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Monday October 5, 2009 - 15:56:26 GMT
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Forex Blog - G7 Running on Empty

Saturday’s G7 meeting sadly could have ended pleasantly…the obituary would have read died quietly in its sleep after over 25 years of rarely meaningful meetings and scores of photo shoots. 


But no.  G7 lives on despite G20 taking over as the main global policy gathering for Kumbaya sing-along’s.  With prodding from Japan and European government officials it was determined to carry on.  Europe would not even consider a G4 reconfiguration with the Euro Zone having 1 seat at the table instead of 3 plus 1 in the G7 configuration and Canada none instead of 1 at G7. 


So what did we learn from Saturday’s meeting?


Currencies matter but not enough to warrant new language in the communiqué…not even on China where the now pegged yuan (for the last year) saw G7 congratulate the CCP for its progress on making its currency more flexible.


Not even the USD which is near last summer’s record lows was cause for mention…not when the US economy is in desperate need of exports to fill the hole in GDP left by weak consumption…though you would never guess that the US is reveling in an orderly USD decline when examining the very hollow mantra chanting Geithner engaged in whenever pressed by a reporter to address the weak US currency.  The fine print on the US strong dollar policy is about as open ended as the fine print on the terms banks use for setting interest rates on credit cards…a strong dollar just not now.


So we are left with sidebar remarks from currency activists among the attendees…Europe and Japan, and to an extent Canada, winged about how markets were not accurately reflecting fundamentals.  However, without the US on board of acknowledging USD weakness and risks this may pose or not pose, European officials were left to single out emerging market currencies which are actively managed as being unhelpful for global adjustment.  Simply put China pegs its currency to the USD, Japan discreetly manipulates the yen, and the euro and C$ become the main shock absorbers for the adjustment process and strengthen disproportionately against the USD (all floaters).


Trichet even went as far to assert that calling for more flexible emerging currencies (read the yuan) the USD does not necessarily have to weaken more against the EUR if China complied.  Well since China remains the world’s largest accumulator of USD and UST, any revaluation of the yuan now would imply less accumulation of USD and UST all else being equal.  I think it is reasonable to assume that a yuan revaluation would see EURUSD trade lower…sharply lower…and UST yields would rise…rise sharply (great for US housing sector, credit crunch). 


Japan’s officials in Istanbul asserted it is easier for a smaller grouping of like-minded nations to address currency concerns than a larger grouping (G20) and hence the gathering should live on. 


Calls for an SDR-based world reserve currency continued to find backing in Istanbul (Bank of Mexico’s Ortiz came out in favor of it as a long-run objective).  The SDR from January 1, 2006, is made up of  U.S. dollar (44 percent), euro (34 percent), Japanese yen (11 percent), and pound sterling (11 percent).  IMF will reweight the basket in 2010, but how can anyone expect the SDR to be anything other than an accounting measure within the IMF and with the CNY, BRL and INR not in the basket and the CNY none of them freely floating. 


Can Europe really be serious that a yuan revaluation now (and its implied reduced USD and UST demand) would aid global adjustment?  Surely this line of thinking is reminiscent of US administrations’ strong dollar policy…yes but just not now.


I am done with G7 and see it falling into the dustbin of history soon.  Let’s see what G20 can achieve ahead and whether the IMF is empowered ahead to begin walking the beat on global imbalances and currency misalignments. 


David Gilmore




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