Forex Blog: Currency Trading News & Analysis.

Archive for September, 2008

Forex is a Global Game

Sep. 30th 2008

One of the advantages of trading currencies (compared to other types of securities) is that forex markets operate continuously from 6PM (US Eastern time) Sunday to 4PM Friday. However, some traders may find this overwhelming. After all, if the markets never close, how should one decide when to trade? Let’s begin with a quick overview. London dominates worldwide forex trading, with New York in second place, followed by Tokyo and Sydney. Investopedia points out that the best time(s) to trade are when these markets overlap, due to a surge in liquidity, and hence, volatility. The best such overlap is between London and New York, due to the popularity of the Euro/USD pair. During these times, the "Pip" spread can widen from 30 to 70. However, since Tokyo dominates trading in Asian currencies, its overlap with Sydney is also a prime time to trade. Forbes reports:

When more than one of the four markets are open simultaneously, there will be a heightened trading atmosphere, which means there will be greater fluctuation in currency pairs.

Read More: Don’t Lose Sleep Over Forex

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

The Bailout Irony

Sep. 29th 2008

As the US Congress puts the finishing touches on a $700 Billion plan intended to resuscitate the ailing financial sector, analysts remain hard at work assessing the potential implications. The consensus- unchanged from when the plan was first unveiled- is strongly negative, especially as far as the Dollar is concerned. When combined with the government’s other initiatives, the bailout will add nearly $1 Trillion to America’s national debt. Additionally, the Federal Reserve Bank would have to print money to bridge a shortfall in the government’s borrowings, thereby stoking the fires of inflation. Ironically, the Dollar’s best chance to avoid a continued decline is if the bailout plan fails in its stated aim, and the American economy implodes, pulling the global economy down with it. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Investors have already begun to cut their exposure to emerging-market and other higher-yielding currencies, and this trend could continue even if the dollar is no longer the bedrock of safety it once was.

Read More: Outlook for Dollar Dims

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

Monetary Policy: US versus EU

Sep. 27th 2008

US political and economic officials are now operating in panic mode, as the credit crisis enters a new stage of direness. Politicians are hard at work trying to hammer out a bill that would funnel as much as $700 Billion into mortgage securities in a last-ditch effort to raise investor confidence. Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Fed, has warned that failure to pass the bill could send the US economy into a prolonged recession and asset prices into a deflationary tailspin. Accordingly, the Fed may continue to act unilaterally if the US government can’t be persuaded to come on board.

Contrast this frenzy with the relative air of calm across the Atlantic: although the European Central Bank has toned down its hawkish rhetoric, its focus remains on inflation, instead than the state of the economy. Accordingly, a change in the current monetary environment (whether rate hikes or rate cuts) still seems somewhat unlikely. However, a moderation in inflation combined with an economic contraction could force them to re-think their strategy, especially if EU member states step up their rhetorical attacks. In short, as the Fed ponders yet another interest rate cut, it looks like the EU-US interest rate gap could conceivably widen before it narrows, reports the The Wall Street Journal:

Interest-rate futures suggest investors believe the Fed is likely to cut its key rate soon, perhaps even before its next meeting on Oct. 28 and 29.

Read More: ECB Leans Toward Keeping Rates Steady Despite Market Turmoil

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

Korean Won Continues to Slide

Sep. 25th 2008

This week, the Korean Won continued its downward slide, as a new round of volatility in global capital markets crimped a slight rally that had begun to build in the previous week. The currency has already fallen nearly 20% in 2008, as skittish investors have fled emerging markets en masse as the credit crisis has flared with renewed vigor. Last week, the government intimated with only a modicum of vagueness that it is prepared to use its $250 Billion in reserve to defend the Won, in order to forestall the kind of currency crisis that crippled its economy in 1997-1998. Bloomber News reports:

Finance Minister Kang said policy makers will manage monetary and fiscal policy in a "stable” manner to strike a balance between curbing inflation and supporting the economy, which grew 4.8 percent last quarter, the slowest in more than a year.

Read More: Korea’s Won Drops, Nearing 4-Year Low; Government Bonds Advance

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

How will Bailout Impact Inflation?

Sep. 24th 2008

In day 2 of our bailout coverage, let’s look at the potential impact on inflation. On one hand, the government is proposing spending $700 Billion to buy faltering mortgages. Combined with the funds that have already been spent to deal with the credit crisis, this brings the total expenditure $1 Trillion, which amounts to more than 10% of the current liquid money supply. On the other hand, global food and commodity prices have eased over the last few months, causing a similar abatement in record rates of inflation. As a result of the economic recession and consequent depressed demand, prices don’t appear likely to return to the stratospheric levels of early 2008. In the end, the risk of inflation is probably most closely connected to the willingness of foreign institutional investors and Central Banks to continue financing American borrowing. If they hesitate, this would send the government running to the Federal Reserve Bank, which would be forced to print money, thereby stoking inflation. The Wall Street Journal reports:

If the Fed has to print money to pay this debt, "the more dollars put into the system, the more you dilute the value of the dollars out there," said Chuck Butler, at EverBank World Markets.

Read More: Will Bailout Spur Inflation? Hedge That Bet

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Economic Indicators, US Dollar | 1 Comment »

Bailout Plan Seen as Dollar-Negative

Sep. 23rd 2008

Congress remains deadlocked over the proposed $700 Billion plan to bail-out the American mortgage industry and alleviate the financial crisis, but that hasn’t stopped forex traders from weighing the implications. Suffice it to say that the Dollar fell 2.5% against the Euro-its worst-ever single session performance- in the first day of trading since a loose outline of the proposal was made available to the public. The consensus, thus, is that the plan is unambiguously bad for the Dollar. Investors expect the US national debt will balloon, and it isn’t clear whether foreign institutions and Central Banks are willing to play along, as they have in the past. In fact, treasury bond prices mirrored the performance of the Dollar, recording the sharpest fall in nearly two decades. Ironically, the potentiality that is more disconcerting for Dollar bulls is that the proposal won’t be passed at all, and the global financial system will collapse as a result. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Marketwatch reports:

"Investors [will] favor currencies where the central banks retain an anti-inflationary stance and where there is a well-developed government bond market where they can leave their capital. The euro would seem the most likely home for such investment flows."

Read More: Dollar buckles under bailout’s fiscal weight

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

Unpacking the Credit Crisis

Sep. 22nd 2008

In case you were asleep, US and global capital markets last week experienced unprecedented turmoil, followed by an unprecedented rebound. US stock market indices, for example, declined nearly 10% over the course of two days as it was revealed that three financial institutions (AIG, Merril Lynch, Lehman Brothers) were in deep trouble. Granted, the three scenarios managed to resolve themselves (government purchase, shotgun merger, bankruptcy), but the unthinkable had transpired. The following day, the markets promptly recouped their losses, as the earliest details of a sprawling US government bailout were announced. However, investors remain wary as they attempt to sort out the details. According to one piece of analysis, the forex implications are as follows:

First, the carry trade has officially fallen out of favor. Look for funding currencies (Japanese yen, Swiss Franc) to benefit and recipient currencies (Australia, New Zealand, etc.) to continue suffering. Next, while the US remains a safe haven because of perceived stability/liquidity, the monetary situation could still ignite a sharp decline in the Dollar, as the Federal Reserve performs an about-face and cuts interest rates in order to avert a complete financial meltdown. Instead, economies that have performed relatively better (less poor, to be more accurate) than the US, will probably witness a rise in their currencies. Think Canada and perhaps, the EU.

Read More: Lehman Fails And AIG Is On The Verge – What Is The Currency Impact?

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Economic Indicators | No Comments »

ESF Used to Prop Up Dollar…Kind of

Sep. 19th 2008

The Treasury Department has officially dipped into the Exchange Stabilization Fund (ESF), the obscure and rarely utilized pool of foreign exchange whose ostensible purpose is to stabilize forex markets in times of uncertainty. The Treasury surely skirted this mandate by using a portion of the reserves to provide insurance to money market funds, which are facing a sudden collapse of confidence in the latest chapter of the credit crisis. Although, the move was not without precedent, since the ESF was used as a source of capital for a loan to Mexico as recently as 1995. Ironically, the Treasury’s actions this time around will surely provide a boost to capital markets, thereby reinforcing the notion that the US remains the safest place to invest in crisis situations, which in turn, supports the Dollar. The Wall Street Journal reports:

The Fund, which now amounts to $50 billion, was created in 1934 to conduct interventions in foreign exchange markets. The enabling statute gives the president and Treasury secretary enormous latitude to act without prior consent of Congress.

Read More: The Exchange Stabilization Fund to the Rescue — Again?

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

Forex Reserves Used to Prop Up Currencies

Sep. 18th 2008

Over the last decade, the Central Banks of most emerging-market economies built up fantastic quantities of foreign exchange reserves, as a result of lopsided trade and current surpluses with foreign countries eager to invest abroad. However, declining commodity prices, sagging stock markets, and a global trend towards risk aversion have propelled investors to shift massive amounts of capital back into the industrialized world. As a result, these same Central Banks are drawing down on their reserves at a similarly rapid pace, in an attempt to shore up their ailing currencies. A cheap currency can be advantageous, especially during an economic downturn, since it makes exports relatively more competitive. On the flip side, a currency that loses too much value can trigger a crisis of confidence among investors, which affected many of these countries as recently as 1997-1998. The Wall Street Journal reports:

A rapidly weakening currency is worrisome for central banks concerned about inflation, since imported goods become more expensive, driving up overall prices.

Read More: States Play Currency Defense

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

Bank of Australia Lowers Rates

Sep. 17th 2008

It would seem as if the world is conspiring against the Australian Dollar. In the last couple months, the currency has plummeted nearly 20% from the 25-year high it had reached against the US Dollar. A combination of global economic weakness, falling commodity prices, and a trend towards risk aversion have turned the tables in favor of currencies perceived as more stable in times of crisis. To add insult to injury, the Central Bank of Australia decided to cut its benchmark lending rate, narrowing the interest rate differential that had been partially responsible for the Australian Dollar’s multi-year appreciation. Bloomberg News reports:

"In the near term, the question will be do we hold here or go down a bit more on interest rates?” said [Central bank Governor Glenn] Stevens.

Read More: Australia’s Consumer Sentiment Gains for Second Month

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

Mid-East to Form Monetary Union

Sep. 16th 2008

It’s all but official: five Middle Eastern nations will form an EU-style Monetary Union by 2010. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain have signed a draft agreement to participate in a single-currency system, ostensibly to stimulate intra-regional trade. In fact, the Dollar’s recent volatility is probably the driving force behind this initiative. All five countries currently peg or formerly pegged their currencies to the Dollar, which contributed to domestic inflation as the Dollar depreciated. If this arrangement is implemented successfully, it could provide the impetus for similar currency unions in Asia and Africa. Bloomberg News reports:

The agreement allows for the creation of a monetary council, a precursor to the Gulf central bank.  The council will be responsible for deciding the level at which the Gulf currency is pegged to the dollar, aligning interest rates, monetary tools and goals.

Read More: Gulf Central Bankers May Adopt Monetary Union

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

Yen Unfazed by Dollar Rally

Sep. 15th 2008

Over the last couple months, the Dollar has notched some impressive returns against nearly all major currencies, including a 13% gain against its chief rival, the Euro. Nearly is italicized because the pack includes a lone stray-the Japanese Yen-which has managed to maintain most of its value during the Dollar rally. The Yen has benefited from the same trend towards risk aversion that has underlied the Dollar’s strength. Because of the preponderance of carry trades which utilize Yen as a funding currency, spikes in volatility tend to benefit the Yen disproportionately as skittish investors unwind their Yen-short positions. Even excluding volatility, a global easing of monetary policy (including recent cuts in Australia and New Zealand) has lowered yield differentials and made the carry trade far less lucrative. In any event, the Yen now finds itself locked in an epic battle with the Dollar to determine which currency is the least risky in times of crisis. The Wall Street Journal reports:

"As we’ve seen during past episodes of risk aversion and the unwinding of risk trades, some of those were funded with the yen. As those were unwound it involves buying back the yen and it appreciated against a lot of currencies."

Read More: Clash of the Titans: The Dollar and Yen

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

Barclays Loses with ETNs

Sep. 14th 2008

There are four banks which dominate the market for exchange-traded currency instruments. In order of marketshare, they are Rydex, PowerShares, Wisdom Tree, and Barclays. By coincidence- or perhaps not- the leading three use an ETF structure, while Barclays’ products are issued as ETNs. While technically the two forms differ from each other in that ETFs are akin to equity while ETNs function as debt, in practice they are interchangeable. Barclays, itself, has certainly not connected its poor market share with this distinction. Its latest product, a composite of eight Asian currencies, assumes an ETN structure. Furthermore, two additional regional currency ETNs are in the planning stage, focused around Eastern Europe and Latin America, respectively. Seeking Alpha reports:

"If you look at the history of timing on Exchange Traded Product launches…you would likely see a lot of products launching right after run-up and launching right into a decline, so I’d rather launch after a decline and into a run-up."

Read More: The Birth of a Barclays Currency ETN

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

Asian Central Banks Defend Currencies

Sep. 12th 2008

The foreign exchange reserves of Central Banks throughout Asia have been dwindling. The most plausible explanation is that they are using their reserves to intervene in forex markets on behalf of their respective currencies, many of which have fallen dramatically in 2008. The Korean Won, Thai Baht, and Filipino Peso, to name but a few, have each dropped around 15%. While it may seem futile for Central Banks to continue intervening, it is important to remember that the goal may be to slow -not halt- the decline of the currency. In fact, given the current economic climate, most of them will tolerate currency weakness, in order to boost the competitiveness of their export sectors. Reuters reports:

"When the world slows, the policy focus in Asia would very quickly shift from inflation to growth. This means that monetary and credit policies will ease, and weaker currencies will be welcomed."

Read More: Asia’s forex intervention may be a losing game

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Bad News for the UK, EU

Sep. 11th 2008

The bad news is piling up in the US: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are in such dire shape that they will require the assistance of the US government merely to stay afloat. Meanwhile, Lehman Brothers, a large investment bank, is quickly crumbling a la Bear Stearns and could require a similar bailout. Fortunately for the US, the news across the Atlantic is just as bad, and getting worse. The median estimate for Eurozone GDP growth has been revised downward to an anemic 1.4% in 2008 and 1.2% in 2009. Analysts are speculating that the ECB will finally have to lower rates in order to prime the EU economy, and perhaps the Bank of UK will have to lower rates for a second time. It looks like this Dollar rally still has legs. Reuters reports:

Euro zone economic uncertainty was "particularly high," the European Central Bank president, Jean-Claude Trichet, said after the ECB left its interest rates at 4.25 percent on Thursday.

Read More: Dollar soars to highest level this year vs euro

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

Central Bank of China Battles Over Yuan

Sep. 10th 2008

Over the last couple years, the Central Bank of China has built up a treasure trove of foreign exchange reserves ($1.8 Trillion at last count), as part of its effort to hold down the Yuan, or at least slow its appreciation. Unfortunately, these reserves have depreciated significantly-10% per year in real terms- as the Yuan has risen relative to the Dollar. These reserves may slide further in real terms, as the credit crisis diminishes the value of the mortgage securities that comprise almost 20% of its portfolio. In order to
shore up its capital position, the Bank may be forced to accept an infusion of capital from China’s Finance Ministry and halt the appreciation of the Chinese Yuan. The New York Times reports:

China finds itself hemmed in. If it were to curtail its purchases of dollar-denominated securities drastically, the dollar would likely fall and American interest rates could soar.

Read More: Main Bank of China Is in Need of Capital

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

Mortgage Bailout Hurts Yen

Sep. 8th 2008

The Yen has been hammered over the last month, by both the sudden strength of the Dollar and increasing comfort with risk-taking. Now that the US government is set to bail out the two American mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, investors are likely to become even more confident that the global economy is in strong enough shape to weather the credit crisis. As demand for risky investments- such as stocks and high-yielding currencies- grows, the Yen (because of low interest rates) will once again find itself as one of the main funding currencies for the carry trade. Of course, risk-aversion is a two-way street, and one stumble in the US economy, for example, would benefit the Yen. Bloomberg News reports:

"The yen is likely to take a hit. A government bailout will certainly stabilize Freddie and Fannie and improve risk appetite for carry trades."

Read More: Yen Drops Most in 3 Months as U.S. Takes Over Fannie, Freddie

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

Gold-Dollar Link could Break Down

Sep. 5th 2008

While the factors affecting gold are no doubt nuanced, its popularity is primarily vested in the belief that it represents a stable alternative to the Dollar. Accordingly, as the Dollar fell over the last five years, gold prices soared. Likewise, the ongoing Dollar rally has been matched by a proportional decline in gold prices. However, at least one analyst believes this link could soon break down. While gold is traditionally viewed as a specific protection against US inflation (and the concomitant Dollar depreciation), perhaps its role could expand to offer protection against worldwide inflation.

For example, analysts largely agree that the Dollar rally is as much a product of global economic weakness as of US economic recovery. In fact, the monetary and economic situation in the US continues to deteriorate. But, the global economic situation is deteriorating even faster. By this standard, it is conceivable that the Dollar could continue to outperform its rivals. Meanwhile, it is also conceivable that gold would continue to rise, since the long-term economic picture of the US remains bleak.

Read More: Will gold now move separately from the US dollar and euro?

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

Committee to Save the Dollar

Sep. 4th 2008

A (deliberately) leaked report has revealed what investors and analysts have suspected all along: the "Committee to Save the Dollar" is real. Evidently, back in March, when the credit crisis was threatening to spiral out of control, the world’s leading bankers were busying themselves preparing a plan to prop up the ailing the Dollar. Their rationale is/was that a more valuable Dollar would do more to relieve inflation (via lower food and commodity prices) and ultimately be easier to implement than a worldwide hike in interest rates. Under the plan, the Central Banks of Europe and Japan would join the Federal Reserve Board to coordinate the large-scale sale of Yen and Euro assets, in exchange for Dollars. While the Dollar’s impressive rally has thus far eliminated the need for intervention, the long-term prognosis remains questionable. Regardless of economic fundamentals, however, currency traders may be reluctant to bet too heavily against the Dollar, lest the Central banks move forward with their plan. Bloomberg News reports:

None of this means the dollar won’t plunge anew if the global credit crunch worsens. For the moment, though, the need for some kind of Plaza Accord-like currency deal has been reduced.

Read More: `Committee to Save the Dollar’ May Not Be Needed

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

China’s Fores Reserves Boost Dollar

Sep. 3rd 2008

Everyone has a theory to explain the Dollar’s explosive rally, which has yet to run out of steam. A recent one identifies a shift in China’s forex reserve policy as a driving force. Apparently, in an ostensible effort to clamp down on inflation, the Central Bank of China is resorting to draconian measures. One rule change, which was executed with both speed and lack of media coverage, requires commercial banks to hold a larger portion of their reserves in Dollars, rather than Chinese Yuan. In addition, such banks face new restrictions on foreign debt, which is designed to turn them into net buyers of Dollars. Analysts suggest that this policy represents a roundabout attempt to slow the appreciation of the Chinese Yuan. If they are correct, than surely the Central Bank of China has succeeded, for the currency has virtually ceased in its interminable upward march against the Dollar. This upshot suggests that the goal of the Central Bank was not to fight inflation, but rather to avoid a post-Olympic economic slowdown. The Telegraph reports:

They are now more worried about growth than overheating, and you are seeing that play out in the currency markets. There has been a remarkable change of view."

Read More: Beijing swells dollar reserves through stealth

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

Korean Won Gets Hammered

Sep. 2nd 2008

Even given the Dollar’s universally strong performance over the last month, the slide in the value of the Korean Won has been an anomaly, falling over 10% over the same time period and reaching a 4-year low. Analysts attribute the decline to a widening of the country’s current account imbalance brought about by a collapse in confidence in Korean securities, namely stocks and bonds. Foreign investors are rushing for the exits in masse, and some are speculating that bonds worth $7 Billion that mature this week will lead to a further outflow of capital. Earlier this year, the Central Bank of Korea spent over $30 Billion propping up the Won, but it has thus far refrained from intervening in the midst of the current slide. At $250 Billion, the Bank’s foreign exchange reserves are massive, and it could easily attempt to back up its stern warnings to bearish investors with a large-scale intervention. Thomson Financial News reports:

The government did not intend to intervene in currency markets, the MoneyToday, the online news service, quoted an unnamed official as saying on Sunday. Markets are mystified at the reluctance of Korean authorities to back their words with dollar sales.

Read More: Korea warns currency bears, but shrinks from action

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

Volatility in FX Markets is Increasing

Sep. 1st 2008

John Taylor is head of the world’s largest currency hedge fund, International Foreign Exchange Concepts. Accordingly, when he speaks about currencies, people tend to listen. In an extended interview with Bloomberg News, Taylor noted that volatility has surged in the forex markets. On average, the Dollar is fluctuating 46% more against so-called major currencies and 23% more than emerging currencies, compared to 2007. However, this volatility is largely random- perhaps as a result of increased liquidity- which means inefficiencies in the markets are becoming harder to exploit and profit from. One of the fund’s largest bets is against the US Dollar, specifically against the Euro. Taylor’s rationale for this bet is nuanced, and is more fundamental than technical, which is surprising given his fund’s primary trading strategy. Bloomberg News reports:

The prediction is partly based on his charts of the U.S. real estate cycle, which he says has a major impact on the dollar and will continue to point south for the next couple of years, dragging down the currency with it. He also says the price of a barrel of crude oil might reach $250 in 2011, further eroding the strength of the U.S. economy and the dollar.

Read More: Taylor Rules Currencies, Not to Be Confused With the Other Guy

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

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