Interbank market news scan: Facebook’s Diem can help the dollar remain the global reserve currency …

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Links to follow today ….

Central banks, ECB. Global stocks held steady on Thursday ahead of the European Central Bank’s monetary policy update and despite COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in Europe being extended and cases rising globally. Global stocks stabilize ahead of European Central Bank meeting despite steep rise in COVID-19 cases in Asia | Markets Insider (businessinsider.com)

Central banks, Norway. Norway’s central bank will test various technical solutions for a central bank digital currency (CBDC) over the next two years, it said on Thursday. Norway to test solutions for digital central bank currency | Nasdaq

Central banks, Canada. The Federal Reserve and the Bank of Canada will use drastically different playbooks for the remainder of their nations’ respective economic recoveries. The US central bank has indicated it will leave rates near zero for the foreseeable future, and that it isn’t even considering reining in its emergency asset purchases. Canada’s central bank is taking surprising steps to cool the nation’s red-hot virus recovery – and the approach directly conflicts with the Fed’s ultra-easy stance, even with the US further along (msn.com)

Central banks, remittances, Kenya. Remittance inflows into Kenya in March were up 27% year on year to $290.8 million, the central bank said on Wednesday. Kenya’s remittance inflows in March up 27% yr/yr -central bank | Reuters

Central banks, United Kingdom, ECB. Sterling slipped on Thursday, holding below $1.40 before a European Central Bank meeting, as investors weighed up the outlook for an economic recovery from COVID-19 in the UK. Sterling slips versus euro; currency markets quiet ahead of ECB meeting | Nasdaq

Central banks, Facebook, cryptocurrency. Now known as diem, the Facebook-backed digital coin is expected to launch later this year, albeit in a much more limited form. When it finally arrives, diem won’t come with the same fanfare and controversy of the original idea envisioned by the social media giant nearly two years ago. Facebook-backed Diem aims to launch digital currency pilot in 2021 (cnbc.com)

Central banks, ECB, digital currency. Only a few years ago, central bank digital currency (CBDC) was seen as something exotic. Sweden’s Riksbank was alone among high-income countries in exploring it, a fact attributed to its population’s uniquely low use of cash. Now official e-currencies have gone mainstream. www.ft.com

The market opening. The rates to start your day ….

As of 8:10 am EST, Bloomberg reports that the yield on the three-month Treasury note is at 0.01%, down from yesterday’s 0.03% while the two-year note remained at yesterday’s 0.15% rate. The ten-year and thirty-year Treasurys are trading at 1.57% and 2.27%, respectively and relatively unchanged from yesterday.

The Federal Funds rate, the rate at which banks lend to each other overnight in support of their reserve requirements, is at .07%, while the Fed Funds target rate is still at .25%. The prime lending rate is 3.25%. All three rates unchanged from yesterday.

Exchange rates of interest as of 8:45 am EST….

Currency PairsRates as of 8:45 am EST 22 April 2021Rates as of 9:55 am EST 21 April 2021Percentage change in rates
EUR/USD1.17931.2024-1.9%
GBP/USD1.37851.3891-.0076%
USD/CAD1.25721.2629-.0045%
CAD/XCD2.14622.1462unchanged
USD/XCD2.70002.7000unchanged
USD/TTD6.66916.6721-.0004%
USD/BBD2.00002.0000unchanged
CAD/TTD5.30125.3050unchanged
CAD/BBD1.58991.5874unchanged
Source: OANDA

The Opening Takeaway: Could Facebook’s cryptocurrency be the longer term digital play?

Facebook appears to be leveraging the experience it has garnered on America’s Capitol Hill. When the Facebook-backed digital coin Libra found itself targeted by backlash from members of Congress, the company and its stable coin project partners had to go back to the drawing board which included a rebrand of the coin (from Libra to Diem); a little reorganizing of the stable coin project’s membership; and pursuing a payment services license from Switzerland’s financial regulators. See Facebook-backed Diem aims to launch digital currency pilot in 2021 (cnbc.com).

By going the stable coin route, where a cryptocurrency pegs its value to the value of a country’s currency, in this case, the United States, Facebook and its Diem partners, knowingly or not, have made baby steps to pacifying government critics in the US who are concerned about Diem’s threat to the stability of the US political-economic system. This is simply code for “We have to stop Facebook from disrupting our tax and customs regime.” The claims of concern over privacy also seem a bit bogus given that Congress has passed up a number of times over the last decade and a half to promulgate any comprehensive laws that would not only have codified network neutrality but also privacy over America’s digital networks. Besides, as the US slowly gets to testing its own central bank issued digital coin, it too will have to address why taxpayers should be less concerned about government intrusion into privacy as opposed to Facebook.

Facebook is in a position to leverage its network effect generated by over 2 billion daily users and its e-commerce and advertising platform. Its subscribers can enjoy some sort of “dual nation” status where they exchange goods and services on Facebook’s platform using Diem, thus creating a sense of exclusivity. Sort of like an Amazon Prime membership on steroids where only members i.e. Diem-using subscribers, can come and play. And knowing that Diem can be exchanged for US dollars will put Facebook subscribers’ minds at ease. If the Facebook subscriber is not concerned about convertibility, then the US government should have less of a consumer protection argument to throw around.

Another potential benefit may carry over to the Federal Reserve. As it hems and haws over the development of a central bank issued digital currency, it could study the Facebook template, observing in real time how a digital nation-state operates. Also, there is the potential for a test case for conducting digital foreign currency exchange made easier due to Diem being a stable coin.

Lastly, from a foreign policy perspective, the US should look favorably on more of the world’s economies having indirect access to the dollar via Facebook’s stable coin. Using, buying, and selling Diem amounts to using, buying, and selling US dollars. This indirect use of the greenback would keep the dollar out front as the world’s reserve currency.

Alton Drew

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