9/3/2013 6:45 PM ET|
10 easy currency lessons
To a greater extent than usual, the movement of currencies is driving the prices of global stocks and bonds and is shaping monetary policies in key emerging markets.
Do you know the facts of life of the global currency market right now?
Is the U.S. dollar headed up or down over the next few weeks? How about the Japanese yen? Are the Indian rupee and the Turkish lira and the South African rand headed into a crisis? How about the Brazilian real?
I'm asking because right now global cash flows, into some developed markets and out of most emerging markets, are driving the prices of global stocks and bonds. The effects of those cash flows are being expressed in the prices of currencies such as the dollar and the real.
The movements of those currencies are both the vehicle for those cash flows – the way that they're being turned into rallies and corrections in the financial markets – and, increasingly, the fundamental driver for price movements in those markets as the ups and downs of currencies cause changes in monetary policies in countries such as Brazil and India.
And finally, if you're trying to figure out where the bottom is for Asia's emerging markets, which entered official bear-market territory last week when the iShares MSCI Southeast Asia Index fell to a 21% drop from the peak on May 8, I think understanding the likely currency moves over the next quarter or two is key.
So here's my take on what you need to know about global currencies in 10 easy trends.
1. In the short run, the U.S. dollar is likely to get stronger against most global currencies. That's because the gradual end of the Federal Reserve's program to purchase $85 billion a month in Treasury and mortgage-backed assets, possibly as early as the Federal Open Market Committee's Sept. 18 meeting, will push U.S interest rates at least slightly higher. With the rest of the developed world's central banks still in stimulus mode (Japan) or near-stimulus mode (Europe), that means traders and investors looking for higher yields will turn to buying dollar-denominated assets.
2. We really don't know how long the "short run" might be. It's clear that Japan isn't about to reverse its weak-yen policy any time soon. The European Central Bank has revised its historic tendency to privilege low inflation above economic growth to the extent of keeping interest rates at historic lows for a long period of time as the eurozone struggles to escape recession or near-recession. But a sufficiently chaotic U.S. political season – one that saw a budget impasse and a credible threat of default resulting from a failure to raise the debt ceiling – could make the dollar seem decidedly less attractive as early as October.
3. A strong dollar is a negative for commodities priced in dollars, such as oil, and for precious metals. Extreme fear and turmoil, such as that set off by the threat of U.S.-led military intervention in Syria, can overwhelm the effects of a strong dollar in the short run. Gold was up 19% from its June low as of Aug. 29 to $1,409.80 an ounce, but I think gold and other physical commodities will have a hard time building a sustained rally as long as the U.S. dollar keeps moving up and as long as global growth remains slow enough to remove all fears of inflation. The pressure that a strong dollar puts on commodity prices plus weak commodity prices due to slow demand from China and other developing economies has hit commodity currencies hard. For example, the Australian dollar traded near 89 cents on Aug. 28, down from $1.05 in April.
4. A strong dollar isn't good for emerging-market financial assets. In 2012, as the Federal Reserve expanded its balance sheet, $1.2 billion flowed into emerging financial markets. In 2013, that cash flow has reversed.
5. The countries, currencies and financial markets hardest hit by the strong dollar are those running the biggest current-accounts deficits. Economies such as India, Indonesia and Turkey need to attract overseas cash in order to balance those deficits. Turkey, for example, needs to attract $5 billion a month.
6. A falling currency can set off a vicious cycle in a current-account deficit country. A falling currency makes it harder to attract the cash needed to balance a current-account deficit, and worries over a country's inability to cover its deficit can lead to a further retreat in the currency, as investors and traders pull money out of assets that are worth less in dollar terms day by day.
7. A stronger dollar and weaker local currencies work to make trade deficits higher in developing economies. For example, India imports about 80% of its fuel. A climb in the dollar price of benchmark Brent crude makes it more expensive to pay India's fuel bill in rupees. India's oil imports averaged $14.2 billion a month in the first seven months of 2013, up from $13.9 billion a month in the same period a year earlier. The same dynamic savages companies in emerging economies that collect revenues in local currencies but that have to pay costs in dollars. About 56% of the costs at Brazil's airlines, for example, are denominated in dollars, mostly for jet fuel.
8. The potential responses by central banks to falling currencies all have nasty side effects. Central banks can intervene by spending down foreign exchange reserves to buy local currencies. That can actually weaken a local currency if the markets believe that the central bank doesn't have the foreign exchange reserves or the policy will to spend enough to reverse the market trend. That's the market's take to date on interventions by India, Indonesia and Turkey. Another potential response is to defend a currency by raising domestic benchmark interest rates. That has a potential toxic side effect: Higher interest rates slow rates of economic growth. That seems to be happening now in Brazil.
9. All this has made emerging-market stocks and bonds cheaper, but also has led investors and traders to question if these markets are cheap enough yet. For example, the Indian rupee is down 20.1% in 2013, on its way to its worst loss since the 1991 balance-of-payments crisis forced the government to sell gold to pay for imports. But even at 68.845 rupees to the U.S. dollar on Aug. 28, that may not be a bottom. Speculation now is that the currency will have to sink to at least 70 rupees to the dollar before this crisis is over. No one, right now though, is willing to bet very heavily that 70 rupees to the dollar will make a bottom.
10. Putting in a bottom will probably start with putting in a bottom in individual economies that have larger foreign exchange reserves and that look closer to seeing economic growth move from slowing to expanding. Brazil is a strong candidate for an early turn on sufficient foreign exchange reserves and a central bank that has been early to raise interest rates. But growth in Brazil is still anemic. Mexico is another early recovery candidate, especially if the government's efforts to increase foreign investment in the country's oil industry look like they will result in a significant increase in production at Pemex, the national oil company. An overall recovery in emerging markets, however, is probably a 2014 event and will depend on data showing a believable recovery in China's rate of economic growth – or at least confidence that growth in China isn't about to fall much further.
Full disclosure: I don't own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this post in my personal portfolio. When in 2010 I started the mutual fund I manage, Jubak Global Equity (JUBAX), I liquidated all my individual stock holdings and put the money into the fund. The fund did not own shares of any stock mentioned in this post as of the end of June. You can find a complete list of the fund's holdings as of the end of June here.
Jim Jubak's column has run on MSN Money since 1997. He is the author of the book "The Jubak Picks," based on his market-beating Jubak's Picks portfolio; the writer of the Jubak's Picks blog; and the senior markets editor at MoneyShow.com. Get a free 60-day trial subscription to JAM, his premium investment letter, by using this code: MSN60 when you register at the Jubak Asset Management website.
Click here to find Jubak's most recent articles, blog posts and stock picks.
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VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
"Hillary Clinton: Obama making right Syria call
NBC News: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton supports the president's planned 'strong & targeted' response to reported chemical weapons use in Syria."
What part of- HELL NO, aren't you getting?
You have a FINANCIAL CRISIS to deal with.
You haven't DEALT WITH IT at all yet.
90 MILLION AMERICANS are not even counted in your data. COUNT THEM and be quick about it. The REAL unemployment rate is over 15%. Include the under employed and it's +60%.
EVERY SMALL BUSINESS IN AMERICA IS HURTING FROM EVERY BUSINESS PLATFORM LORDING OVER ALL. If you can't figure THAT ONE out then hit the road NOW.
Total suppressed people in America-- over 85%. THAT IS TERRORISM.
Our ACTUAL economy would be in full gear now IF you had targeted redoing our infrastructure and weaning us off oil & gas dependency. WALKING is a good thing. TEXTING is NOT.
Your legacy is terrible.
A boob bamboozled by the bankers who destroyed us and got paid to do it!
1400 Syrians are dead.
90 MILLION Americans are condemned to destitution by YOUR AGENDA. Wake up or get out.
Stop parading celebrity politicians around. None will be re-elected next time. We need who YOU said you were. You were NOT. Just a psychopath who got off being POTUS while the nation failed from financial tyranny.
WORST PRESIDENT EVER.
How are we going to have a strong dollar when the Fed just keeps printing more and more to cover the US endless supply of bad debts?
This article paints a rather rosy unrealistic picture.
More left wing propaganda from The Leader?
Well, the Fed and Ben "Dover" Bernanke have pretty much trashed the US Dollar. The only way I see it surviving is if our government passes an amendment for a balanced budget, and we put the dollar back on the gold standard. On top of that, Glass-Steagall must be reinstated in full.
Fortunately, the US still holds the most gold of any country in the world: Tonnes: 8,133.5/
% of reserves: 74.2%
But the $50,000 Question is: are our elected officials able to put aside their blind greed to save this country??
Monetary policy is never a campaign issue unless your last name is Paul.
Just a quick note. Remember China and Russia contemplating using a basket of currencies rather than the Dollar as the worlds reserve currency? Notice how since Obama scrambled to prevent this Russia has been pushing Obama's buttons without fear and China, we have not heard a peep about them manipulating their currency since Obama spoke with them "off the record" and away from the camera's.
Geez, I wonder what Obama promised them.......Hmm. We've been sold out again folks and it is only a temporary reprieve. Read my other post and watch that documentary and online show. Do some research and prepare for the coming storm.
This guy is a boob. Want to know what is up with the dollar, watch the documentary entitled "The End Of The Road, How Money Became Worthless". This will tell you the truth about our almighty dollar. After enjoying that, you may want to catch the internet piece done by Stansbury Investments entitled "The End Of America". Between these two shows you will get a real education and your eyes will be opened for the first time, unless you're an economist who is always lying to the public to keep the fantasy train chugging another day.
After watching these you may desire to do more than worry about what is coming and do something about it. But, like most of us, we are in no position to take huge stakes in precious metals or other things to try to protect our financial health. Do like me, protect your family's health and start buying extra food in bulk and store it in your home to prepare for the coming storm.
the dollar WILL fall and soon. U know when?, when barnake says "the dollar is fine and is NOT being removed as the reserve currency". As soon as u hear this, and I mean within hours of him saying it, u best take everything u have out of the bank and spend it on food, guns, and ammo. lots of ammo. of course we can avoid this, we (every single American) from new born to the oldest out there just gives the fed $30,000. or around that amount u'd have to figure it up on the exact day everyone hands it over, America would b debt free. Better chance of buying the winning powerball ticket then even thinking this!
u can't own gold bars n America so i'm told it's against the law. and the middle class won't be paying the debt off for generations, there won't b a middle class. because of the lifestyle we live now, it's going 2 b hard comprehend millions of our fellow countrymen starving to death, but they will. no more food stamps, no soc. sec. checks, medicine, forget it. the top 1% will leave the country while the rest of us r under marshall law. and none of this would have happened if " Reagan the puppet" wouldn't have sold us out to the banks. Before him, the top 1% paid 90% in taxes, now they bitch at 36%. I'm done!
Bitcoin is a fairly new currency and I was surprised that it was not mentioned here at all. Currency lesson #11: A new currency that could be used world-wide and create a free and safe way to transfer large sums of fiat quickly and securely could become the new standard. This currency, if it was deflationary and held it's value in spite of the volatility of other world currencies, could stand to grow exponentially. My thoughts are that It is a great way to diversify out of fiat and has room for tremendous growth still. Having grown from less than a $1 per Bitcoin to around $140 today in a few short years has already experienced a crazy ride and some speculate it is still in the early stages. Sure it is risky to invest, but so is anything in the early stages.
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