Thursday, October 7, 2010

Quantitative Easing Has Sent the Dollar Into Free Fall

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. dollar has been in free fall since the beginning of September. The Federal Reserve acting in concert with the ECB (European Central Bank) is behind the action. Most other countries are seeing rising currencies and this is going to hurt their economies and the American economy as well.

It's become a running joke globally that the U.S. follows a strong dollar policy because the evidence so blatantly contradicts this claim. Things have gotten even worse lately with the dollar-trashing activities of the Fed going into hyper drive in time for the November election.  The trade-weighted dollar (DXY) lost approximately 6% of its value in September alone. It is not coincidental that the Dow Jones Industrials went up more than 10% during the month or that gold hit one all-time high after another. Stock markets rise when a currency is being devalued. All commodities are priced in U.S. dollars, so all else being equal; a commodity's price has to go up when the dollar falls. Rising commodity prices under such circumstances do not indicate a robust economy, they indicate inflation.

A cheap currency is indeed a plus for a major exporter. Currently China is the prime example globally of a economy that benefits a great deal from a currency with a low value. The Chinese yuan (CYB) doesn't really float, it can only have a small change in value during any given time period, so it can remain underpriced. The EU has now joined the U.S. in demanding China let the yuan have a more realistic value. China denies it is manipulating its currency however. If this is the case, it should just let it float freely on world currency markets and the value would remain approximately the same. For some reason, China is reluctant to do this.

Unlike exporters, major importers like the U.S. do not benefit from declining currencies. For more than four decades, the U.S. has followed policies that have destroyed its industrial base. The private commercial sector is now 20% manufacturing and 80% services. A weaker dollar will give more business to the manufacturing 20%, while hurting the service sector's 80% with more inflation. It won't solve the U.S. unemployment problem. At the same time it will damage the economies of exporters by raising their costs for commodities and the prices of their goods. All in all, it's a lose/lose situation.

The Federal Reserve's new quantitative easing program, first announced in August, is what is undermining the dollar and wreaking havoc in global currency markets. The euro (FXE) has recovered to the 1.40 area, but this is also due to the almost $1 trillion Euro-TARP bailout of the EU currency. The Japanese yen keeps rising and hit another multi-year high today. The Japanese monetary authorities have intervened in the currency markets to stop the yen from climbing, but to no avail. The Swiss franc (FXF) broke above parity with the dollar in August. The Australian dollar (FXA) is about to follow the Swiss franc's lead. The Brazilian currency (BZF), one of the weakest on earth for much of the twentieth century, is beating the stuffing out of the U.S. dollar.    

The big drop in the dollar is not likely to continue much longer (although the charts indicate there could be another leg down). It is already causing destabilization in world markets and could lead to another global financial crisis if it does. If Fed Chair Bernanke continues with his enthusiasm for quantitative easing though, the dollar could hit an air pocket and wind up much lower overnight. While the Fed's interest in quantitative easing will probably cool suddenly after the election, it may continue to play its dangerous game of chicken with the dollar until then.

Disclosure: No positions.

Daryl Montgomery
Organizer, New York Investing meetup

This posting is editorial opinion. There is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.


Spence said...


I've been following your blog for a while. I'm not a trader, but I'm seeking to learn more about it. Your posts about quantitative easing make all the sense in the world. I know this blog is not designed to take investors all the way to the "therefore, do X" step, but I'm wanting to take some action to protect my assets, and I'm unsure what options exist out there.

How can an amateur like me find specific advice about his options to navigate this economy? Of course I have some ideas, but I fear that there are more optimal solutions for me of which I'm not aware. Where should I go?


Printing money will solve nothing but cause more severe inequality.