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Archive for July, 2008

Credit Crisis Could Lift Yen, Franc

Jul. 31st 2008

As the credit crisis has unfolded, the Dollar has remained (relatively) strong, especially considering the deteriorating state of its economy. The reason for this, of course, is that in times of crisis, investors flock to perceived safe havens, such as the US and EU. However, an especially pessimistic series of economic developments has called into question the wiseness of this strategy. A handful of American banks and mortgage institutions have already collapsed, and bankruptcies in all sectors of the economy will surely become more common. The picture in Europe is equally bleak. Several economic indicators have fallen to multi-year lows, and the ECB’s decision to hike rates looks increasingly misguided. Given these circumstances, where can investors turn? Perhaps, to Japan and Switzerland, reports The Market Oracle:

The Swiss franc and the Japanese yen…were the great beneficiaries during the Crash of ’87, the Debt Crisis of 1998 and again during the current credit crisis, enjoying sweeping and massive upward moves.

Read More: Crisis Currencies Poised to Surge as Frightened Capital Flows from Risk to Safety

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Fed Losing Control Over Monetary Policy

Jul. 30th 2008

At the Fed’s most recent monetary policy meeting, two Governors disagreed with the decision to hold rates constant, voting instead to hike rates by .25%. The most noteworthy aspect of the meeting was not the presence of dissent, but rather its irrelevance; it underscored that the Fed has been reduced to playing a largely symbolic role in the determination of American monetary policy. As the Fed cut rates aggressively over the last year, credit markets simultaneously witnessed a tightening of credit conditions. In other words, investors deliberately ignored the actions of the Fed, and market-clearing interest rates remained well above the rates "suggested" by the Fed. Some commentators have connected this to the recent rally in the Dollar, which would have been expected to plummet given such low interest rates. Barron’s reports:

The credit cycle will progress with or without central bankers. If their rhetoric convinces investors of the Fed’s probity, it’s all to the good. But market forces are far stronger, and they’re what should be watched.

Read More: Raise Rates, If It Makes You Feel Better

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

China May Dip Into Reserves

Jul. 29th 2008

Yesterday, the Forex Blog reported that Central Banks and Sovereign Wealth Funds appear to be losing confidence in the Dollar. To follow up with a specific example, a high-ranking Chinese policymaker recently suggested that China should move spend some of its reserves since they are rapidly losing value in RMB terms. The official offered that a portion be used to purchase foreign energy assets, in order to mitigate against both the falling Dollar and rising oil. There is clearly a trend among institutional holders of Dollars to use the currency to purchase US assets. Witness the recent (separate) sales of the Chrysler and GM Buildings to Middle Eastern buyers. With nearly $2 Trillion in foreign exchange reserves, however, China is in a class by itself, and any indication of its frustration with the Dollar should be taken very seriously.

Read More: China Considering Using Forex Reserves

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

FX Intervention: Still Possible

Jul. 28th 2008

Earlier in the week, the Forex Blog reported that the potential for intervention in the forex markets seemed to have declined, due to a brief Dollar rally and toned-down rhetoric at the most recent G8 conference. However, we would be remiss if we didn’t point out that the intellectual justification for intervention remains. While statistics have not been forthcoming, it appears that Sovereign Wealth Funds and Central Banks are paring their exposure to Dollar assets, which is both a cause and effect of Dollar weakness. In addition, the falling Dollar and rising oil prices have reinforced each other, and contributed to surging inflation around the world. Investment Banks are advising clients now would be a perfect time for the world’s economic policymakers to take coordinated action. GoldSeek.com reports:

In his testimony yesterday, Ben Bernanke, stated that “dollar Intervention should be done rarely” but that it “may be justified in disorderly times.”[In addition,] Treasury Secretary Paulson said last month that he would never rule out currency intervention as a potential policy tool.

Read More: U.S. Government To Intervene in Markets to Prevent Run on the Dollar

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Options Portend Currency Moves

Jul. 27th 2008

Typically, only the savviest (or the most foolish) of forex traders dabble in currency options. Leverage is already so high (often exceeding 100:1) when trading forex directly, that the additional leverage gained from trading options can seem unnecessary. However, even if not trading options, you would be wise to at least pay heed to options prices. The reason is that movements in the options market often precedes movements in the forex markets.

To explain further, the premiums built into options contracts serve as a proxy for demand for those particular currencies. When premiums on call contracts, which give the holder the right to buy a particular currency at a fixed price, are unusually high, it signals a "risk reversal;" the currency may be overbought. To offer a practical example, call premiums on EUR/USD contracts are approaching a one-year high, which has led some analyst to speculate that a Dollar rally is just around the corner. MarketWatch reports:

"Whenever risk reversals hit critical levels, it indicates that everyone who wants to be long euros are already long and as a result, sentiment has hit an extreme." The last time euro/dollar risk reversals were that high….a U.S. dollar "relief rally" followed.

Read More: Forex options market held clues to dollar’s moves

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Investing & Trading, US Dollar | No Comments »

Dollar Rangebound, but for How Long?

Jul. 25th 2008

Over the last few months, the Dollar has bounced up and down against the Euro, but never breaking out of a range defined by $1.53 and $1.60. Analysts remain divided not only over if the Dollar will soon break-out, but also over whether its next major move will be upwards or downwards. The recent Dollar upswing has led some to speculate that more permanent strength is inevitable, but naysayers note that this rebound was a product of lowered oil prices, caused by global economic weakness, which is actually Dollar-negative. According to a recent poll, though, the bulls outnumber the bears; the consensus forecast for the Dollar 12 months from now is $1.50. The Wall Street Journal reports:

A Dow Jones Newswires survey last week of 23 analysts forecast the dollar would
begin to recover on longer-term basis.

Read More: Dollar Likely to Extend   Downward Euro Spiral

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Investing & Trading, US Dollar | No Comments »

Dollar Intervention Loses Support

Jul. 23rd 2008

Some analysts are surprised by the evident unwillingness of Central Bankers to intervene on behalf of the Dollar, especially considering how common such "rescue plans" are becoming in other corners of the financial markets. Over the last couple months, all of the momentum that was previously behind intervention has gradually evaporated, such that at the recent G8 Summit, currencies were hardly even discussed. This is somewhat ironic considering the Dollar has resumed its downward trend, and even touched an all-time low against the Euro. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chief Ben Bernanke aren’t willing to completely write off intervention, however. Both have commented explicitly that it is still being mooted as an option. Nonetheless, the current consensus among analysts is that unless the Dollar completely collapses, it’s not likely. The Associated Press reports:

"It would take a rare set of circumstances to get the U.S. right now to intervene," said David Gilmore, a managing partner in Foreign Exchange Analytics in Essex, Conn.

Read More: Don’t count on ailing-dollar bailout

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

AUD: Closer to Parity

Jul. 22nd 2008

After a brief hiatus, the Australian Dollar has resumed its upward march against the Dollar; its next milestone will be a 25-year high against the Greenback. Of course, its continued strength is due to a combination of high domestic interest rates and high commodity prices. In fact, its performance seems to mirror the price of gold, which is no coincidence since gold may be Australia’s most valuable export. In addition, gold has value as a monetary instrument, which means an appreciation in gold can give the Australian Dollar a double-boost by lifting it while simultaneously punishing the US Dollar. With regard its domestic monetary policy, Australian inflation recently passed the 4% mark, which means interest rates (already at 7.25%) are likely to stay high for a while. The countdown to parity continues, reports Bloomberg News:

The local dollar rose to its highest since 2000 against the New Zealand currency before an inflation report tomorrow that may support the case for the Reserve Bank of Australia keeping interest rates at a 12-year high.

Read More: Australian Dollar Trades Near 25-Year High as Commodities Rally

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Canada to Hold Rates

Jul. 21st 2008

The economic picture in Canada is increasingly resembling that of the rest of the world: slowing growth and rising inflation. Likewise, the dilemma faced by the Bank of Canada mirrors that of the ECB and Fed. Even though Canadian inflation is only 2.2%, the Bank of Canada will probably err on the side of caution, by hiking rates rather than lowering them. Then again, analysts don’t expect the Central Bank to take any action for another six to twelve months, based on the expectation that a cooling economy will naturally bring down inflation. That makes this whole debate seem moot, given how much could happen in such a long time frame. Canada.com reports:

Canadians will get a better idea of the central bank’s thinking when it releases its monetary policy update and governor Mark Carney opens himself up to public questioning at a news conference later on its rate-setting decision…

Read More: Bank of Canada expected to steer a steady course on interest rates

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

Forex is Risky

Jul. 18th 2008

Without exception, every time there is a period of sustained volatility in forex markets, a flood of new forex accounts are opened as new traders try to capitalize on the action.  Also, without fail, a concerned journalist inevitably takes it upon himself to warn these would-be profiteers that trading forex is risky, as if that were not abundantly obvious. This past week is a perfect example, as the Dollar touched a record low against the Euro on the basis of credit concerns. One columnist pointed out the significant upside potential of purchasing a CD denominated in foreign currency, but also implored investors to hedge their exposure and limit leverage. His advice: diversify by buying multiple currencies and/or equities for foreign companies and/or exchange traded funds based on hard-to-mimic strategies. Marketwatch reports:

[He] recommends…hedging your bets in you think the dollar will continue to weaken…[through] specialized mutual funds or exchange-traded funds that move inversely to the dollar. He holds the Pro Funds Falling U.S. Dollar Fund

Read More: Foreign currency trading is as risky as it gets

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Investing & Trading, US Dollar | No Comments »

Credit Crisis is “Ongoing”

Jul. 17th 2008

Who’s familiar with the "song that never ends?" How about the credit crisis that never ends? Only a few months ago, the talking heads were trying to convince us that the worst of the credit crunch had already passed, and that analysts had overestimated the amount of the debt that would ultimately need to be written down. Congress was congratulating itself for its economic stimulus plan, and the Federal Reserve was patting itself on the back for engineering an increase in liquidity to the financial markets. Then, without warning, round two (or three, depending on how you count) was ignited as FANNIE MAE and FREDDIE MAC- which together anchor America’s sprawling mortgage sector- announced financing problems. Commentators are already talking about the possibility of a government bailout. Buckle your seatbelts; it’s going to be a bumpy ride. The International Business Times reports:

Continue to monitor this situation, paying particular attention to whether the bigger investment banks are still lending to customers. Any shutdown in the system would be extremely bearish for the Dollar across the board.

Read More: U.S. Financial Market Turmoil Continues to Beat Down Dollar

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

Chinese Yuan Appreciation to Slow

Jul. 16th 2008

In the year-to-date, the Chinese Yuan has already appreciated 6.5% against the USD, the fastest pace since the currency was famously revalued three years ago. This upward pressure has been built largely on the continuing inflow of speculative "hot money," which was itself built on the expectation of further interest rate hikes, ostensibly needed to tame inflation. However, the Central Bank of China recently indicated a slight shift in its monetary policy, backing away from fighting inflation in favor of promoting economic growth. At least until after the Olympic Games conclude, China will henceforth ignore inflation, so as not to precipitate a slowdown that could jeopardize the Games. The Futures markets have been quick to react, and the consensus expectation for 1-year RMB appreciation has fallen from 10% to 5.4%. Bloomberg News reports:

Once the Olympics are out of the way, the vigil on inflation may have to resume. But unless China gets flooded by speculative flows, a one-shot revaluation will remain off the table.

Read More: China Won’t Stamp Out Inflation, Revalue Yuan

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

G8 Ignores Currencies

Jul. 15th 2008

Leading up to last week’s G8 summit in Japan, it was rumored that "volatility" in forex markets would be a hot topic of discussion. Thus, it came as quite a shock to analysts and investors that the final declaration failed to name any specific currencies. Politicians, especially those representing EU member states, seemed equally surprised. Many of them had hoped to at least come to a rhetorical consensus that the Euro was overvalued relative to the Dollar and Chinese Yuan, and perhaps also the Pound. Given that currencies are evidently not as much of a concern outside the EU, it seems unlikely that any kind of coordinated forex intervention will take place in the near-term. Bloomberg News reports:

Exporters in Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, are grappling with the euro’s 15 percent appreciation against the dollar and an 18 percent gain against the pound in the past year. That’s eroding competitiveness just as a U.S.-led global slowdown and record oil prices cool the world economy.

Read More: Merkel Regrets G-8 Failed to Address Currency Swings at Summit 

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

Geopolitics Affect Dollar

Jul. 14th 2008

The narrative in forex markets had recently become so cut-and-dried, that investors may have forgotten that in the long-term, a variety of factors weigh on currencies. Last week, they were sternly reminded of this fact when tensions in the Middle East boiled over and sent the Dollar racing downwards. An Iranian missile launch sparked the initial uproar, but was quickly followed by unrelated violence in Turkey and Iraq. First, the price of oil skyrocketed, and then the Dollar fell, consistent with the inverse correlation which has been observed between the two commodities. It is unlikely that geopolitical tensions will supercede the macroeconomic situation; investors continue to monitor the credit crisis and interest rate differentials with vigilance. Nonetheless, the events in the Mid East served as a warning against tunnel visions when trading forex. Reuters reports:

Analysts said geopolitics could soon take a back seat again once macroeconomic newsflow picks up after a lack of first tier economic releases from U.S. or euro zone.

Read More: Dollar knocked by geopolitical tensions, oil

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Emerging Markets: To Hedge or Not to Hedge?

Jul. 12th 2008

2008 has witnessed an explosion of volatility in emerging markets, affecting both debt and equity securities. Fluctuations have been especially dramatic in the forex markets, compounding the turmoil and skewing returns for foreign investors. The South African Rand and Brazilian Real, for example, have moved so violently that for both countries, a 10% gap distinguishes the returns earned by local and foreign investors. As a result, some institutional investors are re-examining their hedging strategies with regard to emerging markets. According to experts, currency hedging among equity investors is still rare because it is expensive and often complex. If hedging is undertaken at all, it is usually outsourced to a third-party. Some investors are quite dogmatic in their insistence that hedging is a complete waste of money, and argue instead that diversification (into different countries/currencies) represents a "natural" hedge. Since, the net change in exchange rates must ultimately be zero, a diversified, long-term approach to investing in emerging markets may automatically mitigate against currency risk. The Guardian reports:

"Currency movements tend to be noisy but over the long term they are just reflective of the economy and not the driver of economic performance."

Read More: FX swings wreak havoc with emerging equity returns

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UK Housing Crisis Could Affect Pound

Jul. 11th 2008

When one hears the phrase "housing crisis" uttered, the US immediately comes to mind. Not without reason, of course, since the US housing market is the largest in the world, and the scope of any US housing crisis is sure to dwarf a comparable crisis in any other country, in absolute terms. At the same time, let’s not forget that prices in the UK, for example, began to decline earlier than in the US. In addition, as one columnist points out, the impact of the UK housing crisis may be relatively greater on the UK economy. While some of the statistics he quotes are dubious, housing and consumer debt (on a per capita basis)  may in fact be larger in the UK than in the US. As a result, the ongoing correction in housing prices would be expected to punish the UK more than the US. The story could be the same for the Pound, vis-a-vis the US Dollar. Money & Markets reports:

[One analyst] is…a long-term bear on the British pound and believes any rallies in the currency represent an opportunity to enter short at a better price. Selling the pound against the dollar with a 10-12 month time frame may present one of the best opportunities in the currency markets today.

Read More: UK Housing Bust Spells Trouble for Pound

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in British Pound, Economic Indicators | No Comments »

Fed Increases Liquidity

Jul. 9th 2008

In a bid designed to placate skittish investors, America’s Federal Reserve Bank announced that it will extend the duration of its liquidity facilities at least through 2008 and possible into 2009. It is hoped that the continued enabling (which began several months ago) of certain Wall Street firms to borrow on especially favorable terms will prop up faltering credit markets. Given that both credit conditions and the economy at large continue to flounder, this move seems more symbolic than anything. Analysts are divided about whether this increased liquidity will serve as a complement or a substitute for a near-term interest rate hike. Futures prices had previously reflected a 65% chance that the Fed would hike rates in September, but the bet is now closer to even money. Reuters reports:

Others…think liquidity problems and inflation concerns are two separate issues. [One analyst] believes that the Fed is still on track to raise rates in
September.

Read More: Dollar rises as Bernanke calms financial markets

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

Inflation or Economic Growth?

Jul. 8th 2008

Global capital markets remain caught in a tug of war between inflation and economic growth. For most of 2008, the economic growth story prevailed as the Federal Reserve Bank cut interest rates aggressively to cushion the blow from the housing crisis. However, the pendulum soon swung to inflation and the Fed began to worry that perhaps it had lowered rates too far and may in fact need to hike them in response to surging food and fuel prices. In fact, the European Central Bank recently hiked its benchmark interest rates. Now, a slew of negative economic data threatens to shift the rhetoric back to the other corner. Securities and currencies have fluctuated wildly over this period, and investors remain unsure about which side the world’s Central Banks will err on. Currency traders need to look no further than credit markets for a snapshot of the current consensus, which often presages changes in currency valuations. A quick and dirty analysis would place American and Euro-zone short-term bonds side by side and compare the yields (or prices), as a proxy for the EUR/USD exchange rate. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Two-year yields in all three markets have been on a wild ride in June, driven up by tough inflation rhetoric from central banks, then down again by renewed worries about the credit crisis and the state of financial markets.

Read More: Inflation and Growth   Compete for Attention

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Vietnam Nears Crisis

Jul. 7th 2008

In what some analysts have termed ‘an act of desperation,’ Vietnam has devalued its currency, the Dong, by .5%. Negative pressure had been building above the Dong for months, due to a burgeoning trade deficit, sagging stock market, and a stratospheric inflation rate, most recently clocked at 23%. Unfortunately for Vietnam’s economic planners, the black market exchange rate remains nearly 5% below the official rate. In addition, futures prices reflect the expectation that the Dong will lose 30% of its value over the next twelve months. At this point, Vietnam is simply trying to forestall a full-scale economic crisis. This will probably involve further devaluations of the Dong. The Times Online reports-

Analysts said that the rising risk of a sudden and crippling depreciation
comes as the cracks in Vietnam’s vaunted “economic miracle” have grown too
large to ignore.

Read More- Markdown of dong, the Vietnamese currency, seen as act of desperation

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

Commentary: Anatomy of a Currency Trader

Jul. 5th 2008

In the context of fundamental currency analysis, we usually talk about inflation, interest rates, economic growth, politics, etc. But perhaps these variables mask some deeper "truth" in forex, specifically that there is some ultimate "force" guiding the decision-making processes of forex traders. What we are really talking about here is comfort with risk. Especially in the medium-term (the short-term consisting of hours and defined by randomness and the long-term consisting of years and defined by relative changes in the money supply), investors are constantly re-evaluating the level of risk that they want to assume.

To make this idea more concrete, let’s look at how the credit crisis has impacted forex markets. In general, it has favored major currencies, such as the Dollar and the Euro, although sometimes one more than the other. This is to be expected since the capital markets of the US and the EU are the most stable and in times of uncertainty, investors seek out stability. Likewise, the Japanese Yen has fared well. Despite a continuation of its easy money policy, investors have unwound their Yen carry trade positions, ever-fearful that a spike in volatility could cost them dearly. On the other end of the equation are emerging market currencies and beneficiaries of the carry trade, which have faltered as investors pare their exposure to risk. The underlying narrative is the same; only now, investors are willing to accept lower returns in exchange for proportionately lower risk. 

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

ECB Hikes Rates

Jul. 3rd 2008

In a move that will shock some investors but please others, the European Central Bank has raised its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points, to 4.25%. On several recent occasions, Jean-Claude Trichet had alluded to the possibility, in connection to soaring inflation. Critics, including several politicians, have countered that the ECB should also be cognizant of the macroeconomic picture in Europe, which is faltering amid the global credit crunch. But such naysayers should remember that the ECB is mandated to maintain price stability, rather than to explicitly facilitate economic growth. In any event, this move certainly throws a wrench into the forex markets. The Dollar had rallied over the last couple months, as traders had prepared for a narrowing US-EU interest rate differential in the medium-term. So much for that theory, reports The New York Times:

But the sharp rise in inflation has put Europe’s bank into a policy bind because it has been accompanied, in recent days, by evidence that the economy here is deteriorating much like that of the United States.

Read More: Eyes on Inflation, European Bank Raises Rate

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

Yen Back in Vogue

Jul. 2nd 2008

Volatility, the perennial enemy of the carry trade, has returned with a vengeance. The US stock market, a proxy for global risk appetite, has fallen significantly (nearly 20%) over the last six months, a trend that has accelerated over the last two weeks. By no coincidence, the Japanese Yen and Swiss Franc have rallied dramatically over the same time period. On one hand, currency trading is seemingly becoming more cut-and-dried, as correlations strengthen between different sectors of the global capital markets and specific currencies. The respective inverse relationships between the Dollar and oil, and between the Yen and US stocks, have been particularly strong of late. In the end, though, it is anyone’s best guess whether the price of oil will continue to rise and stocks will continue to fall. Reuters reports:

"We’re back on the brink," said one analyst. "It seems there is a feeling of resignation and helplessness amid this credit crisis."

Read More: Yen and Swiss franc gain as risk appetite fades

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

RMB may Accelerate Post-Olympics

Jul. 1st 2008

The first half of 2008 has come to a dramatic end, and it’s official: China’s stock market was the world’s worst performer, finishing down 48%. Ironically, some analysts believe this may be a harbinger for a faster appreciation of the Chinese Yuan. While the global credit crisis cannot be completely disentangled from the Chinese macroeconomic picture, certain conclusions can be drawn that are specific to China. In a nutshell, the party may be over. Inflation has surged to a 10-year high, economic growth is slowing, and stocks are facing a prolonged bear market. The Chinese government will likely continue to bide its time so as not to disrupt the Olympics. After the conclusion of the games, however, the Central Bank may begin aggressively hiking rates in order to tame inflation. While this would adversely affect economic growth, it would cause the RMB to appreciate. Forbes reports:

Maybe that’s what Shanghai’s decline is really telling us, that the China miracle may be losing some of its luster, as China tries to make the transition from a low-cost exporter to a leading provider of 21st century goods and services.

Read More: China Bulls Get Shanghaied

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

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