Tag Archives: currency war

Slumping Japan exports, factory orders add to headaches for PM Abe, BOJ

Reuters, May 23, 2016

JAPAN - MARCH 14:  A sign for the Bank of Japan is seen in Tokyo, Japan, Wednesday March 15, 2007. The yen held near a one-week high versus the dollar and advanced against the U.K. pound as investors reduced holdings of higher-yielding assets purchased with money borrowed in Japan.  (Photo by Torin Boyd/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
JAPAN – MARCH 14: A sign for the Bank of Japan is seen in Tokyo, Japan, Wednesday March 15, 2007. The yen held near a one-week high versus the dollar and advanced against the U.K. pound as investors reduced holdings of higher-yielding assets purchased with money borrowed in Japan. (Photo by Torin Boyd/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Japan’s exports fell sharply in April and manufacturing activity suffered the fastest contraction since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe swept to power in late 2012, providing further evidence that the premier’s Abenomics stimulus policy is struggling for traction.

The bleak readings on the health of the world’s third-largest economy follow Japan’s failure last week to win support from its global counterparts to weaken the strong yen, which Tokyo fears could do further damage to the sputtering economy.

They also add pressure on both Abe and the Bank of Japan to do more to rev up flagging growth, even as economists and global investors worry that central banks may be reaching their limits with radical experiments that have yet to kick-start growth.

Data on Monday showed Japan’s exports fell 10.1 percent in April from a year earlier, the fastest decline in three months as a stronger yen and weakness in China and other emerging markets take their toll on the country’s shipments.

Imports shrank more than 23 percent, reflecting not only lower commodity prices but stubbornly weak domestic demand that has defied a massive asset-buying program by the BOJ which is now into its fourth year.

The decline was likely exaggerated by a drop in U.S.-bound car exports due to supply-chain disruptions caused by earthquakes in Japan last month, but a firmer yen and lackluster global demand are clouding the outlook for 2016. Some analysts fear the economy could contract this quarter after dodging a return to recession early in the year.

“Drops in U.S.-bound car exports were noise,” said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute.

“Asia and the global economy remain weak. On top of that, yen gains squeeze profits at exporters, causing wages and capital spending to weaken, which would hamper ‘Abenomics’ aim of creating virtuous growth,” Minami said.

STRONG YEN PUTS JAPAN IN A BIND

Japanese officials recently threatened to intervene in foreign exchange markets to halt “disorderly, one-sided” moves as the yen bolted to 18-month highs, but the United States issued a fresh warning to Tokyo on Saturday against weakening its currency, overshadowing a Group of 7 finance leaders’ gathering to discuss how to revive growth.

Bank of Japan Deputy Governor Hiroshi Nakaso, while declining to comment on how a strong yen could affect its policy decisions, said on Monday it was desirable for currency rates to move stably, reflecting economic fundamentals.

“The desirability of exchange-rate stability is widely shared by the Japanese industry,” he said at a seminar.

The BOJ is widely expected to expand policy again by July, after shocking global markets by moving to negative interest rates earlier this year. Such a move, along with a possible interest rate hike by the U.S. Federal Reserve, could take some fire out of the yen.

Abe is widely expected to unveil an additional budget this summer, and many analysts expect he will postpone a sales tax increase slated for early next year, though officials have publicly said they will press ahead with the plan barring a massive shock to the economy.

A private business survey on Monday suggested more pain ahead for Japanese manufacturers. The Markit/Nikkei preliminary survey for May showed factory activity shrank for the third straight month while total new orders declined at the sharpest pace in 41 months.

Exports to China – Japan’s largest trading partner – fell 7.6 percent in April, while the U.S.-bound shipments fell 11.8 percent year-on-year. Car exports to the United States fell 4.4 percent, down for the first time since November 2014.

Exports to Asia, which accounts for more than half of Japan’s shipments, fell 11.1 percent in the year to April, but EU-bound shipments rose 9.9 percent.

Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) recently forecast a bigger-than-expected 35 percent tumble in net profit for the current year due to the sharp appreciation of the yen, ending three straight years of record profits driven in part by a weak currency. But it still expected global sales to inch up this year.

The yen was trading around 110 to the dollar JPY= on Monday, pulling back from a high above 105 yen earlier this month, its strongest since late 2014.

Source

John Rubino: How Stupid Do You Have To Be To Let This Happen?

By John Rubino, Mar 27, 2016

How Stupid Do You Have To Be To Let This Happen?

Europe is the birthplace of Western civilization and the source of most of the trends and bodies of knowledge that define modernity. The average European speaks several languages versus sometimes less than one for Americans. They are, in short, a well-schooled people with vast accumulated wisdom.

So how do we explain this: After World War II most European countries set up generous entitlement systems including government pensions designed to offer dignified retirements to citizens who had worked hard and paid taxes and obeyed the rules for a lifetime. BUT they didn’t bother putting anything aside for the inevitable — and mathematically predictable — retirement of the immense baby boomer generation. Here’s an excerpt from a recent Wall Street Journal article outlining the problem:

Europe Faces Pension Predicament

State-funded pensions are at the heart of Europe’s social-welfare model, insulating people from extreme poverty in old age. Most European countries have set aside almost nothing to pay these benefits, simply funding them each year out of tax revenue. Now, European countries face a demographic tsunami, in the form of a growing mismatch between low birthrates and high longevity, for which few are prepared.Europe’s population of pensioners, already the largest in the world, continues to grow. Looking at Europeans 65 or older who aren’t working, there are 42 for every 100 workers, and this will rise to 65 per 100 by 2060, the European Union’s data agency says. By comparison, the U.S. has 24 nonworking people 65 or over per 100 workers.

“Western European governments are close to bankruptcy because of the pension time bomb,” said Roy Stockell, head of asset management at Ernst & Young. “We have so many baby boomers moving into retirement [with] the expectation that the government will provide.”

The demographic squeeze could be eased by the influx of more than a million migrants in the past year. If many of them eventually join the working population, the result could be increased tax revenue to keep the pension model afloat. Before migrants are even given the right to work, however, they require housing, food, education and medical treatment. Their arrival will have effects on public finances that officials have only started to assess.

A Growing Mismatch
The pension squeeze doesn’t follow the familiar battle lines of the eurozone crisis, which pits Europe’s more prosperous north against a higher-spending, deeply indebted south. Some of the governments facing the toughest demographic challenges, such as Austria and Slovenia, have been among those most critical of Greece.

Germans, meanwhile, “are promoting fiscal rules in Spain and other countries, but we are softening the pension rules” at home, said Christoph Müller, a German academic who advises the EU on pension statistics. He pointed to a recent change allowing some workers to collect benefits two years early, at 63. A German labor ministry spokesman called that “a very limited measure.”

Europe’s state pension plans are rife with special provisions. In Germany, employees of the government make no pension contributions. In the U.K., pensioners get an extra winter payment for heating. In France, manual laborers or those who work night shifts, such as bakers, can start their benefits early without penalty.

Across Europe, the birthrate has fallen 40% since the 1960s to around 1.5 children per woman, according to the United Nations. In that time, life expectancies have risen to roughly 80 from 69.

In 2012, the Polish government launched a series of changes in its main national pension plan to make it more affordable. One was a gradual rise in the age to receive benefits. It will reach 67 by 2040, marking an increase of 12 years for women and seven for men. The changes mean the main pension plan now is financially sustainable, said Jacek Rostowski, a former finance minister and architect of the overhaul.

The party that enacted the changes lost an election in October, however, and a central promise of the winning party is to undo them. Recently, Poland’s president introduced a bill to reverse some of the measures. “You have to take care of people, of their dignity, not finances,” said Krzysztof Jurgiel, agriculture minister in the current Law & Justice Party government.

The implication is that Germany, Italy, Spain, France et al are functionally bankrupt, apparently (amazingly) by choice. They saw the avalanche coming decades ago and instead of getting out of the way or reinforcing their chalets, simply sat there watching the snow roll down the mountain. It will be arriving shortly, and they’re still debating what — if anything — to do about it.

In fact the only thing that can be reasonably described as preparation is the decision to ramp up immigration. This might have worked if Europe had chosen more compatible immigrants, but that’s a subject for a different column. For now let’s focus on insanely stupid choice number one, which is to offer entitlements with no funding mechanism other than future tax revenue. If an insurance company or corporate pension plan did something like that its executives would be led away in handcuffs — rightfully so, since the essence of such deferred-payout entities is an account that starts small and grows to sufficient size as its beneficiaries begin to need it.

So what the Europeans have aren’t actually pensions, but a form of election fraud designed to give an entire generation of politicians the ability to offer free money to voters without consequence.

Soon, a whole continent will be left with no choice but to devalue its currency to hide the magnitude of its mismanagement. The math will work like this: devalue the euro by 50% while raising pension payouts by 20%, thus cutting the real burden significantly — while taking credit for the nominal benefit increase at election time. It might work, based on the level of voter credulity displayed so far.

Now here’s where it gets really interesting. The US “trust funds” that have been created to guarantee Social Security and Medicare are full of Treasury bonds, the interest on which is paid from — you guessed it — taxes levied each year on US citizens. So the only real difference between the European pay-as-you-go and US trust fund models is that the former is more honest.

This is why gold bugs and other sound money people are so certain that precious metals will soon be a lot more valuable. The pension numbers are catastrophic everywhere and the reckoning that was once merely inevitable is now imminent. Europe is a little further along demographically and so might have to devalue its currency first, but $80 trillion in unfunded Medicare liabilities can’t be denied. We’ll be following along shortly.

This article is written by John Rubino of Dollarcollapse.com and with his kind permission, Gecko Research has been privileged to publish his work on our website. To find out more about Dollarcollapse.com, please visit:

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John Rubino: Welcome To The Currency War, Part 22: China Devaluation Watch

By John Rubino, Mar 11, 2016

Welcome To The Currency War, Part 22: China Devaluation Watch

Not so long ago, a big Chinese currency devaluation seemed both inevitable and imminent. The story went like this: China had borrowed tens of trillions of dollars in response to the Great Recession and squandered much of it on uncompetitive factories and ghost cities. The companies and governments that own these worthless assets were about to go broke en masse.

China would, as a result, have no choice but to cut the yuan’s value by as much as 40% to make domestic debts manageable and export industries competitive. Hedge funds, led by Hayman Capital’s Kyle Bass, were gearing up to bet billions on this event.

From a Bass report to his investors (via the Value Walk website):

Over the past decade, we have worked diligently to identify anomalies in financial systems, governments, and companies around the world. We have been vigorously studying China over the last year, with the view that the rapid credit expansion in the Chinese banking system will result in significant credit losses that will require the recapitalization of Chinese banks and materially pressure the Chinese currency. This outcome will have many near-term and long-term effects on countries and markets around the world. In other words, what happens in China will not stay in China.

The unwavering faith that the Chinese will somehow be able to successfully avoid anything more severe than a moderate economic slowdown by continuing to rely on the perpetual expansion of credit reminds us of the belief in 2006 that US home prices would never decline. Similar to the US banking system in its approach to the Global Financial Crisis (“GFC”), China’s banking system has increasingly pursued excessive leverage, regulatory arbitrage, and irresponsible risk taking. Recently, we have had numerous discussions with various Wall Street firms, consultants, and other respected China experts, and they almost all share the view that China will pull through without a reset of its economic conditions. What we have come to realize through these discussions is that many have come to their conclusion without fully appreciating the size of the Chinese banking system and the composition of assets at individual banks. More importantly, banking system losses – which could exceed 400% of the US banking losses incurred during the subprime crisis – are starting to accelerate.

Our research suggests that China does not have the financial arsenal to continue on without restructuring many of its banks and undergoing a large devaluation of its currency. It is normal for economies and markets to experience cycles, and a near-term downturn that works to correct the current economic imbalance does not qualitatively change China’s longer-term growth outlook and transition to a service economy. However, credit in China has reached its near-term limit, and the Chinese banking system will experience a loss cycle that will have profound implications for the rest of the world. What we are witnessing is the resetting of the largest macro imbalance the world has ever seen. [emphasis added]

So how did we get here? Since 2004, China’s real effective exchange rate has appreciated 60%. The majority of this appreciation occurred in the last few years as the ECB and BOJ both actively targeted weaker exchange rates to stimulate Europe’s and Japan’s large export sectors, respectively. While the markets seem solely focused on China’s exchange rate versus the US dollar, this fixation misses the point that many other manufacturing economies and currencies, including those belonging to Japan, Europe, Russia, and several Southeast Asian countries, have gained significant price advantages at China’s expense. If China is to achieve the required clawback of its real effective exchange rate, the renminbi will need to devalue against a trade-weighted basket of currencies and not just the dollar. In effect, the required devaluation against the dollar will need to be multiplied to achieve the necessary result.

As the renminbi appreciated over the last decade, China undertook a massive infrastructure spending program in order to maintain politically-determined GDP growth targets in the face of these headwinds. This policy action created a system of distorted incentives (not to mention a dramatic misallocation of capital) whereby local officials were promoted to higher office by exceeding those targets without regard to the return on investment of the projects they supported. In 2005, exports and investment constituted 34% and 42% of China’s GDP, respectively. By 2014, exports had fallen to 23% and investment had grown to 46%. This growth in investment was funded by rapid credit expansion in China’s banking system, which grew from $3 trillion in 2006 to $34 trillion in 2015.

Today China is at a point where its banking system can no longer support such massive growth, and the strong renminbi has effectively undermined the competitiveness of China’s export economy. A dramatic devaluation of the renminbi is warranted to regain export competitiveness; however, the Chinese authorities have errantly fought against this so far, spending around $1 trillion to defend their currency. The continued capital outflows and emerging need to deal with losses in the banking sector will eventually force China to change tack and allow (or enable) a devaluation that resets growth as many countries have done over the past eight years.

China: Divergence in Bank Asset Growth and GDP
China imbalance March 16

There’s much, much more in Bass’ letter, all of it pointing to an epic crisis in which the exposure of China’s fake growth numbers, historically-unprecedented levels of malinvestment and evaporating foreign exchange reserves combine to force a devaluation.

But apparently not yet:

Yuan Hits Strongest Level Against Dollar Since Early December

(Wall Street Journal) – The yuan hit its strongest level against the dollar since early December on Friday, after the Chinese central bank boosted the fixed rate to keep up with the euro’s big gains overnight, analysts said.

Analysts said the move likely came as a result of a sharp rally in the euro Thursday, after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi appeared to suggest that the central bank wouldn’t cut interest rates further into negative territory. Mr. Draghi’s comments came after the central bank delivered another rate cut and ramped up its bond-buying program.

China wants to keep its currency in line with those of top trading partners Japan and Europe, said Daniel Tenengauzer, a managing director at RBC Capital Markets. “With the euro going up after the ECB yesterday, it makes sense that the bank would raise the fix,” he said.

Last year, the People’s Bank of China said it would change the way it manages the yuan’s value, with the exchange rate now being measured against a basket of currencies of its trading partners rather than the dollar alone. The move was seen as a demonstration of China’s determination to make the yuan a global currency, with a value determined more in line with other major currencies.

So is the China devaluation thesis false or just early?

History teaches that huge imbalances seldom just evaporate. Most of the time they’re rectified through sudden, wrenching change — market crashes, recessions/depressions and, yes, devaluations.

In China’s case, the combined effects of an overvalued currency and a global slowdown have caused its exports to plunge, while supporting the yuan has forced it to burn through nearly half a trillion dollars of foreign exchange reserves in the past year. Since it can’t fix the global economy, devaluation seems to be the only remaining tool in the box.

Chinese exports March 16

China forex reserves March 16

But history also teaches that imbalances can persist for a shockingly long time before causing a crisis. So add the overvalued yuan to the list of Money Bubble sub-sections that should have blown up long ago — and will certainly blow up one of these days — but for now, somehow, are still going.

This article is written by John Rubino of Dollarcollapse.com and with his kind permission, Gecko Research has been privileged to publish his work on our website. To find out more about Dollarcollapse.com, please visit:

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Currency wars: Will Europe return Japanese fire?

CNN Money, Jan 29, 2016

Currency wars: Will Europe return Japanese fire?

Japan has just fired the latest salvo in a global currency war and Europe may have to respond.

The Bank of Japan stunned markets Friday by introducing negative interest rates. It wants to get inflation and growth moving by penalizing people for saving money, but the move also has the effect of further depressing the yen.

Europe, which is battling stagnation in its own economy, can ill afford to see the euro gain in value against other major currencies. That could make European exports more expensive, while reducing the cost of imports at a time when the European Central Bank is trying to stoke inflation.

“Let battle commence,” noted BNP Paribas economist Ken Wattret. Negative interest rates in Japan would “increase the already high likelihood” of the ECB taking its rates even deeper into negative territory, he said.

Japan has now joined a negative interest rate club that includes Germany (and the rest of the eurozone), and Switzerland — dubbed the “Three Musketeers” by Societe Generale strategist Kit Juckes.

The message to consumers is clear: Stop saving, start spending.

“Whether it works or not matters less than the fact the deflationary forces in the global economy are so entrenched that these central banks feel the need to set off on this path at all,” he wrote.

Markets clearly expect ECB President Mario Draghi to act again when the central bank next meets in March. Yields on German government two-year bonds fell to a new record low of nearly minus 0.50% on Friday.

And a tick up in inflation in January to 0.4%, from 0.2% in December, is unlikely to deter Draghi.

Core inflation — stripping out highly volatile oil prices — has barely budged since last July, and there are some signs already that European activity is being hurt by global economic uncertainty and market turmoil.

IHS Chief Economist Howard Archer said the ECB would also be concerned about a sharp drop in bank lending to companies in December.

“We expect the ECB to trim its discount rate by a further 10 basis points to minus 0.4% at its March meeting, and believe it could very well step up its monthly purchase of assets,” he wrote.

At its January meeting, the ECB kept interest rates unchanged, as expected, and said it would continue to buy government bonds and other assets at a rate of 60 billion euros ($65 billion) a month. But Draghi said the ECB may have to reconsider at its March meeting, adding: “There are no limits to how far we’re willing to deploy our instruments.”

Source

John Rubino: Japan Goes Negative; US To Return Fire In 2016

By John Rubino, Jan 30, 2016

Well that didn’t take long. Two weeks of falling share prices and the European and Japanese central banks caved. First the ECB promised new stimulus — which the markets liked — and then the BoJ upped the ante with negative interest rates — which the markets loved. Here’s a quick summary from Bloomberg:

Central Banks Intensify Campaign for Negative Rates

In surprising markets by penalizing a portion of banks’ reserves, the Bank of Japan on Friday joined a growing club taking the once-anathema step of pushing some borrowing costs beneath zero.“Negative rates are now very much the new normal,” said Gabriel Stein, an economist at Oxford Economics Ltd. in London. “We’ve seen they are possible and we’re going to see more.” Negative rates once “sounded illogical,” said Stein. “We now know what we thought was true isn’t.”

This is a resounding admission of failure. Over the past seven years the world’s central banks have cut interest rates to levels not seen since the Great Depression and flooded their banking systems with newly-created currency, while national governments have borrowed unprecedented sums (in the US case doubling the federal debt). Yet here we are in the early stages of a global deflationary collapse. Commodity prices have followed interest rates to historic lows, while growth is anemic and may soon be nonexistent.

The official response: More extreme versions of what has hasn’t worked. Here’s a JP Morgan chart published by Financial Times that shows just how sudden the trend towards negative interest rates has been:

NIRP Jan 16

Future historians will have a ball psychoanalyzing the people making these decisions, and their conclusion will almost certainly be some variant of the popular definition of insanity as repeating the same behavior while expecting a different result.

So what does this new stage of the Money Bubble mean? Many, many bad things.

This latest leg down in bond yields presents savers (the forgotten victims of the QE/NIRP experiment) with an even tougher set of choices. Previously they were advised to move out on the risk spectrum by loading up on junk bonds and high-dividend equities. Now, after the past few months’ carnage in those sectors, even the most oblivious retiree is likely to balk. But having said “no thanks” to the demonstrably dangerous options, what’s left? The answer is…very little. There is literally no way remaining for a regular person to generate historically normal levels of low-risk cash income.

Meanwhile, a NIRP world presents the US with a problem that perhaps only the Swiss can appreciate: As the other major countries aggressively devalue their currencies (the euro and yen are already down big versus the dollar), another round of lower interest rates and faster money printing will, other things being equal, raise the dollar’s exchange rate even further.

For a sense of what that might mean, recall that US corporate profits are already falling because of a too-strong dollar (see Brace for a ‘rare’ recession in corporate profits). Bump the dollar up another 10% versus the euro, yen and yuan, and US corporate profits might fall off a cliff. The inevitable result: Before the end of the year, the US will see no alternative but to open a new front in the currency war with negative interest rates of its own.

The big banks, meanwhile, are no longer feeling the central bank love. Where falling interest rates used to be good for lenders because they energized borrowers and widened loan spreads, ultra-low rates are making markets more volatile (and thus harder to profitably manipulate for bank trading desks) without bringing attractive new borrowers through the door. The result: falling profits at BofA, JP Morgan, Goldman, et al and tanking big-bank share prices.

As for gold, there are now $5 trillion of bonds and bank accounts that cost about the same amount to own as bullion stored in a super-safe vault — and which cost more than gold and silver coins stored at home. Compared with the 5%-6% cash flow advantage that bonds have traditionally enjoyed versus gold, NIRP can’t help but lead savers and conservative investors to reconsider their options. In other words, what would you rather trust: A bond issued by a government (Japan, the US, Europe — take your pick) that is wildly-overleveraged and acting ever-more-erratically, or a form of money that has never in three thousand years suffered from inflation or counterparty risk? At some point in the process, a critical mass of people will get this.

And no discussion of the unfolding financial mess would make complete sense if it left out the geopolitical backdrop. The Middle East is on fire and refugees are flooding the developed world, resurrecting old social pathologies (see Swedes storm occupied Stockholm train station, beat migrant children). Much of Latin America is sinking into chaos (see Caracas named as world’s most violent city and 21 of the 50 most violent cities are in Brazil). Seeing this, who in their right mind would spend thousands of dollars to visit Egypt or Rio or even Paris right now? The answer is far fewer than a decade ago.

So the old reliable economic drivers of expanding global trade and enthusiastic tourism are gone for a while, if not for decades. Central banks are, as a result, swimming against a current that is far faster — in water that is far deeper — than anything seen since at least the 1930s. And all they can do is pump a bit more air into their sadly-inadequate water wings.

This article is written by John Rubino of Dollarcollapse.com and with his kind permission, Gecko Research has been privileged to publish his work on our website. To find out more about Dollarcollapse.com, please visit:

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