the members of the GCC, consisting of United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain, all currently peg their respective currencies to the Dollar, in some form or another.  However, this policy is being scrutinized as a result of the falling Dollar, which has dragged down GCC currencies proportionately and triggered double-digit inflation.

In fact, Kuwait has already de-linked its currency from the USD and instead pegged it to a basket of currencies, so as to give it more flexibility in conducting monetary policy.  This represents the most likely course for the rest of the GCC, since it would allow them to maintain exchange rate stability while increasing their flexibility in conducting monetary policy.  This policy change, combined with the potential switch in oil pricing among OPEC nations, bodes ill for the Dollar. At the very least, it would result in decreased demand for USD and for Dollar-denominated assets. At worst, it would result in active diversification, of rotating foreign exchange reserves into assets denominated in other currencies, to support the new peg.

Read More: Countdown to lift-off

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Indian Rupee is Stabilized

Nov. 27th 2007

India’s forex reserves are growing at nearly $20 Billion every month and are quickly
approaching $300 Billion.  Of course, accompanying this windfall are the inevitable questions about what to do with the money.  The Royal Bank of India (RBI) had determined that at most, the Indian economy can absorb $50 Billion a year.  Accordingly, the bulk of the capital inflows are “sterilized” through the issuance of forex stabilization bonds, which are aimed both at controlling inflation and limiting the appreciation of the Indian Rupee.  Unfortunately, due to already-high inflation in India, the RBI must pay a higher rate of interest on the stabilization bonds than it is earning on the underlying assets, which means the scheme is a losing proposition.  The Economic Times reports:

The RBI is also hesitating to allow further appreciation in exchange rate. While it can allow appreciation of the exchange rate to avoid injecting liquidity (by way of buying dollars and selling rupees), it is concerned about the fact that it is already over-valued.

Read More: The 250-bn dollar question of capital inflows

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Central Banks, Emerging Currencies | No Comments »

The End of Petrodollars?

Nov. 26th 2007

Currency traders who have done their homework are no doubt well aware that one of the countervailing forces to the Dollar’s decline is the so-called petrodollar phenomenon.  In short, because oil contracts are settled in USD, the global demand for USD is held artificially high.  However, due primarily to the rapid decline of the Dollar, the members of OPEC are studying the feasibility of pricing oil in terms of a basket of currencies, rather than solely in terms of Dollars. This proposal is still in the earliest stages of planning, and it’s not yet clear exactly how it would work.  One thing is certain: if such a change were implemented, the decline of the Dollar would accelerate.  OPEC is scheduled to hold several high-level meetings over the next month, which should produce further developments. Reuters reports:

Venezuela’s Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said…“The need to establish a basket of currencies … will probably be a point of discussion in the next OPEC summit.”

Read More: OPEC to study currency basket for pricing

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Politics & Policy, US Dollar | No Comments »

Brazil Continues to Intervene

Nov. 22nd 2007

For nearly two months, the Central Bank of Brazil was content to sit on the sidelines and watch its currency, the Real, appreciate rapidly against the Dollar.  Beginning on October 8, however, the Central Bank has intervened in forex markets every day as part of a targeted effort to depress the Real.  Its efforts have been relatively straightforward; rather than issue currency stabilization bonds, the Central Bank has opted to purchase massive quantities of Dollar-denominated assets in the open market, bringing its foreign exchange reserves to $168 Billion.  Moreover, its efforts have been largely successful, as the Real has fallen slightly against the Dollar during this period of intervention.  However, logic (and past experience) dictate that as soon as it stops intervening, the Real will resume its  previous (upward) course against the Dollar. Bloomberg News reports:

Foreign flows into Brazilian financial markets and booming commodity exports have made the real the best performer against the dollar this year among the 16 most-actively traded currencies tracked by Bloomberg, gaining 20 percent.

Read More: Brazilian Currency Falls After Central Bank Buys U.S. Dollars

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Central Banks, Emerging Currencies | No Comments »

Carry Trade Continues to Suffer

Nov. 21st 2007

The carry trade is officially unwinding, if not coming to an outright end; the result is that the Yen is belatedly joining the ranks of the rest of the world’s major currencies, which have risen tremendously against the Dollar.  The reason for the sudden weakness in the carry trade (i.e. Yen strength) is volatility.  The US "credit crunch" began to significantly effect US bond and stock market valuations almost four months ago, but the full impact still hasn’t been felt.  The latest development concerns the quarterly earnings release for Freddie Mac, an American company whose main purpose is to provide liquidity to the US mortgage market, through the buying and selling of mortgage-backed securities.  However, Freddie Mac is now bleeding money, and while it is unofficially guaranteed by the federal government, investors are seriously questioning its ability to prop up the ailing market for housing CDOs.  And this uncertainty is causing investors to eschew risk, in short, to abandon the carry trade in favor of more traditional forex strategies.  Reuters reports:

The low-yielding Japanese currency tends to do well in times of risk aversion because investors unwind carry trades that use cheaply borrowed yen to buy higher-yielding currencies.

Read More: Dollar sinks to 2-year low vs yen, euro hits highs

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Investing & Trading, Japanese Yen | No Comments »

Swiss Franc Benefits from Volatility

Nov. 20th 2007

As the Japanese Yen continues to enjoy the carry trade limelight, another currency fulfilling a similar role has been largely overlooked: the Swiss Franc.  While not quite as low as rates in Japan, Swiss interest rates are still extremely modest by international standards. As a result, many carry traders have used the Swiss Franc in much the same way as the Japanese Yen, selling it short in favor of higher-yielding currencies. And, just as the Japanese Yen has begun climbing over the last few months, so has the Swiss Franc.  The volatility in capital markets caused by the credit crunch is just as prevalent in forex markets, and is leading currency traders to eschew yield (high interest rates) in favor of stability, which benefits currencies like the Franc. The Economic Times reports:

Another trader with a multinational bank said with carry trades now coming under heavy pressure and banks being reluctant to fund investors entering into such trades, risk aversion seems to be taking over the global currency markets.

Read More: Swiss franc safe haven for carry trade

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Investing & Trading, Major Currencies | No Comments »

Fed to Hold Rates?

Nov. 19th 2007

In a recent speech, a prominent Federal Reserve Board governor strongly hinted that the Fed would maintain US interest rates at current levels at the Fed’s next meeting.  The Fed is caught in the delicate position of trying to balance economic growth with the specter of inflation.  While technically the Fed is always trying to meditate between these two outcomes, its current position is especially tenuous since the US economy is trending downward while inflation trends upward.  Despite the emphatic claims to the contrary, futures markets are still pricing in a rate cut, setting the stage for a showdown with the Fed.  As usual, the Dollar’s fate hangs in the balance.  The Financial Times reports:

Mr Kroszner said that in the near term "the economy will probably go through a rough patch" with falls in house prices, home construction and subdued consumer spending. He did not rule out a future cut in rates.

Read More: Fed and markets set to clash

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Central Banks, US Dollar | No Comments »

Yen Carry Trade: Going Strong or Coming to an End

Nov. 16th 2007

Yesterday, the Financial Times ran two stories on the Japanese carry trade, painting a seemingly contradictory picture.  The first article profiled the rise in the number of retail forex accounts in Japan, projected to reach 1 million by year-end.  More amazing is the fact that many of these traders are actually quite sophisticated, taking long and short positions in multiple currencies, though of course the most popular bet remains the carry trade, which involves going short the Yen and long a higher-yielding currency.  Meanwhile, as the second article expounded, the Yen carry trade is under pressure, having appreciated nearly 5% against the US Dollar, Euro and Australian Dollar.  The cause is certainly volatility in global capital markets, precipitated by what has been termed a "credit crunch," itself caused by the slump in housing prices. The hoard of Japanese retail investors may have to reverse their positions…

Read More: Pressure grows on yen carry trades and Forex Lures Japanese Investors

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Investing & Trading, Japanese Yen | No Comments »

Why China Should Not Dump the Dollar

Nov. 15th 2007

In fact, China may have to increase its exposure to the dollar, according to the comments of Brad Setser of the Council of Foreign Relations: "In my mind, so long as China resists more rapid appreciation of the renminbi versus the dollar, it’s rather difficult for China to diversify in any meaningful way against the dollar. If China really started to diversify away from the dollar, I think it’s a big enough player that it would put downward additional pressure on the dollar."

And additional downard pressure on the USD should be what China is trying to avoid. China, being the largest exporter to the U.S. does not want to see appreciation of its currency against the USD, as that would make its goods more expensive (and therefore less competitive) in America.

In fact, Setser goes on to say that in order to prevent the USD from sliding even further downward against the RMB, China would have to not only retain its present stock of USD, but in fact buy even more.

Read more: Can China Dump the Dollar?

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Chinese Yuan (RMB), US Dollar | No Comments »

Central Banks Prop up Dollar

Nov. 15th 2007

Yesterday, we posted about the Central Bank of Australia, which intervened on behalf of its currency over the summer. In fact, several Central Banks have either intervened or are in the process of intervening, all with the goal of holding their currencies down (against the US Dollar) rather than lifting them up, as Australia had effected to do.  Columbia has already imposed strict rules governing the inflow of foreign capital, intended to discourage speculation, which is driving up the South American nation’s currency.  Indian regulators have since followed suit with similar rules.  South Korea’s Central Bank, meanwhile, is using slightly different tactics, undertaking a review of forex forward contracts, which it believes (probably erroneously) are interfering with its ability to hold down the Korean Won.  Bloomberg reports:

"Central banks are trying noninterest rate methods to stabilize growth and capital flows.  It’s something extraordinary. They haven’t used these venues for a long time. It’s sort of the last resort the central banks would like to tap."

Read More: Currency Controls Return as Central Banks Fight Gains

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Central Banks, Politics & Policy | No Comments »

Australia Intervened in Forex Markets

Nov. 14th 2007

According to recently-released documents, the Central Bank of Australia intervened on behalf of its currency in August, marking the first such intervention in over six years.  Surprisingly, its purpose in intervening was to lift up its currency, rather than hold it down, which is the reason most central banks intervene.  Apparently, the global credit crunch that flared up over the summer, generated tremendous volatility in forex markets.  As a result, many carry traders- for whom volatility is anathema- quickly unwound long positions in the high-yielding currencies Australia and New Zealand, causing them to plummet.  However, both currencies have since resumed their appreciation, which means any future intervention will likely be aimed at holding the Australian Dollar down. Bloomberg News reports:

The Australian dollar underwent "a particularly sharp depreciation in mid-August as the increase in global risk aversion arising from the credit-market crunch triggered an unwinding of carry trades."

Read More: Australian Central Bank Bought Currency to Ease Market Turmoil

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Central Banks, Investing & Trading | No Comments »

ECB Still Mulling Rate Hike

Nov. 13th 2007

At its last meeting, the European Central Bank (ECB) voted to maintain rates at current levels.  Nonetheless, inflation risks persist, and the ECB has not ruled out the possibility of hiking rates at its next meeting. At the same time, the Euro-zone economy is stalling, and the Bank has the onerous task of balancing these risks in trying to facilitate a "Goldilocks" economy. As a result, the ECB is in "information-gathering mode." Additionally, most of this information is publicly available economic data, and forex traders would be wise to do their own research, since the Euro-USD exchange rate outlook is tied closely to the monetary policy outlook. The Guardian Unlimited reports:

The ECB has said that slower growth in the 13-nation region would have an impact on its policy-relevant medium-term inflation outlook, and Gonzalez-Paramo said currency movements were one factor affecting growth.

Read More: ECB still in data-gathering mode

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Central Banks, Euro | No Comments »

Fed Comments Punish Dollar

Nov. 10th 2007

A recent speech by Ben Bernanke, chairman of the US Federal Reserve Bank, sent the Dollar spiraling downward to fresh lows against all of the world’s major currencies.  This is perhaps surprising, given that Bernanke used the speech to warn that higher-than-expected inflation may drive the Fed to hike rates, which is exactly what Dollar bulls wanted to hear.  The downside of the speech, reflected in the markets’ reaction, was that the primary cause of the inflation is rising oil prices, would could plunge the US economy into stagflation: slow growth and high inflation, an unenviable position if there ever was one.  Forbes reports:

Rhonda Staskow at Thomson’s IFR Markets said: ‘There is no Goldilocks scenario from Bernanke, who sees risks from inflation and an economic slowdown – the worst of both worlds.’

Read More: Dollar sinks after Bernanke speech

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Central Banks, US Dollar | No Comments »

ECB to Hold Rates

Nov. 8th 2007

The European Central Bank (ECB) will likely maintain its benchmark interest rate at 4.00% at its meeting his week.  The Bank of England is also expected to hold its lending rate in place, at 5.75%.  While these two moves should be seen by Dollar bulls as acts of clemency, they are more akin to a stay of execution than to a commutation of its death sentence.  The reasoning is that it is inevitable that the US-EU interest rate difference will be bridged over the next few months, as the Fed continues to lower rates while the ECB is in the process of hiking them.  The only question is when.  Accordingly, analysts will be paying close attention to the language employed by the heads of the various Central Banks at their next meetings to get a sense of timing.

Read More: Dollar hovers above lows

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in British Pound, Central Banks, Euro, US Dollar | No Comments »

China talks up Diversification

Nov. 7th 2007

A high-ranking official in China’s government recently gave a speech urging the Central Bank to (continue to) diversify its vast holdings of foreign exchange, currently estimated at $1.4 Trillion and rising.  The speech was atypical in its level of directness, as Chinese officials tend to speak with a certain degree of circumspection if
they think there is any possibility that their comments will reach the public. Specifically, he advocated making a play on the current volatility in forex markets, by selling “weak currencies” in favor of “strong currencies.”  In fact, the most recent data shows that China is already doing just that: its holdings of US government bonds have declined
even as its reserves have risen.  The Financial Times reports:

Although he later tried to play down his comments, saying he had not been speaking in an official capacity, the damage was done.

Read More: Dollar sinks to new lows

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Central Banks, Chinese Yuan (RMB), US Dollar | No Comments »

The Other Side of the Debate

Nov. 6th 2007

Yesterday, I posted about how market volatility could spell the end of the carry trade, bringing down the Australian Dollar in the process. Today, I will explore the opposite side of the debate, by looking at the factor(s) which support a continued appreciation of the AUD.  A rise in global commodity prices have provided a windfall to Australia, which is rich in natural resources. Unfortunately, the boom in exports and the surge in domestic demand has trickled down in the form of inflation.  As a result, the Central Bank of Australia recently embarked on a campaign of tightening monetary policy.  While this may curb domestic demand, it may attract more foreign capital in the form of carry trades. The gap between US and Australian interest rates is now 2.25%, and looks set to widen further. The Australian Business reports:

The [Australian] dollar’s trade-weighted value rose by 20 per cent between late 2002 and early 2004 but was much slower to respond in the 1970s boom, when the exchange rate was set by government.

Read More: Action needed as current boom echoes overheating of 1970s

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Central Banks, Major Currencies | No Comments »

Volatility Threatens Carry Trade

Nov. 5th 2007

Advocates of the carry trade have long argued that the only thing that could possibly put an end to their fun would be a significant rise in Japanese interest rates, which seems quite unlikely at this point.  However, a new threat to the carry trade has emerged: volatility. Global capital markets have see-sawed over the last few months as credit concerns have surfaced, often related to America’s housing bubble.  This month, the Australian Dollar and New Zealand Kiwi have been the two worst performers among the world’s 17 most actively-traded currencies.  This is notable because these two currencies are most likely to be on the long end of carry trades.  Bloomberg News reports:

The currencies also slid against the U.S. dollar as Citigroup Inc. said it will report as much as $11 billion in additional writedowns, reducing demand for so-called carry trades.

Read More: Australian, New Zealand Dollars Fall on Renewed Credit Concerns

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Investing & Trading, Major Currencies | No Comments »

HK Maintains USD Peg

Nov. 3rd 2007

This week, the Central Bank of Hong Kong intervened in forex markets for the first time in nearly two years, by purchasing over $1 Billion in US government securities.  The intervention was precipitated by fluctuation on the HK Dollar, which had been tending towards the upper end of its tightly controlled trading band.  Strength in the HK economy combined with a strong performance in HK capital markets have sucked large amounts of foreign capital into the Chinese-controlled city-state, which exerted upward pressure on its currency.  Hong Kong’s Central Bank also matched the recent rate cut by the Fed with a rate cut of their own.  Many analysts had put forth the idea that Hong Kong would scrap its peg when the Chinese Yuan slid past it, but this recent move suggests the Dollar peg is here to stay.  The Financial Times reports:

Joseph Yam, HKMA chief executive, said on Thursday: “We again reaffirm that the [Hong Kong] government has been clear in its financial policy and is committed to maintaining the peg.”

Read More: Hong Kong to stick with US dollar

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Loonie Set to Surge Further

Nov. 1st 2007

The Canadian Dollar, or Loonie, recently cleared a 47-year high against the US Dollar.  Its next major milestone is crossing a level last seen in the late 19th century! There are a few reasons for the Loonie’s continued strength, namely interest rate parity and economic strength.  As a result of the Fed cutting rates for the second time in as many months, the Canadian benchmark interest rate is now equal to the American federal funds rate, both at 4.5%.  In addition, record-breaking oil and commodity prices will ensure that Canada’s economy will expand further, perhaps as the same pace as its currency.  Reuters reports:

If the U.S. Central bank signals another rate cut in December, or if it goes against expectations and chops rates by 50 basis points, it could pull the rug out from under an already unsteady U.S. dollar and clear the way for the Canadian currency to shoot higher.

Read More: Loonie eyes 130-year high if Fed makes big rate cut

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Canadian Dollar, Central Banks | No Comments »

200+ Awesome Investing Websites

Nov. 1st 2007

What better way to invest in your future than through the Internet? At any given time of day, and from any Internet connection, you can gain access to investing news and business summaries. You can plan your future through watch lists and online portfolios, as well. You can trade equities, CDs, roll over your IRA and compare fund families – all online and at your convenience. But, with so many sites to choose from, how do you make the right decisions about where to spend your precious time and money?

That’s where we come in – to provide you with the sites that will offer you the most bang for your buck. From analysts to tools for young investors, we’ve broken the sites down into easy-to-manage categories. All categories are in alphabetical order and the sites within those categories also are listed alphabetically. Plus, we’ve added a little commentary to each link to let you know what to expect from these sites.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by Linda Goin | in Investing & Trading | 1 Comment »

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