Ireland, Gold Futures, commodity speculation, and the rest of this week's news - in advance...!
THIS WEEK’s episode of “The WelfareState in Crisis” features a guest appearance by the Emerald Isle,currently seeking about $110 billion in bailout money from theEuropean Union, writes Dan Denning in his Daily Reckoning Australia.
Actually, Ireland is not seeking that money, and that appears to be a part of the problem. The Irishgovernment is content that it’s managing its problems well,independent of European meddling.
But with 10-year Irish bond yieldsblowing out to a spread of 646 basis points over 10-year German debtlast week, European officials are worried that problems in Irelandare problems for the Euro. And if problems for the Euro get worse,that means problems for Portugal and Spain too.
No wonder the US Dollar quit fallinglast week. And no wonder commodities fell like a stone. Friday was anugly day for commodities speculators. The CRB Index in New York fell3.6%. Every single one of its 19 components was down. Sugar contractsfell 12% in London and corn and soybeans traded limit down.
Part of the shocking action incommodities futures markets is the raising of margin requirements byexchanges. It happened in silver last week. And it happened for sugartoo, when the ICE futures boosted margins on sugar contracts by 81%to shake out speculators. It will probably happen on Gold Futurestoo, and that might explain the $40 thud last Friday, among otherthings.
No one is forced to speculate, ofcourse. But this is what the Bernanke Fed has wrought. ItsQuantitative Easing action has put dollar owners in the position ofdoing nothing and losing money to inflation, or speculating intangible assets that go up in price relative to the dollar. And it’s not just commodities. It’s currencies too.
The G-20 summit in Seoul failed toproduce any result on competitive currency devaluations. No onereally expected it to. But what’s next? Since there is no quick andeasy solution to replacing a broken world currency system, the slow,difficult, and ugly scenario must take place. It will probably beslow, difficult, and ugly.
One thing you should expect more of isan escalating level of capital controls. Ironically, the firstmanifestation of this has been in export-oriented economies likeBrazil, where the government tripled a tax on foreign investment inlocal bonds from 2% to 6%. It was designed to prevent furtherappreciation in Brazil’s currency, which yields over 10% and is up35% in trade-weighted terms since last year.
China, South Korea and other countriesare taking similar measures. For big exporters, a stronger currencytranslates into a loss of competitiveness. And when capital marketsare wide open and you find yourself on the receiving end of hugeinflows, it can lead to rapid asset price appreciation and otherforms of less desirable inflation.
By the way, this shows you how everyoneis complicit in trying to return to the status quo ante GFC. Theexport-driven BRIICs want to pretend that the credit-financed Welfarestates don’t have real structural deficit and demographic issuesthat prevent a return to “normal” rates of consumption. They wantthe world be the way it was.
Here in Australia, other than houseprices being utterly unaffordable, it looks like things have neverbeen better. The rising Aussie dollar (up 17% since the end of Junealone) helps “contain” some of the inflation from booming coaland iron ore exports. That’s why the Reserve Bank of Australia isone of the only central banks in the world that does not appear to beactively trying to weaken its currency.
Maybe the RBA agrees with Bloombergthat on a purchasing power parity basis, the Aussie is trading at a30% premium to fair value. That makes it the most over-valuedcurrency in the world at the moment. If it’s a short-term trade(instead of long-term or secular trend in which the Aussie surpassesthe USD), the currency will weaken and not do any permanent damage toAustralia’s own export competitiveness by making Aussie exportsmore expensive than alternatives from Africa.
For now, the Aussie is the placeeveryone wants to be as well; a high-yield commodity currency from acountry with comparatively low public sector debt (although highhousehold debt), low unemployment, and economic growth correlated toAsia. What could possible go wrong when things can’t’ get anybetter?
Speaking of Asia, the other non-Irishnews that rocked commodity markets last week was that China againraised reserve requirements at key banks and may raise interest ratesto ward off inflation being poured into China from the U.S. Stocksand commodities fell hard.
What do you make of all this mess?
To us, it means that anxiety about theAussie being too strong for too long may be short-lived. China couldbe doing a dress-rehearsal for a much more dramatic fall in assetprices as the authorities try to prevent inflation from surging. Thishas obvious and bearish implications for commodity prices.
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