Race to the Bottom: US Dollar Still Ugliest Currency

Wednesday, 07 Sep 2011 09:32 AM

By Ashish Advani

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What a week this has been already. Despite the Labor Day holiday, it has been an intense week in the currency markets.

We start out last week when the Central Bank of Brazil shocked the markets with an interest rate cut. Yes folks, you read it right – an interest rate cut. And this is despite a high level of inflation in the country and excess liquidity in the real markets.

Granted, this is not the first shocking move by the Brazilian government which is trying to stop the rise of the real. They have taxed, restricted and controlled the currency markets. Basically, they have thrown the kitchen sink at this perceived problem. And yet the real has stayed strong, falling by only about 4 percent.

Next we have heard the rumblings on and off about the possible slowdown of growth in China and India. While we see some signs of a slowing of the hot growth rates in both countries, we have not seen a dramatic fall in their currency rates. In fact, the Chinese currency has barely moved.

The Japanese yen has also soared to new heights. While this has been a challenge to businesses, the Central Bank of Japan, which has tried currency market interventions in the past and failed, has stayed out of the market – so far.

It has grumbled and threatened the world a bit, but has stayed on the sidelines – so far.

Yesterday was the witness to one of the most cowardly acts in the currency markets in recent history. The Swiss National Bank (SNB) capitulated and gave up its sovereignty completely. They have effectively pegged the Swiss franc to the euro at 1.20. And with that, they have effectively announced that they will keep buying euros to manage their currency rising versus the euro.

I am not sure what benefit this will bring the franc or the currency reserves of Switzerland. The euro is under a cloud these days. And to peg your currency to that, in this day and time, seems like a very risky move. In any case, as a consequence of the SNB move, the franc-U.S. dollar rate fell by 10 percent immediately. But that will not help Swiss businesses which run their biggest trading relationships with Europe, not the U.S.

Let’s also talk about the euro. Germany's high court on Wednesday upheld the country's participation in eurozone bailout funds, but ruled that lawmakers should be more involved in such decisions.

The ruling means that while Germany's agreement to take part in the financial rescue of Greece will not be affected, participation in future bailouts might become more complicated.

The SNB move just ahead of this makes the decision of pegging to euro even more confusing and ill-timed.

Can you imagine if the Federal Reserve and the White House had to get Supreme Court approval to print money, bail out private banks and car companies? What a novel idea to have some authority keep our runaway officials in check.

And yet, after all of these events, the U.S. dollar has risen by 1.35 percent in the past week (as measured by the U.S. Dollar Index). So in the race to be the cheapest currency, Central Banks are outdoing themselves to malign their currencies. And yet the U.S. dollar is not rising.

What does that tell us? What the market is telling us, is that despite all of these well-meaning but ineffective moves, the U.S. dollar is still the ugliest belle at the ball, and that the U.S. dollar problems are much more deeper than all of the worries in the world.

And finally, what does gold at $1,900 per ounce tell us? It is telling us that the markets have no faith in the U.S. dollar or the Federal Reserve Bank keeping the U.S. dollar safe. It is the biggest no-confidence motion against the Federal Reserve.

I am glad to see that I am not the only one who has no faith in the U.S. dollar. Diversification is the key and getting out of the U.S. dollar should be your priority.

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