Posts tagged dollar
Control This

My pre-holiday missive that FX volatility is making a comeback. Mr. Trump’s threat to slam tariffs on Chinese consumer goods earlier this month prompted the PBoC to step back and “allow” USDCNY to breach 7.0. This, in turn, drove the U.S. to label China as a currency manipulator. Markets now have to consider that the trade war are morphing into currency wars. This is significant for two reasons. First, it confirms what most punters already knew; the CNY is inclined to go lower if left alone by the PBoC. Secondly, it has brought us one step closer to the revelation of how far Mr. Trump is willing to go. The problem for the U.S. president is simple. He can bully his main trading partners with tariffs, “winning” the trade wars, but he is losing the currency wars in so far as goes as his desire for a weaker dollar. The veiled threat to print dollars and buy RMB assets, as part of the move to identify China as a manipulator, is a loose threat. Just to make it clear; it would involve the Fed printing dollars and buying Chinese government debt and/or stakes in SOEs, which would probably be politically contentious. Moreover, the PBoC could respond in kind; in fact, it probably would.

Read More
(FX) Volatility to Make a Comeback?

I said my peace on what I consider to be the big market stories last week, so I won’t belabour bonds and equities too much this week. FX markets, however, could well be the driver of the NarrativeTM in the next few months, at least judging by the rustling of the grapevine. This story starts with the notion of the “global Fed,” which is not a new idea at all. Fed watchers tend to pivot between two extremes in their analysis of, and forecasts, for U.S. monetary policy. In one end, Fed conducts itself according to the reality of a relatively closed U.S. economy, without regard to the impact of its policy on the rest of the world, and the value of the dollar. At the other end, the Fed acts according to its role as a warden of the global reserve currency, taking into account the impact of its policy on the rest of the world. A more cynical version of this story is the idea that the Fed, in a world of free capital mobility, is constrained by the fact that other major central banks, in economies with large external surpluses, are stuck at the zero bound. This could happen in practice as tighter monetary policy in the U.S. drives the value of the dollar higher and/or leads to an increase in capital inflows. Both likely would drive up the external deficit, which would probably be counterproductive in an environment when the Fed would otherwise want to raise rates to curb inflation pressures.

Read More
The Grand Finale

Let me run a story by you. The dollar is rising against both its EM and DM counterparts, and U.S. equities— predominantly growth and tech—are gunning higher. By contrast, EU equities are lukewarm, and EMs are outright struggling as balance-of-payment stress take down one domino after the other. In bonds, the U.S. front-end is held up by expectations that the Fed will keep trucking, while the belly and long end are edging sideways. In other words, the U.S. yield curve is, still, flattening. Finally, all measures of global macro-liquidity have rolled over; real M1 growth is falling, and CB balance sheet expansion is kicking into reverse. To boot, most other leading indices also are exhibiting weakness. If this doesn’t sound familiar, it means that you have been living under a rock this year. I have been recounting this story for several months, and I am getting tired of it. But we haven’t yet had the grand finale so it’s probably too early to abandon it, as much as I would like to. In summary, I think we are due a fall in U.S. bond yields, potentially in both the 2y and 10y but almost certainly in the latter. I reckon that this happens alongside, or right after, a final moonshot in the dollar. It should be a cathartic moment for markets, setting the stage for a different story.

Read More
Sweet Irony

You will find no harsher critique of Mr. Trump’s indiscriminate use of social media than yours truly. If it were up to me, the president’s phone would have been deactivated a long time ago. Last week’s performance on economics, however, struck at the heart of a story economists and strategists have been circling for a long time. How far will monetary policy divergence be stretched in this cycle? Mr. Trump first suggested that other major economies—Europe and Asia—are unfairly manipulating their interest rates and currencies, before following up with a swing at Fed for making things worse by hiking rates. In short; the White House is suddenly spooked by the risk to the economy from a stronger dollar and higher rates. This is probably a reasonable political worry ahead of the mid-terms, but it is also sweet irony. If Mr. Trump wants to complain to anyone about the vigour of the dollar, he should start with a look in the mirror.  Aggressive tax and short-term inflationary tariffs in an economy with a near record-low unemployment and savings rate could only have one outcome in the end. A more assertive Fed and a stronger dollar always were obvious side-effects of such a policy constellation. 

Read More