Chinese Yuan; A new world reserve currency? , China making its moves.

From the currency war front, we are watching the major assault on the dollar.  We have anticipated this move for several months now and it appears the major push by China has now been launched.  The first signals was China NOT buying all of the US T-Bills at the last few auctions. Then they shifted their paper buying to the Euro bills.   Now according to Graham Sharkey, only a mere twelve days into the New Year (2011) and China has already set the wheels in motion to use their most powerful weapon, the Yuan, in order to combat inflation. This may well be the first decision of many that will result in the Yuan being phased in as the new world reserve currency.

A stronger exchange rate will be the tool that China will use in order to tame their inflationary problems at present. The biggest increases being felt as a result of inflation at this time are; the Chinese housing market, which was most dramatically affected in the southern industrial hub of Guangzhou, where home prices soared by 38 percent in the past year.  Another sector heavily affected was Chinese groceries, with the cost of some foods increasing by 50 percent.

In an attempt to address the loose lending policies being adopted by Chinese banks, China’s government have ordered their banks to increase the amount of money that each bank holds in reserves with a reduction in the availability of lending.  The strengthening Yuan will essentially result in two ways; 1, their imports will become substantially cheaper. 2, their exports will be more expensive.

This is a move that the US have not wanted the Chinese to take as most of the consumer goods that are stocking up US stores are Chinese-made products and the longer the Chinese allowed their currency to be held at a relatively low-level (compared to its purchasing power potential) the longer the shopaholics’ in America could continue to buy their products at a price that they could afford (or a level that they could get credit for).  So, with the world outside China continually devaluing their currencies and China increasing theirs who is going to pick up the export market? And how do they intend to do this?

Before hand, the countries that were importing goods from China were benefiting from a manipulated Yuan price which gave the illusion of cheap imports. But now, that is not an option. The only way that I can see that will enable countries to bridge the export gap will be, further devaluation of their paper currency, which as any respecting economist knows is only an extremely short-term solution (if it can even be called that) and will only result in long-term high inflation for that economy.

This currency policy decision by the Chinese government will help to add to the increasing confidence in the Yuan as a world reserve currency contender to replace the failure that is, the US Dollar.  Aside from the measures taken to combat inflation in China, there have been many other recent events that all point to the strengthening of the Yuan and the growing popularity of the currency.

In the last two weeks, the World Bank issued their very first Yuan bonds; they will release the amount of 500 million Yuan, which is around $70 million in US Dollars. The bank has said that, these actions are an act of confidence in the Renminbi and will give investors around the globe the opportunity to diversify and help the exposure of the Yuan in global markets. The bonds were offered from January 14th, 2010 and will mature after two years in 2013.

In July of last year (2010) China began allowing cross-border exchange with the renminbi, however, there were caps on exactly how much currency was allowed to be exchanged. That was the closest China had come to allowing the renminbi to be a top currency on a global scale, until now.

Now marks the beginning of the renminbi being allowed to be traded in the U.S, China have identified that the global economy has become too reliant on the Dollar and wants to provide an opportunity to move away from that.  China have already implemented strategies that will allow for sustained appreciation for the Yuan against the US Dollar, a prediction in the rate of appreciation was projected at 6% in 2011 by Robert Minikin, who is a currency strategist at Standard Chartered based in Hong Kong.

The reason that there hasn’t been a replacement of the US Dollar as the world reserve currency as of yet is the fact that there was no currency that was ready to take on that mantle, however, given the performance of the Yuan in the last two years, it has shown its power and reliance as a solid currency, not only that, but China have also helped their cause by not relying on a paper, fiat currency but actually using the strengthening Yuan in which to buy up gold and other major assets, something that every single country in the so-called ‘advanced’ world has not done.  All of these factors are now helping to shape the Yuan into tomorrow’s new world reserve currency and once this transformation occurs, it really will spell the end for the down but not yet out, Dollar.

What to watch now is the so-called “summit meeting between President Obama and Hu Jintao of China this week.  In preparation for that meeting, President Hu Jintao said Sunday the international currency system was “a product of the past,” but it would be a long time before the yuan is accepted as an international currency.

Hu’s comments, which came ahead of a state visit to Washington on Wednesday, reflected the continuing tensions over the dollar’s role as the major reserve currency in the aftermath of the US financial crisis in 2008.

“The current international currency system is the product of the past,” Hu said in written answers to questions posed by The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.  Highlighting the dollar’s importance to global trade, Hu implicitly criticized the Federal Reserve’s recent decision to pump 600 billion dollars into the US economy, a move criticized as weakening the dollar at the expense of other countries’ exports.

“The monetary policy of the United States has a major impact on global liquidity and capital flows and therefore, the liquidity of the US dollar should be kept at a reasonable and stable level,” Hu said.

China’s own currency, the yuan or renminbi (RMB), is also expected to be a bone of contention in Hu’s talks with Obama, with the United States complaining that it is artificially overvalued to boost Chinese exports.  Asked about the view that appreciation of the yuan would curb inflation in China, Hu suggested that was too simplistic a formula.  “Changes in exchange rate are a result of multiple factors, including the balance of international payment and market supply and demand,” he said.  “In this sense, inflation can hardly be the main factor in determining the exchange rate policy,” he said.

At the same time, Hu signalled no imminent move away from the dollar as a reserve currency, saying it would be a long time before the yuan, or renminbi (RMB), is widely accepted as an international currency.  “China has made important contribution to the world economy in terms of total economic output and trade, and the RMB has played a role in the world economic development,” he said.  “But making the RMB an international currency will be a fairly long process.”

Nevertheless, Hu noted that China has launched pilot programs using the yuan, or renminbi, in settlements of international trade and investment transactions.  “They fit in well with market demand as evidenced by the rapidly expanding scale of these transactions,” he said.

As we have chronicled in this blog, these moves are demonstrating how short the fuse really is on the Dollar remaining the world’s transactional currency.  With the European Central Bank(ECB) denying the crisis of the Euro and the US simply printing more money to cover the mess in the financial markets in the US, it is just a matter of time before China drops the hammer and we will be living in a very new economic paradigm.  Watching the currency transaction markets, it seems it is a lot closer than anyone is admitting publically.

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The Insanity on the Currency Warfront

As I have chronicled the global financial meltdown, I have been amazed at the number of economists, traders, and politicians that seem to be in complete denial of the facts of the current crisis and at each step either they have reacted in exactly the opposite manner required to respond to the crisis, or they have failed to act at all for self-centered political reasons.  Some examples include banks sitting on huge cash reserves instead of stimulating the economy, the US CONgress adding $1.3 trillion in new debt with tax cuts, central banks everywhere printing money willy-nilly without regard to the consequences. But most of all, we, as citizens and the main participants in the economy merrily skipping down the road without a care in the world.  That is until you are homeless and hungry, then the feelings are anger and despair.

Then the other day, I had a conversation with an old friend who was a forensic psychologist for one of the US Government alphabet agencies.  He is retired now, but his job was a “profiler”.  He would investigate crimes and other “stuff” to help the agents understand the make-up of the criminal or spy and maybe predict “next” moves.  When I lamented about those around me who I love and respect being in complete denial as to the grave nature of the current economic situation, he explained that this is a very natural response to extreme crisis and distress.  It is called Normalcy Bias.

In short, when humans are faced with natural disasters or a man-made crisis that overwhelms them, they simply slip into complete denial.  Logic and intelligence functions stop.  He pointed out some startling examples.  Consider this.  In Germany in 1937 there were nearly 550,000 Jews.  Long established the Jewish German community was rift with businessmen, intelligentsia, professional people who were just beginning to enjoy a good life again after recovering from World War One.

As Hitler rose to power with his hate mongering and obsession with the Jewish community, it became very apparent that the Jewish community was facing more and more injustices.  Property seizures, business taxed at 100%, lose of civil rights, street beatings by the Brown Shirts, still they did not understand the danger they were in and believed being rational and calm would weather them through the storm.  Only about 100,000 Jews fled in time.  We know the tragic end to that story.

However, things are heating up on the currency warfront.  This week saw many assaults on the US Dollar.  Let me stop here and talk some basics.  Currently the US policy and the FED policy simply has been to print more money.  The US enjoys a unique position when it comes to currency because the US dollar is the world’s transactional currency.  For example, if Germany wishes to buy oil, it must first convert Euros to Dollars to purchase the oil.

However, keeping the dollar as the global transactional currency only lasts as long in the faith of the value of the dollar remains in the rest of the world.  The US actions of the last week, both at the FED and CONgress have gone a long way to weaken that faith.  What is happening is both countries and companies are choosing to use other methods to transact business.

So we are beginning to see news items like this. In spite of its infancy, interest in the offshore renminbi market is growing quickly. Caterpillar, the US-based maker of earth-moving equipment, launched a Rmb1bn ($150m) bond issue last month, making it the second multinational to tap the market, following an August issue by McDonald’s, the fast-food chain.

What makes these bond issues important is that the offshore renminbi market is much more than just a new avenue for debt financing – it is one of the core components in a plan to internationalize the Chinese currency. The process will be a slow one, with more baby steps than giant leaps, and it is by no means assured that the renminbi – also known as the yuan – will forge a decisive international role. But it is one that could have a huge long-term impact on trade, the global financial system and even international politics.

If the plan works, the renminbi could become the main currency for doing business in Asia, the world’s most economically dynamic region, and in the long run it could become a significant part of the reserves of the world’s central banks. Indeed, some Chinese officials have already called for the renminbi to be included in the International Monetary Fund’s basket The timing is also full of portents. The renminbi is starting to go global just as the future of the euro and the dollar is looking increasingly uncertain. Eventually the shift could have an impact on the ability of the US to borrow overseas in its own currency. In China, some have taken to calling their currency the hongbi, or “redback”, to rival America’s greenback – a moniker that gives a flavour of the geopolitical undercurrents.

“We may be on the verge of a financial revolution of truly epic proportions,” says Qu Hongbin, China economist at HSBC, one of the banks pushing the renminbi to its corporate clients. “The world economy is, slowly but surely, moving from greenbacks to redbacks.”of main currencies.

So even though the Fed has flooded the credit markets with cash, spreads haven’t budged because banks don’t know who is still solvent and who is not. This uncertainty, says Ms. Schwartz, is “the basic problem in the credit market. Lending freezes up when lenders are uncertain that would-be borrowers have the resources to repay them. So to assume that the whole problem is inadequate liquidity bypasses the real issue.”

Today, the banks have a problem on the asset side of their ledgers — “all these exotic securities that the market does not know how to value.” “Why are they ‘toxic’?” Ms. Schwartz asks. “They’re toxic because you cannot sell them, you don’t know what they’re worth, your balance sheet is not credible and the whole market freezes up. We don’t know whom to lend to because we don’t know who is sound. So if you could get rid of them, that would be an improvement.”

And economics professor and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich wrote in 2008:

The underlying problem isn’t a liquidity problem. As I’ve noted elsewhere, the problem is that lenders and investors don’t trust they’ll get their money back because no one trusts that the numbers that purport to value securities are anything but wishful thinking. The trouble, in a nutshell, is that the financial entrepreneurship of recent years — the derivatives, credit default swaps, collateralized debt instruments, and so on — has undermined all notion of true value.

What everyone here is cryptically referring to is the credit derivatives and credit swap facilities which no one knows the value of when conducting a transaction.  Indeed only nine major banks control this $1 quadrillion market.  No I didn’t make a mistake, I said $1 quadrillion! We were just getting our heads around what a trillion really meant.  Here is the fundamental problem with this situation. $1 quadrillion represents about 20 times the Global GDP!  This is pure insanity.  There is no other way to describe what is going on right now.

Economists focus on the whole notion of incentives. People have an incentive sometimes to behave badly, because they can make more money if they can cheat. If our economic system is going to work then we have to make sure that what they gain when they cheat is offset by a system of penalties.

Wall Street insider and New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin writes:

“They will pick on minor misdemeanors by individual market participants,” said David Einhorn, the hedge fund manager who was among the Cassandras before the financial crisis. To Mr. Einhorn, the government is “not willing to take on significant misbehavior by sizable” firms. “But since there have been almost no big prosecutions, there’s very little evidence that it has stopped bad actors from behaving badly.”

Indeed, polls show that people no longer trust our economic “leaders”. See this and this. A psychologist wrote an essay published by the Wharton School of Business arguing that restoring trust is the key to recovery, and that trust cannot be restored until wrongdoers are held accountable.

Government regulators know this – or at least pay lip service to it – as well. For example, as the Director of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement division told Congress:

Recovery from the fallout of the financial crisis requires important efforts on various fronts, and vigorous enforcement is an essential component, as aggressive and even-handed enforcement will meet the public’s fair expectation that those whose violations of the law caused severe loss and hardship will be held accountable. And vigorous law enforcement efforts will help vindicate the principles that are fundamental to the fair and proper functioning of our markets: that no one should have an unjust advantage in our markets; that investors have a right to disclosure that complies with the federal securities laws; and that there is a level playing field for all investors.

If people don’t trust their government to enforce the law, government will become more and more impotent in addressing our economic problems. If government leaders take action, the market will not necessarily respond as expected. When government leaders make optimistic statements about the economy, people will no longer believe them.

Then also on the warfront, China and Russia announced they will trade in their own currencies.  In addition, the IMF recently released a report suggesting that given the weakness of the Euro and the Dollar, we should be moving toward a global central bank and a single global currency, which they are calling the Bancor. Several banks no longer are accepting deposits in dollars.

What does this really mean and why should you care about it.  I have one word for you, hyperinflation.  The world is currently pushing back on US policies and are demanding that either the US deal effectively with the deficit or devalue the dollar.  When the pressure gets strong enough, and I believe that could be as soon as the next three months, the US will acquiesce and devalue the dollar by as much as 40%.

This will happen suddenly and overnight!  You will wake up to $8 gas, $5 bread, a 4000 point dip in the Dow and events will rapidly cascade from there to riots in the streets of the US just as we have riots now in Ireland, Greece, Italy, France, and Britain.  The war is reaching fever pitch.  Pay close attention now because bunker time may not be far off.

Update From the Currency Warfront

As we have discussed in previous articles, our fears relating to the lack of political will or statesmanship are seemingly coming true. Our global leaders seem to be struggling at the G20 summit when it comes to the subject of currency imbalances.

Consider these facts reported by the Telegraph UK …..With China resolutely refusing to allow the yuan to rise more quickly, the US shifted the debate on the first day of the G20 summit to address trade imbalances, the root issue behind exchange rate clashes.

Timothy Geithner, the US Treasury secretary, told G20 members they should commit to specific trade caps, allowing surpluses and deficits on their current account, the broadest measure of trade in goods and services, to be no more than 4pc of gross domestic product.

China’s current account surplus was 5.9pc in 2009, having almost halved from its peak of 10.6pc in 2007. The US, by contrast, had a current account deficit of 3pc last year.  In a letter to the G20, Mr Geithner called for a “co-operative effort” on the issue, but said there would have to be “some exceptions” for countries that imported large quantities of raw materials.

The US plan was seen as a way to side-step a direct confrontation over currencies. It was backed by the UK, Korea, Australia and Canada, but immediately opposed by large exporters such as Japan and Germany.  Rainer Bruederle, the German finance minister, rejected a “command economy” approach, while Yoshihiko Noda of Japan said “setting numerical targets would be unrealistic”.

India also said the trade caps would be hard to work out, while Russia said there would be no numerical limits set in the summit’s final statement.  Mr Geithner also called for G20 countries to refrain from “either weakening their currency or preventing the appreciation of an undervalued currency”. Mr Geithner, who also called for the IMF to monitor the G20’s commitments, added: “G20 advanced countries will work to ensure against excessive volatility and disorderly movement in exchange rates.”

Guido Mantega, the Brazilian Finance minister, who was not at the G20 summit, also revealed the Mr Geithner had telephoned him to reassure him that the US had no intention of allowing the dollar to weaken further.  “He guaranteed US policy is not to weaken the dollar, on the contrary, it is to strengthen the dollar,” said Mr Mantega. “He said the impact of the Fed policy was being overestimated. It is difficult, if you weaken the dollar and want the Chinese to let the yuan appreciate,” he added.

However, as the first day of meetings closed, there was little sign that currency issues would be resolved. With scepticism growing that the G20 was a focused enough forum to iron out global economic problems, Lee Myung-bak, the South Korean president who is hosting the summit, warned ministers that if they did not reach a compromise “we may not operate bus, train or airplane services to take you back home”.

In a final statement after two days of heated negotiation, the G20 said it would “move towards more market-determined exchange rate systems” and that the International Monetary Fund would “deepen” its supervision of exchange rates.

“This language calms everything down and gives us a route map forward,” said George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. “Obviously this colorful language about currency wars has got everyone excited,” he added.

Mr. Osborne clarified, however, that the statement was not a criticism of China for persistently undervaluing the Yuan. “What people have been nervous about is that the current imbalance would get worse as countries other than China look at the route of competitive devaluation.” He also said that while currencies “tend to grab the headlines”, they are just one part of wider economic imbalances.

While several member countries of the G20 hailed the summit in South Korea as a success, Japan immediately broke ranks to declare that, contrary to the spirit of the communique, it would continue to devalue the yen if it saw fit.  Yoshihiko Noda, Japan’s finance minister, said: “A prolonged appreciation in the yen is not good for Japan’s economy. Our stance, that we will take appropriate, bold action if needed, is unchanged.”

From all of this, the thing we need to fear the most is an outbreak of currency devaluation to counterbalance China’s refusal to let the Yuan finds its place in the market.  This could have disastrous effects on already stressed economies.

While a little inflation and growth would be a good thing, hyperinflation would be devastating to the US and EU economies that are at best still on their knees.  Relate this also to the fact that most of these nations have committed to rather severe austerity programs and the temperature in the pot will go up a few degrees I fear.

It is no secret that for months now that predictive linguistics has pointed to a major event that has been anticipated within the first 15 days of November.  Most recently, it seems to somewhat focus on the global economy.  PAY ATTENTION, very close attention to these events now unfolding.