Interbank market news scan: Major G-10 currencies split on growth with Swiss, Norwegian, and Swedish currencies depreciating…

The Swiss franc, Norwegian krone, and Swedish kroner ended this week depreciating the most against the US dollar. More later today as to the political, economic, central bank, and commodity price information that not only impacted the market but that brokers should be sharing to help maintain fairness and integrity in the foreign exchange market.

Currency pair22 March 202125 March 2021Percentage change
EUR/USD1.19131.1798-.96
AUD/USD0.77340.7592-1.84
GBP/USD1.38511.3712-1.00
USD/JPY108.765109.0580.27
NZD/USD0.71610.6966-2.7
USD/CHF0.92620.93721.19
USD/NOK8.52218.61381.08
USD/SEK8.53018.62931.16
USD/CAD1.25091.25880.63
Source: OANDA

Interbank market news scan: Central banks, foreign exchange, cryptocurrencies …

Currency pairsExchange Rate as of 8 February 2021; Source: Federal ReserveAs of 11:42 am EST Exchange Rate as of 9 February 2021; Source: Reuters
AUD/USD0.7656 0.7708
USD/CAD1.2781 1.2721
USD/CNY6.4664 6.4348
EUR/USD1.2035 1.2093
USD/INR72.8500 72.8420
GBP/USD1.3714 1.3795
USD/JPY105.4400 104.6500
USD/MXN20.1300 20.0765
USD/DKK6.1785 6.1502
USD/NOK8.5428 8.4728
Sources: Federal Reserve, Reuters

In the news ….

The latest crackdown by Nigeria’s central bank on cryptocurrency has elicited outrage and confusion in a country where virtual currency has boomed in the last five years. It’s also emblematic of the struggle by financial regulators the world over to regulate the supercharged space of digital currencies. https://qz.com/africa/1970446/nigerias-central-bank-takes-aim-at-cryptocurrency-again/

China’s central bank has downplayed its decision in January to reduce liquidity in the banking system that caused the country’s worst cash crunch in nearly six years, while fueling worries about a gradual tightening of monetary policy to curb speculation and asset bubbles. https://www.scmp.com/economy/china-economy/article/3121179/chinas-central-bank-downplays-draining-funds-banking-system

Chinese New Year is days away and for many investors, it is the most exciting event this week, especially with a light economic calendar. It is not as big a holiday as Christmas or New Year’s, but with more than 1.5 billion celebrants, there will be less participation and possibly consolidation. Most of the major currencies traded higher on Monday as stocks hit fresh record highs. The improvement in risk appetite drove the U.S. dollar lower across the board. https://www.investing.com/analysis/central-banks-and-stimulus-bets-will-drive-fx-this-week-200559371

Government strategy: Strong dollar versus weak dollar policy …

Earlier today, Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank, gave a shout out to Janet Yellen, the U.S. Treasury-elect. President Lagarde wished Ms Yellen well on her confirmation which is expected to go favorably sometime this week. Both women have commented on the state of the foreign exchange markets this week with Dr Yellen expressing her preference for market determined foreign exchange rates and President Lagarde telling reporters during today’s European Central Bank policy rate announcement that the ECB would be monitoring foreign exchange rates “very closely.”

In its early days, the Trump administration expressed a preference for a “strong” dollar. A strong dollar scenario is one where the U.S. dollar has risen to a historically high exchange rate relative to another currency. Strength could be attributable to another nation devaluing its currency relative to the dollar in an effort to make the foreign country’s exports more competitive.

Deleveraging is another method of dollar strengthening where debts are paid off which reduces the amount of dollars in the system thus increasing the value of the dollar.

Although a strong dollar protects foreign investor holdings of U.S. assets , the higher prices for imports faced by Americans could create a political scene where consumers start asking their government to reverse the course. The prior administration’s use of tariffs in its trade spat with China raised such concerns.

While Ms Yellen has again expressed her preference for market-determined rates, her future Treasury Department could buy and sell foreign currency for the purpose of narrowing exchange rate movements should a market-determination scheme not meet the Biden administration’s policy objectives. If the dollar is viewed as depreciating too quickly, Treasury could boost demand and value by using foreign currency to buy the greenback. If the dollar is viewed as appreciating too quickly, the Treasury could resort to using the dollar to buy foreign currency. If Dr. Yellen stays the course on a market policy, then the tactic will be to allow the foreign exchange rate to move to equilibrium.

Across the Atlantic, President Lagarde will likely not just look at exchange rates but try to determine the impact rates is having on yields. The European Union has been signaling its desire to boost the status of its currency, hoping to attract more investment to the Eurozone. President Lagarde would likely want to see appreciation in the euro and an accompanying increase in yields.

Traders and brokers should pay close attention to policy moves designed to make the euro and the dollar more attractive to investors and also how the European Union positions itself between the United States and China. Depending on how competitive the United States and the European Union become, shout outs between Dr yellen and President Lagarde will become more interesting.

Government strategy: Strong dollar versus weak dollar policy …

Earlier today, Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank, gave a shout out to Janet Yellen, the U.S. Treasury-elect. President Lagarde wished Ms Yellen well on her confirmation which is expected to go favorably sometime this week. Both women have commented on the state of the foreign exchange markets this week with Dr Yellen expressing her preference for market determined foreign exchange rates and President Lagarde telling reporters during today’s European Central Bank policy rate announcement that the ECB would be monitoring foreign exchange rates “very closely.”

In its early days, the Trump administration expressed a preference for a “strong” dollar. A strong dollar scenario is one where the U.S. dollar has risen to a historically high exchange rate relative to another currency. Strength could be attributable to another nation devaluing its currency relative to the dollar in an effort to make the foreign country’s exports more competitive.

Deleveraging is another method of dollar strengthening where debts are paid off which reduces the amount of dollars in the system thus increasing the value of the dollar.

Although a strong dollar protects foreign investor holdings of U.S. assets , the higher prices for imports faced by Americans could create a political scene where consumers start asking their government to reverse the course. The prior administration’s use of tariffs in its trade spat with China raised such concerns.

While Ms Yellen has again expressed her preference for market-determined rates, her future Treasury Department could buy and sell foreign currency for the purpose of narrowing exchange rate movements should a market-determination scheme not meet the Biden administration’s policy objectives. If the dollar is viewed as depreciating too quickly, Treasury could boost demand and value by using foreign currency to buy the greenback. If the dollar is viewed as appreciating too quickly, the Treasury could resort to using the dollar to buy foreign currency. If Dr. Yellen stays the course on a market policy, then the tactic will be to allow the foreign exchange rate to move to equilibrium.

Across the Atlantic, President Lagarde will likely not just look at exchange rates but try to determine the impact rates is having on yields. The European Union has been signaling its desire to boost the status of its currency, hoping to attract more investment to the Eurozone. President Lagarde would likely want to see appreciation in the euro and an accompanying increase in yields.

Traders and brokers should pay close attention to policy moves designed to make the euro and the dollar more attractive to investors and also how the European Union positions itself between the United States and China. Depending on how competitive the United States and the European Union become, shout outs between Dr yellen and President Lagarde will become more interesting.

Government strategy: Why bitcoin will not be the world’s reserve currency

I read an interesting article appearing originally on the website Aikon on the prospect of bitcoin becoming the globe’s reserve currency. The author makes the following points in support of his argument.

Bitcoin is transparent. All transactions involving a bitcoin are reflected on a public ledger. Bitcoin transactions are decentralized. There is no central authority controlling bitcoin issuance, valuation, or settlement. Bitcoin is garnering more participants including individuals, institutional investors, and governments willing to invest in the technology and its tokens.

The world, according to the article, is at the threshold of a financial revolution with changes in the financial system being brought about by the strains on the economic system caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The article argues that although the United States has engaged less with the global economy over the last twenty years, China, forecasted to provide the world with the next reserve currency, is avoiding completing the tasks necessary for taking the number one spot. Compounding what Aikon has determined as an unwillingness to do what it takes to get the spot is a collapsing U.S.-Chinese relationship.

Given the above negatives against a continued use of the U.S. dollar as the globe’s reserve currency, and the unlikeliness of the Chinese yuan taking this position, Aikon asserts that bitcoin is positioned to be the global reserve currency because, again, of decentralization and the cryptocurrencies underlying financial system. But if we applied the definition of a reserve currency to bitcoin, we should find that bitcoin is not ready to be a reserve currency.

First, bitcoin is not a currency. A currency is a unit of account, a store of value, and a medium for the exchange of goods and services. That a dollar price has been placed on a bitcoin may satisfy the unit of account assertion. The existence of digital wallets that can store bitcoin may further compound the assertion of bitcoin as a unit of account since a wallet provides a place to go and determine the amount of the digital asset that you have.

A store of value, on the other hand, I have my doubts. A currency should reflect an underlying economy and where that economy is functional ie executes rules for trade and commerce in various markets, the currency provides a store of value. Bitcoin has no attachment to an underlying, viable economy as evidenced by the third element of the definition of currency: bitcoin is not used as a medium of exchange in a volume so sufficient that, like the US dollar of the euro, no other currency is necessary for making a transaction in a particular political economy. Bitcoin is not a currency.

The proof that bitcoin is not a currency should be sufficient to negate bitcoin as a reserve currency as well. The website Investopedia provides the following definition of a reserve currency:

“A reserve currency is a large quantity of currency maintained by central banks and other major financial institutions to prepare for investments, transactions, and international debt obligations, or to influence their domestic exchange rate.”

Bitcoin’s current market capitalization is approximately $668 billion with approximately 18.6 million digital tokens in circulation. This pales in significance to U.S. dollar reserves of approximately $6.7 trillion. Bitcoin is allegedly capped at 21 million tokens. If all 21 million tokens were available today, to equal total US global reserves, bitcoin will have to be valued at approximately $319,000 a token. While some analysts have called a rise in bitcoin valuation up $400,000 a token, I have seen no estimates as to the likelihood anytime in the near future.

Based on current valuation and uncertainty given the token’s volatility of bitcoin market cap equaling global US reserves, I don’t see the US government implementing any immediate strategy to counter bitcoin as a new reserve currency.

My takeaway of Brainard speech: Fed maintaining steady course. No impact on the interbank markets.

Lael Brainard, a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, recently delivered a speech discussing the Federal Reserve’s policy for achieving a two percent inflation goal. She reiterated the Federal Reserve’s FAIT policy, a strategy that uses a flexible average inflation targeting strategy for achieving two percent inflation. The aim, according to Governor Brainard, is to keep inflation moderately above two percent for some time, allowing the economy to make up for any short falls along the way due to running below the two percent goal.

Governor Brainard would like to see the Federal Reserve focus on achieving full employment particularly for low and moderate income U.S. households. Price inflation has not been as responsive to labor market tightness as it has in the past, The Federal Reserve aims to eliminate shortfalls to maximum employment of human capital.

I didn’t hear anything in Governor Brainard’s comments that would have a direct impact on the interbank markets, whether for foreign exchange or for overnight loans.

Unlike West African counterparts, Kenya shows appetite for US dollar …

While the US dollar has been declining against a number of currencies, the Kenya shelling does not appear to be one of them, at least during the first week of December. According to data from OANDA, a foreign exchange brokerage, from the period 1 December through 5 December 2020, the Kenya shelling price of a US dollar increased 0.625% from 109.268 KES on 1 December 2020 to 109.951 KES on 5 December 2020. The current Bank of Kenya exchange rate is 1 USD for 111.0618 KES.

The Kenya shilling price for the euro, British pound, and Chinese yuan also increased during the same period. The euro shilling price ticked up from 131.076 KES to 133.253 KES (1.660%). The pound-shilling price advanced 1.0358% from 146.162 KES to 147.676 KES while the Chinese yuan advanced 1.2936% from 16.6311 KES to 16.8665 KES.

The Kenyan central bank’s inter-bank interest rate is 3.96% while the 91-day treasury bill is yielding 6.86%.

High points from Federal Reserve vice-chair Richard Clarida show how Biden will play economy in 2023 …

News and Analysis

Yesterday, vice-chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, Richard Clarida, reiterated the Federal Reserve’s call for continued stimulus spending to reboot an American economy severely slowed down by a government-ordered commercial lockdown resulting from efforts to stem the virality of Covid-19. In describing combined fiscal and monetary efforts to reboot the economy, Mr Clarida shared the following:

“Although spending on many services continues to lag, the rebound in the GDP data has been broad based across indicators of goods consumption, housing, and investment. These components of aggregate demand have benefited from robust fiscal support—including the Paycheck Protection Program and expanded unemployment benefits—as well as low interest rates and efforts by the Federal Reserve to sustain the flow of credit to households and firms. In the labor market, about half of the 22 million jobs that were lost in the spring have been restored, and the unemployment rate has fallen since April by nearly 7 percentage points to 7.9 percent as of September.”

Mr Clarida challenged naysayers who had argued that interest rate cuts, asset purchases, and loan programs would not facilitate growth in gross domestic product by reminding them that the unemployment rate has fallen almost seven percentage points since April and that the labor market has replaced almost half of the 22 million jobs lost last spring. But even at this rate of progress, Mr Clarida made it clear that it may take another year before the American economy gets back to its previous 2019 peak.

The Federal Reserve’s decision to modify its inflation target policy, where inflation may be allowed to run moderately over two percent and federal funds rates remaining relatively unchanged (0 to .25%) over the next three years, is expected to result in an unemployment rate of four percent and inflation returning to two percent.

Assuming the polls hold and Joe Biden is able to take over the Oval Office on 20 January 2021, a first glance expectation is that Mr Biden will pursue spending bills that, in addition to increases in transfer payments, will increase pools of public capital available for access by private firms or private-public partnerships. Mr Biden’s “Build Back Better” initiative appears, in theory, to call for creating these opportunities.

One potential area for increasing pools of public capital is the financing of energy infrastructure projects. According to language from his campaign platform:

“Biden will immediately invest in engines of sustainable job creation – new industries and re-invigorated regional economies spurred by innovation from our national labs and universities; commercialized into new and better products that can be manufactured and built by American workers; and put together using feedstocks, materials, and parts supplied by small businesses, family farms, and job creators all across our country.”

Mr Biden may not have much re-creating the wheel to do. The United States Department of Energy has a number of financing programs in place that can be used to finance these endeavors. For example, the federal government offers what it calls a “Small Business Toolbox” that helps small businesses, no matter their experience level with government contracting, navigate the requirements for financing.

Mr Biden will have to finance these procurement programs so that these programs can turn around and finance the private companies ready to carry out the federal government’s energy infrastructure agenda. If the Federal Reserve remains on its modified inflation glide path, Mr Biden will have three fiscal years of low interest rates to borrow the funds necessary for his energy infrastructure plans and create the collateral employment of labor that may come along with it.

Mr Biden is likely praying that the “blue wave” narrative, where the Democratic Party sweeps the White House and the Congress, comes to fruition in November. With both chambers of Congress under Democratic control, there may be greater ease at delivering the necessary government financing for his initiatives. If he learned anything from the Obama administration’s first term in office, it is the need to move fast during his first two years to secure the necessary spending bills.

If Mr Biden does not get the “blue wave” then he will have to apply his ‘across the aisle” skills to get Republican senators to buy into his infrastructure plan.

Meanwhile, America is going through a structural employment shift, one that many wage earners will not recover from. Shrinking tax bases due to lower labor force participation and increased tax bills for those who are still working but making less money doth not make a certain second term.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s next move.

I can see U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, doing some damage to the Democratic Party in 2024 or 2028. The Democrats are led by individuals twice America’s median age of 38.2 years. While Ocasio-Cortez was born right smack in the mid-range of Millennials, a generation defined by almost universal use and access to the internet, the growth of online companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon, the terrorist attacks that occurred on 11 September 2001, unaffordable housing, and onerous job competition and declining wage rates as a result of offshoring of jobs.

U.S. House speaker Nancy Pelosi, born in March 1940, and Democratic candidate for president Joe Biden, born November 1942, are members of and born during the tail end of the Silent Generation, a generation defined by an expectation of a hard life. Because they were born on the tail end of the Silent Generation, their life experiences bled into the Baby Boomer Generation, a generation that saw a booming economy, but also witnessed the social unrests that spawned the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and America’s police actions in southeast Asia.

Initiatives like the Green New Deal and her status as a democratic socialist has helped put and keep the 30-year old Bronxite in the public eye. She also has a strong social media following (8.9 million followers on Twitter; 1.5 million followers on Facebook; and 6.9 million followers on Instagram).

But even with all her social media love, she has to work on her public approval rating if she wants to take over the Democratic Party as a presidential standard bearer in 2024 or 2028. Approximately 44% of Millennials approve of Ms Ocasio-Cortez, while 38% of Generation X and 32% of Baby Boomers give her a thumbs up.

Meanwhile, Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat of California and Joe Biden’s running mate, enjoys a favorable rating of 47%. Many pundits believe Ms Harris will either replace Mr Biden midway through a first term, should he become president, and make a bid for election in 2024 and/or 2028. Ms Harris, 55, while touted as a progressive by the Right, is more moderate than Ms Ocasio-Cortez and could garner more voter support as Democrats get older and face having to make pragmatic decisions regarding household finances.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez has some time to make the adjustments that will increase her favorability ratings while making gains on Ms Harris. Ms Ocasio-Cortez has already shown a willingness to work with establishment Democrats, joining with Chuck Schumer, for example, to publicly object to nominating a replacement of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg on the U.S. Supreme Court before the next election and allowing instead for the next president to do so.

The irony about her joint venture with Chuck Schumer is the possibility that she may make a run in the 2022 primaries against Schumer for his senate seat. Serving as a senator from New York would add more weight to her national standing. She would be in a position to push a President Biden on policy especially where he is falling short on any progressive policy promises.

If Ocasio-Cortez follows the traditional glide path to a Democratic nomination for president and somehow wins the presidency, she could have the opportunity to fill at least three seats on the high court. Samuel Alito will be 78 years old. Clarence Thomas will clock in at 80 years of age. Stephen Breyer will be 90.

America is a trading platform and how the high court treats challenges to domestic commerce regulation could make the difference to sole proprietors who are forced to take the entrepreneurial route to making a living. I would like to see less restriction on an individual’s ability to trade goods and services locally and ensuring the lessening of restrictions on local levels, especially where cities are led by Democratic mayors and/or city councils may require filing challenges to restrictions and taking these challenges to the high court. I have not seen anything in Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s platform where she emphasizes small businesses and lessening restrictions on them. If she were to become president and choose justices that interpreted the Constitution as allowing onerous local regulations on business, such “bench packing” would not benefit citizens who are seeing accelerated changes to the labor markets that are not in their favor.

Yes, the United States electorate has to get through the 2020 elections, but keeping an eye on the politicians who may have an impact on how we trade in the future is important.