Seven Charts and a Curious Conclusion

I’m confused. “Well”, i hear you say, “there’s a surprise!”

Since Uncle Ben announced it latest round of debt monetization (QE2) the dollar has strengthened against the Yen. Not by much, but it has been consistently in one direction. Obviously this will change now that i’ve mentioned it…

This article has (you guessed it) seven charts of the dollars performance against various currencies. I’ve never been able to get much out of, so called, technical analysis. In fact, it’s usually translated in my head to ‘testicle analysis’ as it seems to be only so much bollocks…

That being said, the following chart of dollar / yen since 1976 indicates to me that there is basically one relentless trend:

If you were going to bet on one thing based on that chart it would probably be that the yen is going to continue to strengthen against the dollar. The last couple of decades of deflation in Japan have provided some respite for the yen, but with the comparison being between a contracting US (with a massively negative trade balance, and a money printing, actively dollar debasing, Fed) and a moderately deflating Japan, it’s obvious that we’d be testing new lows.

All of which makes the following conclusion to the article:

The key take-away: A grossly weaker dollar is not an economically or politically acceptable proposition for the world. And trouble for the world economy represents trouble for the U.S. economy.

So, despite all of the bold projections of a continued rout in the dollar, these seven charts suggest the exact opposite outcome could be around the corner.

Wha?

The missing piece, in what i’ve said above, appears to be the following chart:

which shows the relative values of currencies (against the dollar?) The Yuan is the obvious standout here – over the period of the chart it has risen only modestly, which everything else (of import in the world of currencies) has headed for the roof. This makes chinese export (relatively) more (price) competitive.

The argument is presumably that this collective need for a strong dollar (it is after all the world reserve currency, not just the currency of the US) will override the desire of the US to devalue the dollar, to boost exports. I’d have more sympathy for this argument if the US was an export powerhouse, but that hasn’t been the case since the 50s, and there are only so many wars you can ferment to increase arms sales… and when something like 80% of your manufacturing base is in the “defence sector” that’s a reasonable consideration!

Thus far the collective desire for a strong dollar has not amounted to much, unless one assumes that it has been a case of attempting to ‘talk the dollar up’, an no real action has been taken.

There we are: i’m confused. The dollar is obviously weak and i can see no reason why it should not continue to weaken. However, it’s strengthening, and  people are convinced that this is to be expected.

Don’t know what to think… except that markets can’t be rational if they are based in the complex (and irrational) behaviours of traders following there hunches and muses!

Revenge

Following up on last weekends musing on the possibility of China regarding the US printing money as a de facto default. This article in the FT makes it pretty clear that is exactly what is happening:

China has quietly almost doubled its gold reserves to become the world’s fifth-biggest holder of the precious metal, it emerged on Friday, in a move that signals the revival of bullion after years of fading importance.

In an earlier version of the article, now edited away, was this quote:

Hou Huimin, vice general secretary of the China Gold Association, said China should build its reserves to 5,000 tonnes. “It’s not a matter of a few hundred, or 1,000 tonnes. China should hold more because of its new international status, and because of the financial crisis,” he said. “The financial crisis means the US dollar’s value is changing fast, and it may retreat from being the international reserve currency. If that happens, whoever holds gold will be at an advantage.”

Not much doubt about that then. Rather odd that the quote was edited out.

In other news, Alistair Darling is now my favourite comedian. Managing in his budget to say that the current down turn is serious as the Great Depression, and that the growth resuming by Christmas, is one of the funniest things i think i’ve ever heard a politician say… well, except maybe for that Hatoyama idiot and “his friend in Al-Qaeda”.