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Sunday October 24, 2010 - 20:44:41 GMT
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G20 FX Language Hides the Drama (FXA)

G20 FX Language Hides the Drama


To be clear G20 via the language of the communiqué did declare a truce bringing to a pause an escalating currency war by calling for a “move towards more market determined exchange rate systems that reflect underlying economic fundamentals and refrain from competitive devaluation of currencies.”  And “Advanced economies, including those with reserve currencies, will be vigilant against excess volatility and disorderly movements in exchange rates.”  The language clearly aimed at emerging nations, pledging to move to more flexible exchange rate regimes did not even identify this category of countries.  This statement carries zero consequences for failing to comply…indeed there is no standard included to determine compliance…something to be left to the heads of state summit November 11-12 in Seoul.  But I can’t help but look at this language on FX and conclude this is about as meaningful as a group of US elected politicians from the two main parties signing a joint statement in favor of motherhood and apple pie.  This is no accord.  Gyeongju is no Plaza. 


I would be shocked if come Monday that any of the big stake holders in global FX policy does anything differently than it was doing last week or last month.  China is not going to allow a rapid revaluation of the CNY, Japan is going to intervene more when the market takes the yen through 80, the Fed is not going to tread lightly with QE2 to prevent the dollar from sinking to new lows and the ECB is going to continue to phase out unconventional policy and to plan for normalizing rates driving the EUR ever higher despite unhappiness over the strong EUR by EZ finance ministers (who uniformly blame the US mainly and China to a lesser extent).  I have read and heard enough that come Monday the market is going to buy EM FX on the G20 communiqué – they mistakenly believe there was some grand bargain with EM getting more IMF votes (representation) in exchange for more tolerance for higher exchange rates (now that they have more say they will be more responsible…the thinking goes).  Sorry but mercantilist economies that have yielded huge upside for many of these nations does not get traded away at a G20 summit for more say at the IMF.  Korea, Indonesia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and China will be in the markets buying dollars in coming weeks in about the same scale as they have been in recent past weeks, and probably more as those in the market think there is some easy money to be made on long EM FX trades…like the world changed in Gyeongju.


I also think it was telling that Geithner with the support of South Korea proposed a current account target for surplus and deficit countries, aimed at a compromise with G20 member states that opposed specific language on exchange rate adjustments (in theory a more difficult process), and were summarily dismissed, including by the likes of Germany.  Indeed the German economics minister Bruederle sided with China in labeling the Fed’s QE2 deployment as an indirect manipulation of the exchange rate (devaluing the dollar).  With Germany now exporting nearly as much to China as it does France, I suspect Germany is more worried about EURUSD from a policy standpoint than EURCNY. 


G20 reminds me of a reality TV show like the ones that prevail on US cable television airwaves…a group of housewives, genetically challenged people, singles looking for a lifelong partner, strangers on a deserted island…people with very little in common and often deeply distrustful, at times hateful, towards most in the group, appearing on camera with smiles and some show of camaraderie.  But like these low cost productions, the cameras do not lie and we see it for what it is…a cacophony of discord, self-centered and undermining infighting.


David Gilmore      





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