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Archives March 2011

Forex Volatility Rises from Multi-Year Lows

In the last month, volatility in the forex markets touched both a two-year low and a one-year high. In the beginning of March, volatility essentially returned to pre-credit crisis levels. One week later, when the earthquake and inception of the nuclear crisis in Japan, volatility surged 40%. While it has since resumed its downward path, investors are still bracing themselves for continued uncertainty.

Why the Dollar is Here to Stay

In a recent piece published in the WSJ (“Why the Dollar’s Reign Is Near an End“), Berkley Professor Barry Eichengreen declared that the Dollar will soon cease to be the world’s reserve currency. According to Dr. Eichengreen, within 10 years and for various reasons, the Dollar will become one of many reserve currencies, competing for preference with the Euro, Chinese Yuan, Japanese Yen, and Swiss Franc. While Dr. Eichengreen makes some good points, however, I don’t think most of his arguments stand up to scrutiny.

Brazil Gets “Real” about Intervention

Over the last two years, the Brazilian Real has appreciated a whopping 37% against the US Dollar, second only to the South African Rand. It hasn’t been this strong since prior to the credit crisis, and it is rapidly closing in on a record high. If only Brazilian policymakers hadn’t made it a high priority to prevent that from happening.

UK Forex Reserve Plan could Harm Pound

Yesterday, UK Chancellor George Osborne announced that his government was ready to begin rebuilding its foreign exchange reserves. Depending on when, how, (or even if) this program is implemented, it could have serious implications for the Pound.

Pound Vs. Euro: Tie Game for Now?

While I’m fondest of analyzing all currencies relative to the Dollar (after all, it’s what I’m most familiar with and is involved in almost half of all forex trades), sometimes its interesting to look at cross rates.

Take the Pound/Euro, for example, arguably one of the most important crosses, and one of a handful that often moves independently of the Dollar. If you chart the performance of this pair over the last two years, however, you can see the distinct lack of volatility. It has fluctuated around an axis of 1.15 GBP/EUR, never straying more than 5% in either direction. In fact, it’s sitting right at this level as I compose this post.

“Currency Manipulation” Will Continue, Despite G20

Last month, the G20 finally agreed on the specific factors that would be used to determine whether a country was manipulating its currency. Despite being watered-down (by the usual suspects), the so-called “scorecard” is nonetheless extremely substantive. Unfortunately, the resolution will be backed only by “peer pressure,” rather than any kind of real enforcement mechanism, which means that in practice it is basically worthless.
 
While the proximate goal of the resolution is to eliminate exchange rate manipulation, it’s ultimate goal is to minimize the risk of another economic/financial crisis.

Does Japan’s “Triple Disaster” Threaten the Dollar?

While analysts have been busy dissecting the implications of the natural disasters that ravage(d) Japan for forex markets, the focus has naturally been directed towards the Yen. Given all the rumors about the liquidation of foreign (i.e. Dollar-denominated) assets, it’s also worth examining the potential impact on the Dollar. In a nutshell, Japan’s holdings of US Treasury Securities are extensive, and even a partial unloading could have serious implications for the world’s de facto reserve currency.

Wild Ride for the Yen

The last week has witnessed unprecedented volatility in the Japanese Yen. Following the earthquake/tsunami and the inception of a nuclear crisis, the Yen defied all logic (and embarrassingly, my own predictions…mea culpa) by rising to a post-World War II high of 76.36 against the Dollar. Then, as rumors of Central Bank intervention began to circulate, it suddenly shot downwards, before resuming a steady upward path. Who knows what next week will bring?!

British Pound Continues Gradual Ascent

The British Pound has risen almost 15% against the Dollar over the last twelve months. It seems that the markets are ignoring the fiscal concerns that sent the Pound tumbling in 2010, and focusing more on inflation and the prospect of interest rate hikes. At this point, the Bank of England (BOE) is now racing with the European Central Bank (ECB) to be the first “G4″ Central Bank to hike rates.

Yen In Trouble, Even Before Earthquake

Even before today’s devastatingly tragic earthquake, a confluence of negative factors had begun to pile up behind the Yen. Low interest rates. Low GDP growth. Political infighting. Record national debt. Declining current account surplus. Lack of interest in investing in Japan. In short, while the Yen deserves credit for perseverance, I have to believe that the day of reckoning is near.