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Archive for June, 2008

Barclays Introduces New ETN

Jun. 30th 2008

The field of currency exchange-traded products keeps getting better and better. Only a few years ago, the selection of such products was quite small, and limited to the major currencies (i.e. Dollar, Euro, Yen).

Next came the introduction of riskier currencies, namely those of the so-called emerging markets, such as the Mexican Peso, Brazilian Real, Indian Rupee, and most recently the Chinese Yuan. This was followed by multi-currency and strategy funds, such as the Dollar Bearish fund and a Carry Trade fund.

This brings us to the present day, where Barclays Capital has brought to the market the Asian and Gulf Currency Revaluation ETN. As its name suggests, this ETN aims to capture any gains from the revaluation of five select currencies that are currently pegged to the Dollar. Index Universe reports:

The index currently includes the currencies of Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore and China…Many expect these currencies to have their pegs adjusted upward, creating a potentially low-risk investment with significant upside in the event of a revaluation.

Read More: Pegged Currency ETNs

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Indian Rupee at 14-Month Low

Jun. 27th 2008

The Indian Rupee has fallen to a 14-month low as a result of the sagging Indian stock market and surging inflation. Foreign investors have withdrawn $5.7 Billion from the Indian stock market in the first half of 2008, reinforcing the 30% drop in stock prices that occurred over the same time period. Meanwhile, the nation’s benchmark inflation rate has risen to the highest level in nearly 13 years, and investors are clamoring for the Royal Bank of India to do more. The RBI has already raised interest rates as well as intervening on the Rupee’s behalf in forex markets, as indicated by data on the RBI’s foreign exchange reserves. Both moves were explicitly aimed at combating inflation, but may also carry the unavoidable consequence of stunted economic growth. The Rupee will likely continue to be caught in the slipstream. Bloomberg News reports:

"The rupee is under pressure to weaken because the losses in the stock market are raising concern about capital outflows. The currency could fall further if not for support from the central bank.”

Read More: India’s Rupee Falls to Near 14-Month Low on Stock Market Losses

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Fed Holds Rates

Jun. 26th 2008

At its most recent meeting, the Fed voted to hold rates steady at 2%. Only one week ago, 90% of investors (based on interest rate futures) had expected the Fed to lower rates.  What changed? In the words of one columnist, Randall Forsyth, the Fed opted to take a "fork in the road," upon reaching the conclusion that price stability is now just as important as economic growth. Forsyth would be pleased with the Fed’s decision, having argued that the institution is largely responsible for the inflation that it is currently trying to rein in. The record low interest rates following the burst of the dot-com bubble, not helped by the recent loosening of monetary policy, have created a surplus of liquidity. The Fed was abetted by the Central Banks of emerging markets, who by linking their respective currencies to the Dollar have stoked the fires of domestic inflation. In trying to reverse the "liquidity pump" the Fed may likewise be aided by these same Central Banks. Tumbling prices for "economically sensitive" commodities serve as evidence of their respective efforts to clamp down on inflation. Barron’s reports:

"As the liquidity fueled food and energy price bubbles burst, who will believe when headline inflation collapses? It really could happen. Poof!"

Read More: Will The FOMC Take The Fork In The Road?

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The Carry Trade Explained

Jun. 25th 2008

The Carry Trade is one of the simplest strategies in forex, and if executed correctly, can also be one of the most profitable. The basic mechanics of a carry trade involve borrowing in one currency that offers a low interest rate, and selling it in favor of a higher-yielding currency, in order to capture the interest rate spread. This strategy carries two key risks. The first risk is that the "long" currency will depreciate. This also includes country risk, the possibility that political or macroeconomic instability will adversely affect the long currency. Then, there is the risk that the interest rate differential will change such that the spread shrinks, and a smaller carry is earned. For a while, the most popular funding currency was the Japanese Yen, with its negative real interest rates. Now, however, the Dollar has become a popular funding currency, due to low interest rates and a self-fulfilling belief that it will continue to depreciate. It should be noted that there are variations to the carry trade, which may involve combinations of currencies and hedging. SeekingAlpha reports:

Another way of protecting against the downside is to write covered calls. Depending on the size of your investment and your risk preferences, either short selling or writing a covered call will let you sleep better.

Read More: The Burden of the Carry Trade

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US has History of Intervention

Jun. 24th 2008

The looming possibility of forex intervention in response to the Dollar’s continued weakness is causing an uproar in forex circles. Some analysts don’t feel intervention is a real possibility because it is so inconsistent with the ideology espoused by the current US presidential administration. In a piece published in the AsiaTimes, however, one expert noted that the history of the Dollar is also a history of intervention. Even when the Dollar was still linked to the Gold Standard, the Fed intervened by buying or selling gold depending on the result it wanted to achieve. Preceding the stock market crash of 1987, by which point the Dollar was already freely floating, the Fed acted in concert with foreign Central Banks to drive down the value of the Dollar in order to stem a burgeoning trade imbalance. Then, there was the bailout of the Mexican Peso in 1994 which set a precedent for intervention on behalf of the currencies of developing countries. The current situation is somewhat dicey because the Fed is technically obliged to back up the Treasury’s Strong Dollar Policy, but it must balance  this with its other objectives of economic growth and price stability.

Read More: The Fed and the strong dollar policy

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

EU Inflation CounterBalances Oil

Jun. 23rd 2008

Forex analysts reckon the two most powerful forces weighing on the Dollar are commodity prices and European prices, so-to-speak. With regard to commodity prices, it seems plausible that rising commodity prices have contributed to a weaker Dollar, as much as vice versa. Thus, when Saudi Arabia announced recently that it would increase oil production, the Dollar received a nice boost. Conversely, European prices, or inflation, are important for traders to monitor because they represent a proxy for the future of EU monetary policy. Specifically, Eurozone inflation just touched another high, at 3.7%, which analysts point out is now 1.7% higher than the ECB’s stated comfort zone. The likely result is an interest hike in the near-term, which would further widen the differential with US interest rates. Unless, of course, the Fed follows suit with a rate hike if its own. Forbes reports:

"High oil and food prices are already clearly denting any hopes for a pick-up of private consumption but only a severe deterioration of economic confidence indicators might prevent the ECB from pulling the rate trigger at the next rate-setting meeting."

Read More: Euro climbs as inflation figures cement rate hike expectations

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Economic Indicators, Euro, US Dollar | No Comments »

Bright Future for Emerging Currencies

Jun. 20th 2008

At the recent Reuters Investment Outlook Summit, forex was a popular topic of discussion among the investment strategists in attendance. Specifically, many of the participants were bullish about emerging market currencies. This is somewhat ironic, since these currencies have marked one of the few bright spots for the Dollar, which has benefited from a recent trend towards risk aversion as a result of the credit crisis. In addition, the Fed is certainly finished with its current cycle of lowering rates, and may in fact hike rates as early as this year. However, the experts insist that this will be offset by corresponding rate hikes in emerging markets, which are beginning to come to terms with surging inflation. The currencies of Brazil and Malaysia were singled out because they both benefit from rising commodity prices. In addition, all of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) and Mexico, continue to be favored by currency investors. Reuters reports:

A decade of fiscal discipline, political stability and export diversification is also likely to help the Mexican peso in the near term, said…a managing director for foreign exchange products at BMO Capital Markets.

Read More: Emerging markets forex rally still has legs

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Emerging Currencies | No Comments »

Intervention Drawing Near

Jun. 19th 2008

G8 finance ministers met last week to discuss the detrimental effects of rising (commodity) prices on the global economy. Oil prices and commodity prices have in some cases doubled over the last year, contributing  to a nasty surge in worldwide inflation rates. While the Dollar was not technically a topic of the discussion at these particular meetings, it was broached tangentially because of the perceived relationship between the weak Dollar and high commodity prices. Accordingly, Central Bank intervention on the Dollar’s behalf could theoretically be justified on the basis of both mitigating inflation and facilitating global macroeconomic stability. The "I" word hasn’t been mentioned explicitly, but its likelihood increases with every up-tick of inflation and every down-tick of GDP. It is no surprise that in the weeks leading up the actual G8 conference, the Dollar has sustained its strongest rally against the Euro in nearly 3 years. Forbes reports:

Last week Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke flagged a change in Washington by linking the weaker dollar to inflation and saying he was watching the currency closely with the Treasury. Then U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson refused last week to rule out direct intervention in currency markets.

Read More: Oil, dollar dominate runup to G8 inflation talks

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

4 Types of Forex Trades

Jun. 18th 2008

In a recent article for Seeking Alpha, financial journalist Ray Hendon offered an overview on the four principal strategies employed in the forex markets: carry trade, technical trade, fundamental trade, and arbitrage. The carry trade, which involves borrowing in a low-interest rate currency and buying a higher-yielding currency, can be undertaken by either buying ETF(s) or by trading directly using a retail forex account. The ETF route can be further subdivided into two possibilities: to buy a particular currency ETF to take advantage of the spread, or instead to buy one of two ETFs (symbols: ICI & DBV) that use computer models to mimic the carry trade.

Currency traders are probably familiar with the second and third strategies: technical trade and fundamental trade. Hendon refers to the technical trade as "momentum trade" but this is overly simplistic. Traders employing a technical strategy can make use of a range of technical indicators designed to show where a particular currency pair is headed in the short term. On the other end of the time horizon is the fundamental trade, which usually involves a long-term commitment. Fundamental trades make use of differentials between countries/currencies which can involve economic growth, inflation, interest rates, even politics, to try to determine whether a particular currency is undervalued or overvalued. 

Finally, there is the arbitrage trade, in which traders attempt to spot minute differences in currency pairs that trade in different markets. There is also the possibility of triangular arbitrage in which the respective exchange rates between 3 currency pairs aren’t congruent. However, Hendon concedes that such trades have become the bastion of institutional investors which make use of sophisticated computer models to instantly identify and profit from arbitrage opportunities, which limits the average retail trader to the three strategies listed above.

Read More: Strategies for Currency Investors

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Euro Aloof to Irish “No”

Jun. 17th 2008

Over the weekend, the people of Ireland resoundingly rejected the Lisbon Treaty, throwing up roadblock in the way of the most recent attempt to solidify the bond of the EU. Surprisingly, the Euro shrugged off the news and actually rose on the first day of trading following the release of the results. This marks a sharp departure from 3 years ago, when the rejection of a comparable treaty by the people of France and The Netherlands caused a panic in forex markets as analysts sounded the knell of the EU. The explanation for the diverging reactions is that the European Political Union has been de-coupled from the European Monetary Union. In this way, many Europeans may approve of the ECB and the Euro, while remaining skeptical about the loss of national political power at the hands of the EU. According to one expert, even if the political union were to completely dissolve, it is conceivable that the Euro would continue to exist, perhaps even flourish. The New York Times reports:

Certainly, political stalemate has not tarnished the euro so far. Since the rejection of the constitution by France and the Netherlands in 2005, the currency has risen 23 percent against the dollar, becoming an attractive alternative for bond traders and central bankers.

Read More: Despite Irish Vote, the Euro Remains Strong

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

Euro Outshines Yen

Jun. 16th 2008

Most of the stories and analysis featured on the Forex Blog concern the Dollar, or at the very least, how other currencies are performing relative to the Dollar. But there are many important currency pairs that don’t involve the Greenback, including the Euro/Yen. Last week, the Euro climbed to its highest level in 2008 against the Yen, thanks to diverging economies and interest rates. Neither economy is particularly strong, but the Bank of Japan is using especially bearish language to describe its faltering economy. It should be noted that despite a prolonged period of economic growth, the Bank of Japan avoided raising interest rates even once. Meanwhile, the European Central Bank is becoming increasingly hawkish in its monetary policy rhetoric. The result has been a sustained (and soon-to-widen) interest rate differential, which has contributed to a dynamic that is unique to these two currencies. Bloomberg News reports:

The yen fell against every major counterpart today after a government report showed Japan’s longest postwar expansion may be over.

Read More: Euro Climbs to Year’s Highest Against Yen on Rate Speculation

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

Rouble: The Next Reserve Currency

Jun. 13th 2008

Apparently, Russia has aspirations to turn its currency, the Rouble, into an international reserve currency. Moreover, according to an official with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), this plan is not that far-fetched. Despite soaring inflation and political oppression, Russia’s economy is forecast to grow at 8% for the next two years, due primarily to soaring natural resource prices. By its own admission, Russia needs to diversify its economy without inhibiting growth, strengthen its financial system, and conduct monetary policy with price stability in mind. These ambitious steps, combined with continued economic growth, would position the Rouble to be a stable and viable alternative to the Dollar, especially on a regional basis. The Guardian reports:

Russia, with a $1.3 trillion economy at the end of last year, is targeting a place among the world’s top five economies by 2020, [President] Medvedev has said. But he acknowledges the rule of law needs to be strengthened and corruption must be rooted out.

Read More: IMF says rouble could become reserve currency

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

Soros Bearish on Dollar

Jun. 12th 2008

George Soros, one of the most well-respected investors who sits in the same echelon as Warren Buffet, just released his book on the current state of the world’s financial markets. His conclusion is that a "super-bubble" is forming. Connecting to all of the major financial markets, namely property, commodities, and equities, Soros outlines how the expansion in credit that has unfolded over the last 30 years has caused an unsustainable run-up in the prices of most investable assets. Due to the resulting inflation, investors are now fleeing en masse from mainstream securities and parking their money in commodities, triggering a super-bubble therein. With regard to the Dollar, Soros expects the currency to fall as the credit crisis runs its course and Central Banks gradually replace it with more stable currencies. CBC reports:

I think that the dollar is probably still, will emerge as the most widely used currency but the United State will have to abide by the limitations that are imposed on it by the willingness of the rest of the world to hold dollar reserves.

Read More: Bubbles building in financial markets

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Investing & Trading, US Dollar | 1 Comment »

Vietnam Devalues Dong

Jun. 11th 2008

The Central Bank of Vietnam has effectively devalued its national currency, the Dong, to bring it in line with market fundamentals. Pressure had been building under the Dong due to soaring inflation, currently estimated at 25%. While 2% devaluation was small in itself, it caps a 5% drop in the currency since March 25. In addition, the move showed just  how seriousness Vietnam is about restoring macroeconomic stability. Unfortunately, Vietnam’s balance of trade is probably deteriorating faster than it can be repaired, which means the Dong may slide much further. The black market exchange rate is estimated at 18,000:1, compared to the official rate of 16,461:1. Non-deliverable forward contracts imply a 30% depreciation in the Dong in the next year. The Guardian reports:

Fitch Ratings, which lowered its ratings outlook on Vietnam to negative from stable in May, said policy responses have been too slow and too small to deal with the economic pressures.

Read More: Vietnam effectively devalues dong 2 pct

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Emerging Currencies, Politics & Policy | No Comments »

Talking up the Dollar

Jun. 10th 2008

When it comes to forex, the old adage actions speak louder than words doesn’t always hold. In fact, words can be quite effective on their own in holding down or propping up a currency. For a while, the threat of intervention by the Central Bank of Japan was enough to hold down the Yen, despite a lack of supporting action. With regard to the Dollar, several high-ranking economic officials have recently made unsolicited comments implying that traders should think twice about shorting the Dollar. First, Ben Bernanke worried publicly about the effect of the sinking Dollar on inflation. Then, President Bush suggested that the Dollar was undervalued relative to economic fundamentals. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson capped the effort by refusing to dismiss the possibility of coordinated intervention on behalf of the Dollar. While it has been eight years since the US last intervened in forex markets, it looks like investors are taking these threats seriously. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Traders seized on the comments as a signal that the administration — which has never intervened in the markets before — could do so if a dollar rout gets bad enough.

Read More: Intervention, Other Tools On Table for Dollar

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

How Far Has the Dollar Really Fallen?

Jun. 10th 2008

Kurt Brouwer offers his take on the falling USD over at Fundmastery Blog:

Let’s start with how far the dollar has fallen. One problem with our media is that the news of the day is often one-sided and it seldom comes with any historical perspective. For example, do you rememberhearing that the Euro fell to historic lows versus the dollar? Well, as you will see from the chart below, it happened not too long ago. In fact, the Euro fell steadily versus the dollar for the first five years of its existence, beginning in January 1999. It did not get back to even until mid-November, 2003. At the low point for the Euro you could have bought one for 84 cents. Now, it takes a $1.56.

Read more: How Far Has the Dollar Fallen? And Why? — What’s Next?

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in US Dollar | No Comments »

Shekel is One of the Big Boys

Jun. 9th 2008

The Continuous Linked Settlement (CLS) Bank, which performs the thankless job of settling the nearly $4 Trillion in currency trades completed each day, recently announced that it will now settle trades involving the Israeli Shekel. This is quite an honor for Israel, as only 16 other currencies can claim this distinction. Implicitly, the Israeli Shekel has been deemed both important and stable enough to be fully convertible. The announcement marks another positive development for the currency, which has appreciated by an astounding 30% against the Dollar over the last year, including 15% since the beginning of 2008. It is unclear when amateur traders will be able to trade the Shekel, but now that it is included in the CLS roster, it probably won’t be long. YNet reports:

The Bank of Israel has been in contact with CLS on the matter since 2004 and had consistently pushed Israeli banks
to meet the CLS criteria. The induction of the shekel into the CLS system is considered a very important step towards upgrading Israel’s financial infrastructure.

Read More: CLS declares Israeli shekel eligible for international transaction

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Emerging Currencies, Politics & Policy | No Comments »

ECB, Unemployment Weigh on Dollar

Jun. 6th 2008

In the near future, this day may be looked back on as important in the battle between the Dollar and Euro that is currently being waged. The previous month had been relatively kind to the Dollar, which had gradually clawed its way back from a record low against the Euro. Then came yesterday, when Jean-Claude Trichet, leader of the European Central Bank, surprised investors when he announced that not only will the ECB not be cutting rates, but in fact, it may hike them. If enough members of the Central Bank become convinced that inflation is unlikely to abate, the rate hike could come as soon as next month. Today, the knockout punch was delivered, when the US unemployment rate came in at 5.5%. Not insignificant by itself, what was most shocking was that the crucial indicator had risen .5% from last month, its largest increase in more than a decade. Reuters reports:

That should undermine the dollar’s prospects…"The focus is on the unemployment rate, as it’s obviously starting to catch up with the softening in the payrolls figures…and that’s what the market is reacting to."

Read More: Dollar falls as US jobless rate shoots up

Read the rest of this entry »

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China’s Forex Reserves Near $2 Trillion

Jun. 5th 2008

When China’s foreign exchange reserves breached the $1 Trillion mark in November 2006, it was a momentous occasion. Over the following 18 months, however, analysts yawned as the reserves nearly doubled in size. In the month of April, alone, China added an astounding $75 Billion to its stockpile, bringing the total to $1.76 Billion. Analysts attribute this sudden increase to a massive inflow of hot money, as investors seek to profit from both the Yuan’s inevitable appreciation and the widening interest rate spread between China and the US. The Central Bank of China also recently announced the official 2007 trade numbers, which reveal a 49% increase in the country’s current account surplus, to $370 Billion. By no coincidence, this news caused the highest daily appreciation in the Chinese Yuan in more than three months. Bloomberg News reports:

China has allowed a 2.6 percent gain over the past three months, making it Asia’s best performer among the 10 most-active currencies in the region outside Japan.

Read More: Yuan Gains Most in 3 Months on Efforts to Curb Trade Surplus and China’s forex reserves hit 1.76 trillion dollars: report

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

Dollar Rises to 3-Month High

Jun. 4th 2008

After sinking to a record low of $1.60 against the Euro in April, the Dollar has rallied to a 3-month high. According to analysts, the interest rate story appears to have driven the sudden reversal. In short, expectations surrounding the EU-US interest rate differential are changing, such that investors now believe the ECB will begin lowering rates just as the Fed begins hiking them. This story is also consistent with the broader economic picture, whereby the Fed is shifting its attention from the economy to inflation, while the ECB is doing the opposite. Meanwhile, the Treasury yield curve has gradually expanded in order to reflect expectations for higher medium-term interest rates. It doesn’t look like the Dollar will be a funding currency for carry trades for much longer. Thomson Financial reports:

John Noonan, a senior foreign exchange analyst at Thomson IFR, said the hawkish turn in Fed expectations is coinciding with a growing view that the euro zone economy will suffer more from the U.S. economic fallout than previously thought.

Read More: Dollar near 3-month highs vs euro on U.S. GDP revision

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Bernanke: No More Rate Cuts

Jun. 3rd 2008

Over the last few weeks, the focal point of discussion surrounding the current US economic crisis has shifted from economic growth to inflation, and commentators are now invoking the stagflation of the 1970’s. Moreover, the Fed is experiencing mounting pressure to show that it is serious about preventing inflation from spiraling out of control. In a move clearly intended to silence critics, Ben Bernanke announced today that the Fed is finished cutting rates, which stand at a four-year low of 2%. No one had seriously expected the Fed to continue loosening its monetary policy. Thus, analysts are debating whether Bernanke was merely stating the obvious or if instead, he is laying the groundwork for rate hikes, perhaps later this year. In his speech, Bernanke also acknoweldged the sagging Dollar, for its role in stoking inflation. The New York Times reports:

The Fed is continuing to ”carefully monitor developments in foreign exchange markets,” he said. After Bernanke’s remarks, the dollar — which has fallen sharply against the euro in the past year — gained some muscle.

Read More: Bernanke Signals More Rate Cuts Are UnlikelyRead More:

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A Chink in the Euro

Jun. 2nd 2008

The upcoming 10th Anniversary of the European Central Bank is being greeted with a flurry of commentary and analysis of its brief history. The consensus is that both the bank and the Euro currency over which it presides have come a long way. The respect that investors have come to accord the Euro with can be witnessed in its rapid appreciation over the last five years. The ECB has also been singled out for praise for its commitment to fighting inflation.

But the the fact that the overall Euro-zone economy is on solid footing masks some important disparities within.The economies of the so-called PIGS countries (Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain) for example, are faltering in the wake of the credit crisis, while their neighbor, Germany, notched strong quarterly growth of 1.5%. Some of the newest members of the EU are struggling, due in part to the Euro’s rise. This has led some commentators to return to the principal argument that initially opposed the Euro- that the economies of the Euro-zone were and continue to be too diverse, and that it does not make sense for them to be governed by a common monetary policy. Some of the original members, namely Italy, are openly disdainful of the perceived negative impact of the Euro on their respective economies. In fact, it is possible, though unlikely, that a protracted economic recession could lead some of them to abandon the Euro. The Times Online reports:

"The failure of eurozone governments to implement the necessary reforms during the recent good times may eventually sow the seeds of the break-up of the eurozone and the demise of the euro. Nothing lasts forever."

Read More: Reform failures may still kill off the euro

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

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