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Forex Blog - Key Themes for 2010

Key Themes for 2010


I do not pretend to be Nostradamus, not even Byron Wien (known for his 10 surprises), when it comes to looking into the future.  That said I usually get requests around this time of year for my window into the future (not events that will happen, just what will likely be major market themes) and so here we go (they all deserve major flushing out…will save that for future Alerts).


1.        Unemployment.  It will define consumption, Congressional election, fiscal policy and monetary policy.  Inflation won’t be a main theme for 2010 outside of the wing nuts from gold bugs to militia enlistees (in the handbook).

2.        Double dip recession or risk trade off.  Comes from 1 but will require pricing by markets and not now priced.  Not forecasting double dip just forecasting markets pricing double dip risk and this will see the correlation trade correct lower (stocks, commodities, high yield, EM and FX or higher USD). 

3.        Chinese yuan reval.  Some relaxation in China’s yuan policy is likely and could come sooner than later, though there were no signs of it at the US-China summit this week…Neither Pres Hu nor Premier Wen gave any indication they were the least bit interested in President Obama’s call for more flexibility in the CNY regime.  Indeed neither ever mentioned it in post dialogue press conferences leaving Obama to reference past statements committing to greater flexibility.  Still China is hearing calls for more flexibility from Asian neighbors and the EU and is not tone deaf, sees a link between its own asset bubbles and the peg and is worried about domestic inflation risks. When and if it comes it will be small (scale of reval, pace of appreciation and largely priced in NDF’s 3% in 2010 and 5% in 2011).

4.        QE/CE exit starts (global).  I do not see rate hikes from G7 central banks in 2010.  The key QE exit tools to look for from the Fed at least will be the selling of assets, reverse repos and rate paid on bank excess reserves held at the Fed (though this latter tool may well not end up being used because the Fed will not want to pay out an interest rate in excess of the cost of overnight funds…banks would be incentivized to borrow Fed funds at zero and place them with the Fed at >0).  Some think Fed officials have stopped talking much about interest on reserves tool because the Fed is far less sure of raising the Fed funds target ahead.

5.        Large US bank unwound. Again this is what could happen in 2010 not what will happen, but in light of the efforts of Washington to write new regulatory rules of road and assign highway patrolman status, think there will be a political poster child effort in 2010 to show the angry mob that if you drive drunk you lose your right to drive.

6.        Trade wars.  Low levels of global growth and high unemployment will become a dangerous cocktail for policy makers and will push a toxic trade sanctions agenda…already unfolding in the US, EU and ChinaChina is investing in cement and steel output in markets where many of the rest of the world is idled by the recession.  With 39% of GDP from exports and US already imposing sanctions on Chinese steel imports over dumping allegations, one can see this problem growing more in 2010.  The body language during Obama state visit to China was palpable and one of adversaries playing nice, not partners.  Look for Europe to take similar posture to China as the US.

7.        US fiscal deficit.  Treasury supply fears will likely continue to drive the blogosphere, cable biz news bloviators and fringes especially as Obama goes back to Congress for a jobs bill and second major fiscal stimulus.  Some of these fears will penetrate the more grounded bond market and make for some vicious volatility (as it should).  But the double dip is the predominant influence for 2010 and should keep yields from soaring. Also double dip will see the dollar rally in 2010 and remove FX cloud now hanging over the bond market. Also there is more domestic demand for Tsys with US consumption down and savings up and US banks borrowing at zero and buying government paper for carry.  Furthermore China and Asia will inch their way from managed FX regimes and remain net USD accumulators (as will Brazil, India and Russia)…and keep hem in the game of buying US debt.

8.        Fringe politics become more the norm.  Whether it is the armed militias in the US or the British National Party, the crisis and its remedy are incubators for extremism and this will show up more in 2010 as unemployment stays high and government footprint in the economy grows.  The extreme left was the norm of the late 60’s and 70’s.  The new norm is the extreme right.  The difference is the extreme right is well armed and knows a thing or two about how to use weapons (US)…skills only the fringe of the fringe of the left had in the 60’s and 70’s.   


David Gilmore




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