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Thursday January 14, 2010 - 16:52:35 GMT
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Forex Blog - Observations for the week…

Observations for the week…

Greece has emerged again as a negative for EUR, but there is still a reluctance to really hammer it on sovereign risk.  I can’t help but think that downgrades to US state credit ratings like California offsets the Greek downgrades and credit concerns.  Despite some EU and ECB officials claiming no bailouts, I think it is a safe assumption that Greece is implicitly backed by the EU and ECB and will not be allowed to swing in the winds of default.


US labor market data tell a story of reduced redundancies as firms have trimmed labor rolls to absolute minimums and this explains the improvement in claims (reduced rate of increase) and non-farm payrolls (less negative).  But stabilizing the employment situation is a far cry from adding jobs and I think this is still months away as firms delay hiring given the uncertain outlook for the economy.  Short of an unexpected jump in firm revenues (sales as pricing power is limited), the outlook for hiring is grim.  Fed’s Dudley said the Fed is unlikely to start removing (conventional) policy accommodation until the economy is growing jobs (top priority).  Well that could be late this year at the earliest.  I think the risks are low for an early Fed tightening.  So if you look for the dollar to rally ahead (outside of established ranges) and do on expectations for higher rates, the only rates that are headed higher are market rates…steeper yield curve.  This holds up more as an explanatory variable for USDJPY than EURUSD.   And there are central banks like RBNZ, Norges Bank, and RBA that are engaged in raising official rates or close to it (PBOC has, Bank of Korea is close)…if relative rates are a significant explanatory variable in FX rates, I will take official rate differentials over market rate differentials every day of the week…so rate story for the dollar ahead is far from universal (long dollar and short everything else).  My point here is that the USD is no longer a long or short trade against anything (short prior to December, long in December) to a long or short trade against what currency. 


G7 meets in Canada (close to the Arctic Circle) in earl February to discuss global imbalances and FX instability.  Yawn.  China’s yuan peg is the topic for this meeting…not the weak USD.  G7 has a bigger unstated problem on its hands…it is loosing influence over ROW…BRIC nations are not simply there to get economic policy instructions from the world’s largest economies…heck China is now vying with Japan for number 2 slot (not counting Euro Zone as one economy).  So how does G7 operate in a world with diminishing influence…exacerbated by the failed financial system model of limited regulation and leveraged (unchecked) risk in illiquid credit derivatives.  More practical issue is how to avoid a trade war as more states take to sanctions to punish China for dumping steel and other products in the West.  Short of a reval of the yuan, there seems to be little else that the West can do to pressure China.


If the future upside for the USD depends on near cataclysmic collapse in the financial system, then there is not much hope for a sustained rally in the US currency ahead in light of the Fed committed to low rates, US economy still running on government and Fed provided oxygen, large US external imbalance, benign US dollar policy in practice, massive household and bank balance sheet adjustments ahead and ever rising US debt and deficits.  Keep in mind I think near-term it is appropriate to play the differentiation card when betting on the dollar (against what).  But the longer-term prognosis for the USD is poor…even against the handicapped EUR.


David Gilmore

West Dover, VT




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