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Emerging Currencies

Emerging Market Currencies Receive Boost from IMF

Only two months ago, the Wall Street Journal published an article under the headline “Slowdown hits Emerging Markets.” Buttressed with economic data and testimony from economists, the piece underscored the notion that “The global downdraft is hitting the world’s emerging economies with a speed and ferocity few imagined possible.” On Monday, the same newspaper published an article entitled “Emerging Markets Go on a Tear,” exploring how emerging markets have outperformed in 2009.

Yen Continues to Drop Despite Government Stimulus Plan

This week, the Yen continued its decline against the Dollar and Euro, dipping well below 100 Yen/Dollar en route to a six-month low. Most analysts attribute this trend to a pickup in risk aversion: “Some kind of optimism is returning to the market and that’s putting pressure on the yen,” explained one analyst succinctly.

Korean Won Continues to Plummet as a Result of Acute Dollar Shortage

The Korean Won is among the biggest losers of the credit crisis, excluding Iceland of course. The currency has fallen 40% against the Dollar over the last year, even adjusting for a 10% rise in the last week. South Korean Finance Minister Yoon Jeung-hyun blames currency speculators, pledging that “The government will not sit idle when the foreign exchange rate is excessively tilted toward one direction or when there are speculative forces.”

Will Mexican Peso Crisis of 1994 repeat itself?

Having risen to a six-year high against the Dollar in late 2008, the Mexican Peso seemed to have firmly distanced itself from the devastating financial and economic crisis suffered in the early 1990’s. However, all of the factors that were blamed for the earlier crisis have since re-emerged, leading some analysts to question whether a repeat is possible. According to a report published by the Atlanta Fed shortly after the 1994 crisis:

Spike in Eastern Europe is Short-Lived

Last week, the currencies of Eastern Europe (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, etc.) received a nice bump from the announcement of a $25 Billion loan from several multilateral banks, as well as from a slight pickup in risk aversion. The sense of optimism proved to be short-lived, however, as the EU recently rejected a request to provide large scale ($200 Billion+) assistance to the the region. The swift and decisive refusal to intervene injected a fresh wave of uncertainty into a region that is already among the hardest-hit from the credit crisis. The move also carried important political implications, conveying that the EU still sees a clear distinction between eastern and western Europe. Bloomberg News reports:

Asia Forms Forex Pool

After nearly six months of currency depreciation, the nations of Asia have finally been spurred to action. Japan, China, and South Korea have joined together with the 10 ASEAN economies to form a $120 Billion pool of foreign exchange reserves, which contributors can tap into to protect their currencies. The goal is to prevent capital flight and currency weakness from engendering the same kind of financial crisis that only 10 years ago ravaged Asia. Fortunately, this time around, the 13 countries possess a combined $3.6 Trillion in reserves, which can be deployed in forex and securities markets in order to restore investor confidence.

Investors Return to Emerging Markets

In the last few weeks, investors have waded cautiously back into emerging markets. Spurred in part by the Obama economic stimulus plan and pending US investment in Citigroup, investors have evidently been persuaded to take on more risk. The Japanese Yen, accordingly, has already begun to beat a retreat from the highs it reached earlier this year. If this trend continues, the US Dollar could become the next “victim.” On the other side of the equation are currencies such as the South African Rand, which have benefited from a renewed interest in yield, as well as increased monetary stability driven by lower inflation. Ultimately, this movement of capital can just as easily reverse itself, which it no doubt will at the next economic hiccup. Bloomberg News reports:

Eastern Europe Plagued by Currency Instability

The credit crisis continues to exact a devastating toll on the economies of Eastern Europe, and capital flight has caused the region’s currencies to plummet precipitously. This has prompted internal debate in countries such as Poland, Czech Republic, and Latvia - to name a few- as to whether the effects of the crisis would have been so blunt had they adopted the Euro. While certainly Euro membership would have spared them from currency instability, it would not have necessarily facilitated financial and economic stability, as Italy, Spain, and Greece have learned the hard way.

Forex Reserves Backfire

Prevailing wisdom has long held that the accumulation of foreign exchange reserves has helped stabilize emerging market economies by cushioning them against economic shocks. The economies of Asia, in particular, were praised by economists for responding to the 1997 Southeast Asian economic crisis by building up their reserves to guard against runs on their currencies in the future. In hindsight, however, the accumulation of reserves may have actually contributed to the current economic crisis, by facilitating the formation of massive global economic imbalances. High savings rates in Asia, for example, enabled western countries to run continuous current account deficits.

Forex Reserves Backfire

Prevailing wisdom has long held that the accumulation of foreign exchange reserves has helped stabilize emerging market economies by cushioning them against economic shocks. The economies of Asia, in particular, were praised by economists for responding to the 1997 Southeast Asian economic crisis by building up their reserves to guard against runs on their currencies in the future. In hindsight, however, the accumulation of reserves may have actually contributed to the current economic crisis, by facilitating the formation of massive global economic imbalances. High savings rates in Asia, for example, enabled western countries to run continuous current account deficits.

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