Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Sunday, March 22, 2015
China and Russia have taken the lead in establishing the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), seen as a rival organisation to the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, which are dominated by the United States with Europe and Japan.
These banks do business at the behest of the old Bretton Woods order. The AIIB will dance to China and Russia's tune instead.
The geopolitical importance was immediately evident from the US's negative reaction to the UK's announcement this week that it would join the AIIB. And very shortly afterwards France, Germany and Italy also defied the US and announced they might join. In the Pacific region, one of America's closest allies, Australia, says she is considering joining too along with New Zealand. The list of US allies seeking to join is growing. From a geopolitical point of view China and Russia have completely outmanoeuvred the US, splitting both NATO and America's Pacific alliances right down the middle.
This is much more important than political commentators generally realise. We must appreciate that anything China does is planned well in advance. Here is the relevant sequence of events:
• In 2002 China and Russia formally adopted the founding charter for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, an economic bloc that today contains about 35% of the world's population, which will become more than 50% when India, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Mongolia join, which is their stated intention. Russia has the resources and China the manufacturing power to develop the largest internal market ever seen.
• In October 2013 George Osborne was effectively summoned to Beijing because China wanted London to be the base to develop renminbi-denominated financial instruments. London has served China well, with the UK Government even issuing the first renminbi-denominated foreign (to China) government bond. The renminbi is now on the way to being a fully-fledged international currency.
• The establishment of an infrastructure bank, the AIIB, will ensure the lead funding is available for the rapid development of road, rail, electric and electronic communications throughout the SCO, ensuring equally rapid economic development of the whole of the Asian continent. It could amount to the equivalent of several trillion dollars over time.
The countries that are applying to join the AIIB realise that they have to be members to access what will eventually become the largest single market in the world. America is being frozen out, the consequence of her belligerence over Ukraine and the exercise of her hegemonic power through the dollar. America's allies in South East Asia are going with or will go with the new AIIB, and in Europe commercial interests are driving America's NATO partners away from her, turning the Ukraine from a common cause into a festering liability.
The more one thinks about it, the creation of the AIIB is a masterstroke of tactical genius. The outstanding issue now is China and Russia will need to come up with a credible plan to make their currencies a slam-dunk replacement for the dollar. We know that gold may be involved because the SCO members have been accumulating bullion; but before we get there China must manage a deliberate deflation of her credit bubble, which will be a delicate and dangerous task.
Unlike the welfare-driven economies in the west, China has sufficient political authority and internal control to survive a rapid deflation of bank credit. When this inevitably happens the economic consequences for the west will be very serious. Japan and the Eurozone are already facing economic dislocation, and despite over-optimistic employment numbers, the US economy is faltering as well. The last thing America and the dollar needs is a deflationary shock from China.
The silver lining for us all is a peace dividend: it is becoming less likely that America will persist with a call to arms, because support from her allies is melting away leaving her on her own.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
The global de-dollarization trend continues as it appears the UK’s move to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Development Bank has indeed shown other US “allies” that spurning Washington’s advice is actually acceptable and concerns about the institution’s “standards” may simply be a diversion aimed at undermining China’s attempt to exercise more influence in its own backyard. Here’s more from the NY Times:
Ignoring direct pleas from the Obama administration, Europe’s biggest economies have declared their desire to become founding members of a new Chinese-led Asian investment bank that the United States views as a rival to the World Bank and other institutions set up at the height of American power after World War II.The announcement on Tuesday by Germany, France and Italy that they would follow Britain and join the Chinese-led venture delivered a stinging rebuke to Washington from some of its closest allies. It also called into question whether the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which grew out of a multination conference in Bretton Woods, N.H., in 1944 and established an economic pecking order that lasted 70 years, will find their influence diminished.The announcement by Germany, Europe’s largest economy, came only six days after Secretary of State John Kerry asked his German counterpart, Frank Walter-Steinmeier, to resist the Chinese overtures until the Chinese agreed to a number of conditions about transparency and governing of the new entity. But Germany came to the same conclusion that Britain did: China is such a large export and investment market for it that it cannot afford to stay on the sidelines.
South Korea, another US ally that the Obama administration has not-so-subtly lobbied to stay out of the AIIB for the time being, is reportedly reconsidering a bid to join and although reports that Seoul had already committed to the venture appear to have been a bit premature, the country will make a decision this month and is expected to discuss specifics this weekend at a meeting with Chinese and Japanese officials. Here’s FT:
The foreign ministers of China, Japan and South Korea will meet in Seoul this weekend for the first time in three years, in an effort to calm tensions in the region.The trio have strong economic ties but frosty relations. International angst about this state of affairs among the regional superpowers has been further piqued by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a Chinese-led initiative sparking alarm in Washington and proving divisive elsewhere.
Meanwhile, even Europe’s own “magical fairyland” is taking the plunge. Via Bloomberg:
China welcomes Luxembourg’s application to be a founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, China’s finance ministry says in a statement on website.
Thursday, March 12, 2015
Buy the Rumor, Sell the News
All those bemoaning what rate hikes could potentially portend for the US Dollar need to get a grip, the rate hikes are already priced in. That`s how markets work, buy the rumor and sell the news or actual event. Moreover, not just one 25 basis point rate hike, taking a look at that chart, several rate hikes have already been priced into the US Dollar Index.
A Perfect Dollar Storm
It really has been the perfect storm for the US Dollar Index from struggling emerging markets to the oil and commodities meltdown to the strong economic data here in the states and Europe finally initiating a QE Program. But the trade has gotten way ahead of itself, probably the most crowded trade on the street right now, and definitely due for a pullback. The momentum resulting from the start of European QE being the primary catalyst with the Euro cratering far beyond the fundamentals of historical relationships between the two currencies. It too is overdone to the downside and due for a snapback rally either this week or next, and the coiled nature of that trade suggests the snapback will be rather sizable.
Read More >> Janet Yellen Encourages More Levered Risk Taking
One Word Folks: Entitlements
Therefore all those worried about the appreciation of the US Dollar Index being the end of the world can take a deep breath and relax. The Fed can still raise rates and the US Dollar Index will probably weaken on the news from current levels. There has been a lot of bullish optimism for a country that continues to push out an unbelievably high level of government debt each year to be financed and subsidized outside of its cash inflows. The US Dollar isn`t always going to be this strong versus global currencies, even with much higher short-term interest rates.
Australia Survived a Strong Currency & High Interest Rates
However even if the US Dollar continues to appreciate, big freaking deal, it has happened before in this country and the economy didn`t fall off a cliff. In fact just the opposite occurred, a strong dollar means the US economy is competing on the global stage in a very robust manner. This is a good thing, like cheap energy and a robust job market, nothing too complain about! How did Australia survive all those years when their commodity based economy was performing so well and ahead of its peers? They had a strong currency and much higher interest rates, and their economy didn`t fall off a cliff due to either of those factors in having higher interest rates and a stronger currency than most of their global peers. This is how finance and currency crosses are supposed to work in a market based global economy.
Whiners going to Whine
All this whining about a strong US Dollar Index and Rate Hikes is really about the end of government handouts, corporate welfare programs for the 1%, and just plain weak mindedness in general. Like they cannot possibly succeed on the world stage without the psychological crutch of a weak dollar! The ironic part of this whole consternation over the appreciating dollar is that most of these same people were complaining about the disastrous effects of the weak dollar just a couple of years ago. You know oil is going to 200 dollars a barrel, inflation to 6%, and the purchasing power of the US Consumer being eroded indefinitely, not to mention how expensive it was to travel to other counties for Americans.
Glass Half Full
Quit looking at the world as glass half empty, currency crosses fluctuate with global economics and relationships between countries. There is a constant give and take that goes on based upon the business cycles and development stages of the local economies. Having weak and strong currencies serves an economic purpose, and function as natural forces on correcting inefficient and uncompetitive country practices. This is how finance and economics work. Thank goodness the US has finally gotten the upper hand the past couple of years after really taking it on the chin from the BRIC`s when they had their robust economic growth cycle.
Always Good to be Strong
In short, a strong dollar is good. In this case it is a sign of strength and confidence in the business prospects of the economy, and a vote for capitalistic principles in a globally competitive marketplace. There are many advantages to having a strong US Dollar. It helps attract capital, it lowers overall inflation, while providing stronger purchasing power for US Consumers, making travel more affordable. It is a sign of a robust economy relative to its global peers. I am sure Australia wishes they could time travel back to the glory days of the commodity boom based upon the emerging market parabolic growth phase led by China. They would gladly take a stronger currency, higher rates and all the good benefits that go along with an outperforming economy versus their current state of affairs represented by a much weaker currency, lower interest rates and much weaker business prospects.
Read More >> The Real Reason the Fed Has To Raise Rates in June
Currency Investors Already Front Running the Fed on Interest Rates
The US should thank its lucky stars investors value the US Dollar, and consider it a good place to invest in relative to our global peers because currencies move in cycles, and trust me this will not always be the case. But the appreciating currency is telling investors the inevitable that a strong US Dollar is indicative of a strong economy and rising rates are already being factored into the appreciation. Wall Street and Global investors don`t wait for the Fed to raise rates, they already are voting via the currency markets that rates are going to rise in the US, and much of these rate hikes are already being priced into the currency. Look at it this way, investors in the currency markets are already miles ahead of the fed front-running their rate hikes. Their analysis is that interest rates are going to rise in the US over the next quarter, and this is part of the tremendous run-up in the US Dollar. Subsequently forget about the ramifications of the Fed raising interest rates on the US Dollar Index, it has already been factored into the market by currency investors. The real news would be if for some reason the Fed didn`t raise rates over the next quarter!
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Plunge Protection Exposed: Bank Of Japan Stepped In A Stunning 143 Times To Buy Stocks, Prevent Drop
Since 2010, The Bank of Japan has 'openly' - no conspiracy theory here - been a buyer of Japanese stock ETFs. Their bravado increased as the years passed and Abe pressured them from their independence to 'show' that his policies were working to the point that in September 2014, The BoJ bought a record amount of Japanese stock ETFstaking its holdings to over 1.5% of the entire market cap, surpassing Nippon Life as the largest individual holder of Japanese stocks. However, as WSJ reports, The BoJ has now gone full intervention-tard - buying Japanese stocks on 76% of the days when the market opened lower.
The Bank of Japan’s aggressive purchasing of stock funds has helped Japanese shares climb to multiyear highs in recent months. But some within the central bank are growing uncomfortable about the fast-paced rally and the bank’s own role in fueling it.Since Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda took office in March 2013 and introduced monetary easing of what he called a “different dimension,” the central bank has sharply increased its buying of baskets of stocks known as exchange-traded funds. By directly underpinning the market, officials have tried to encourage private investors to follow suit and put more money in stocks in the hope of stimulating the economy and increasing inflation.During the past two years, the central bank entered the stock market roughly once every three days, picking up a total of ¥2.8 trillion ($23 billion) of ETFs that track Japan’s major stock indexes, according to Bank of Japan records. That distinguishes it from the U.S. Federal Reserve and European Central Bank, both of which have bought bonds to pump up the economy but haven’t directly bought stocks.Analysts say the bank’s action has been a significant driver of Japan’s stock-market rally in recent months, combined with hefty purchases by the $1.1 trillion Government Pension Investment Fund. Their buying has often countered selling pressure from individuals in the market and made up for a weaker appetite among foreign investors.
The central bank has stepped in mostly when market sentiment was weak. Three-quarters of the central bank’s buying occurred on days when the benchmark Topix index opened lower, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of BOJ data.
So much for independence...
BOJ officials used to be cautious about purchasing ETFs, worried that it could distort market activities and put the central bank’s own financial health at risk. But under pressure from politicians following the global financial crisis, the bank changed its stance in late 2010.“We led the cows to water, but they didn’t drink it, even though we told them it tasted good,” Miyako Suda, who was a board member then, wrote in a 2014 book discussing monetary easing at that time. “So we thought we should drink it ourselves, showing them it was tasty.”