Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Currency Markets - California Dreaming is Greek to Me

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 trade-weighted U.S. dollar has been rallying since early December 2009. Except for a sell off after the beginning of this year, the rally continued because of trouble in the euro zone centered around Greece. The euro, representing more than 50% by weight of the basket of currencies that make up the trade-weighted dollar, hit a seven-month low and lost more than 7% of its value from its recent high. It takes a huge leap of logic to think that fiscal troubles in the euro zone are bigger those in the United States, but this is what the mainstream media has dished up as the explanation for what is going on. The invisible hand of the ECB (European Central Bank) manipulating the currency markets would offer a more rational explanation.

Greece represents 2% of the euro zone economy, compared to California which represent 13% of the U.S. economy. Both are in fiscal trouble. Neither can print their own money to get out of that trouble because they are both part of currency unions. While it is generally not recognized, U.S. states are de facto part of a currency union for the dollar, which was established in the 1800s. Their fiscal problems should be considered as analagous to european countries that are part of the euro zone. California is essentially in default and is only being kept afloat by constant cash infusions from a number of federal stimulus programs. It represents a much bigger drain on the U.S. dollar, than Greece does for the euro.

Selling the euro and buying the U.S. dollar because of the fiscal profligacy of countries like Greece is also absurd considering that the U.S federal government is just, if not more profligate, than the most fiscally irresponsible euro zone countries. It is considered outrageous that Greece had a budget deficit that represents 13% of its GDP. The 2011 U.S. federal budget submitted by president Obama on February 1st has a deficit of 11% of GDP (U.S. GDP figures are grossly overstated). For every dollar the U.S. intends to spend in 2011, 40 cents will have to be borrowed or printed.  Does that sound like a country that is protecting the value of its currency?

Greece has submitted a plan to the European Union (EU) for slashing its budget deficit to 3% by 2012 - the maximum allowed by the EU. While many people think that this is unlikely to happen, the U.S. has no intention whatsoever of slashing its budget deficit to that level in 2012 and will be fortunate if it is even lower than current levels. As for California, there seems to be no path to fixing the problem there without a massive federal government bailout - and it is only one of several U.S. states that have serious fiscal problems. Yet, the markets are selling the euro and buying the U.S. dollar because the U.S. is viewed as being in better fiscal shape that the euro zone? Perhaps I missed something when I took Logic 101.

Disclosure: None

NEXT: Withdrawal of Liquidity Threatens Second Global Meltdown

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.


Quality Stocks said...

Not just Greece,
PIIGS as well will keep Euro weak I think.

Nona said...

I had not thought about the fact the every state in the U.S. is a de facto member of a currency union. Duh. How obvious -- now that you point it out.

In addition to being insightful, today's blog has a really fun headline.