Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The U.S. Dollar in Early 2010 Trading

The 'Helicopter Economics Investing Guide' is meant to help educate people on how to make profitable investing choices in the current economic environment. We have coined this term to describe the current monetary and fiscal policies of the U.S. government, which involve unprecedented money printing. This is the official blog of the New York Investing meetup.

The U.S. trade-weighted dollar began a significant sell off in early March 2009 from the 89.00 level. By November 25th (the day before Thanksgiving), it hit its yearly low at 74.23. Almost as if on schedule, a rally began in December and lasted until the 22nd (right before Christmas). Trading was mostly flat in the first week of 2010, but off the December highs. Gold, which sold off as the dollar rose, rallied strongly in the first trading week of the year. The dollar is struggling and the technical picture now looks negative in the short-term. The December rally did nothing to reverse the intermediate or the long-term downward trend in the dollar. The currency hit its high in the mid-1980s.

The Euro and Swiss franc both peaked the day the dollar bottomed and bottomed the day the dollar peaked. The British pound, which should be a weak currency considering the extensive money printing taking place in the UK, peaked earlier on November 16th and bottomed later on December 29th. The Japanese yen, which rallied strongly starting in early April 2009, peaked on November 30th and bottomed so far on January 7th. The commodity-based currencies the Canadian and Australian dollar behaved somewhat differently. The Australian dollar peaked with the pound, but bottomed with the euro. The Canadian essentially traded flat.

The selling in the yen was sharp and powerful in the first few days of December and had the fingerprints of central bank intervention all over it. Export driven economies in Asia are becoming increasingly desperate to keep their currencies from rising against the dollar since this makes their goods more expensive and hurt their economies. On January 11th alone, at least four Asian central banks - India, South Korea, Singapore and Indonesia - bought U.S. dollars in the currency market. Unlike other currencies, the Chinese yuan doesn't float and this is negatively impacting its Asian neighbors and all other exporters. The Chinese are engaging in jawboning however to try to talk down the dollar. An investment strategist for the Chinese government sovereign wealth fund just commented that the U.S. dollar had bottomed, but the yen should be selling off. He further stated, "China now has a voice in influencing the dollar's exchange rate and the interest rate on U.S. government debt." For some reason, a laugh track didn't accompany the Internet postings of this news.

It is not surprising that the U.S. dollar rallied in December, even if the cause was central bank intervention. No asset, no matter how weak, can drop in price every day. There are always counter rallies, just as there are counter sell offs for assets that are going up most of the time. The underlying problem with the U.S. dollar is irresponsible monetary and fiscal policy. Until these are corrected, and it looks like they will only be getting worse for the next several years, a sustainable rally in the dollar against hard-assets is not possible. Central banks can intervene all they want, but the results will only be temporary. It should be kept in mind that exchange rates in and of themselves are not the only thing that is important. We are in an era when all fiat currencies globally are losing their value against gold. Unless something is done to stop this, paper money will eventually get to its intrinsic value, which is zero.
Disclosure: Long gold.

NEXT: A China in a Bull's Shop

Daryl Montgomery
Organizer, New York Investing meetup

This posting is editorial opinion. Like all other postings for this blog, there is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.

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