Interbank Market News Scan: U.S. to release 30 million barrels of oil from its strategic petroleum reserves.

Interbank, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, credit. “The Federal Reserve Bank of New York today released the second installment of The State of Low-Income America: Credit Access and Debt Payment. The report finds that payment rates and median credit scores rose for all income groups through September 30, 2021.” See press release and report here. Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

International Energy Agency, European Commission, White House. President Joe Biden announces release of 30 million barrels of oil from the United States’ strategic petroleum reserves. See press release here, Source: Executive Office of the President.

Interbank, Treasury, South Korea. “The United States and Korea pledged to continue to work closely with the international community to respond to Russia’s aggressive actions that violate Ukraine’s sovereignty.” See press release here. Source: U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Foreign exchange rates of interest at 3:15 pm AST

EUR/USD=1.11917

GBP/USD=1.33881

USD/CAD=1.27352

USD/MXN=20.5102

USD/JPY=115.336

USD/NGN=415.632

USD/INR=75.3584

USD/CNY=6.3095

Source: OANDA

Dollar Index=97.39

Source: MarketWatch

Interbank Market News Scan: Traders should be mindful of the difference between brokers; Treasury provides assessment of US economy.

Interbank. Why do market-makers provide high leverage? Given that a high percentage of forex traders lose money, do these brokers take advantage of traders’ risk? Or do brokers pass the orders to the interbank network and make money off of spreads? Here are a few answers. https://www.fxstreet.com/education/are-market-making-brokers-taking-advantage-of-high-leverage-answers-to-painful-questions-202201181529 Source: FXStreet.

Interbank, Ghana. As expected, the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of Ghana has kept the policy rate at 14.5%. https://www.myjoyonline.com/policy-rate-kept-unchanged-at-14-5-interest-rates-record-mixed-trends/ Source: MyJoyOnline.

Interbank, U.S. Treasury. The U.S. Department of the Treasury announces marketable borrowing estimates. https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0575.

Interbank, U.S. Treasury. Benjamin Harris, Treasury Department assistant secretary, issues statement on U.S. economic status and expectations. https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0574.

Foreign exchange rates of interest

EUR/USD=1.1187

GBP/USD=1.3429

USD/MXN=20.7222

USD/GTQ=7.5034

USD/NGN=415.212

USD/GHS=6.2370

USD/VND=22,646.7

USD/JPY=115.32

USD/INR=74.7022

Source: OANDA

Part of reading the United States’ currency value is reading the underlying shift in its cultural values.

Commentary

The United States is at a crossroads in terms of its culture. A corporate democracy such as this one sees elected officials willing to deficit spend on programs designed to buy votes from an electorate increasingly under stress due to the uncertainty of an economy that may not be able to provide for their wants and needs. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), America’s fiscal year 2021 budget deficit is approximately $3.003 trillion. While estimated revenues totaled $3.842 trillion, FY2021 outlays were estimated at $6.845 trillion. Fiscal year 2020 saw estimated revenues at $3.420 trillion with outlays estimated at $6.552 trillion. The FY2020 deficit was higher than FY2021, coming in at $3.142 trillion.

I would expect the Administration to argue that the last two years saw the federal government increasing its outlays to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, but if we go back 40 years, we find not only expected increases in outlays and revenues, but increases in outlays far outstrip increases in revenues. For example, FY1982 outlays were $.746 trillion compared to FY2021 outlays of $6.845 trillion, amounting to a 818% increase over the 40 year period. The increase in revenues over the same period amounted to 522%, where FY1982 revenues totaled $.618 trillion and FY2021 revenues came in at $3.842 trillion.

In addition, mandatory spending, which is dictated by past law that sets out mandatory requirements for spending on items such as social security, Medicare, and income security programs, increased 1,211% between FY1982 and FY2021. Meanwhile, discretionary spending, where a program is approved during the congressional appropriations process, saw a 407% increase in outlays between FY1982 and FY2021. The programs funded during this process include national defense, transportation, education, and housing.

Democracy is expensive. As politicians carve out “alphabet fiefdoms” ie, BLM, LGBQT+, Latinx, DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion programs) etc., the promises made convert into programs that have to be paid for. Low interest rates over the last decade and a half have accompanied the expansion in spending. Cheap money leads to more spending. For example, according to data from the Federal Reserve, the current prime lending rate is approximately 3.25%. This represents a 70.4% decline in the prime rate since 8 August 1983.

In addition, the rates on Treasury debt issued to fund government programs have been falling steadily since January 2000. According to data from the US Treasury, interest rates reflecting long term composite debt in excess of ten years has fallen from 6.87% in January 2000 to 1.89% in December 2021.

Democracy is expensive, but the current low interest rate environment gives American politicians the impression that democracy is affordable. With every new demand from small but vocal factions along the political spectrum, the wider the interest-rate driven deficit.

I have started to liken a currency to a coupon you get from a fast food restaurant. No matter how deep the discount, the crappier the food, the less valuable the coupon. The US Treasury-Federal Reserve Fast Food Corporation is no different. The current rate of inflation (6.8%) that destroys its spending value compounds the damage from lower rates of return and from increased government spending designed to buy votes while providing little other value to the currency holder.

Alton Drew

9.01.2022

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Disclaimer: The above is provided for informational purposes and should not be construed as financial or legal advice or as creating an agreement to provide financial or legal advice.

Contracting out the circulation of the U.S. political economy’s currency … and the never-ending threat of intervention

Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution describes Congress’ duty to regulate money.  Specifically, Congress has the duty to:

“Coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures…”

While the government has maintained the responsibility of minting coin and cash, the regulation of its value as well as that of foreign coin, is left up to the markets.  I am curious, though, as to how the law defines, “money”, “coin”, and “currency.”

A quick and dirty Black’s Law Dictionary definition of “currency’ is coined money and such banknotes or other paper money as are authorized by law and circulates as a medium of exchange.  31 CFR § 1010.100 defines currency as:

“The coin and paper money of the United States or of any other country that is designated as legal tender and that circulates and is customarily used and accepted as a medium of exchange in the country of issuance. Currency includes U.S. silver certificates, U.S. notes and Federal Reserve notes. Currency also includes official foreign bank notes that are customarily used and accepted as a medium of exchange in a foreign country.”

In the United States, the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve System source the currency.  They are the “farmers’ of the commodity we call currency.  According to Federal Reserve data, as of October 2021, there is approximately $2202.9 billion of currency in circulation.  When you factor in currency held in reserve at the Federal Reserve, the total monetary base of the United States as of October 2021 is approximately $6331 billion. 

The banks that the Treasury and the Federal Reserve charter and regulate participate in the interbank market, the market in which foreign exchange rates for currency is set.  I like to think of these banks as the wholesale/retail enterprises that are responsible for circulating currency, transmitting the value of the US political economy globally.  While I believe the US government could technically set these rates itself, the capitalist economic policy implemented by the US government prefers private institutions carry out this mission.

I would think that wholesale (bank) and retail traders and brokers prefer this model because they determine the share of income (profit) garnered via foreign exchange.  Because the Treasury and the Federal Reserve are the “farmers” of the currency and are primarily held responsible by the Congress for the day-to-day valuation of the currency, traders and brokers should stay mindful that the cloud of potential government intervention in the market always looms.

Keeping the dark cloud of potential intervention into the foreign exchange market dispersed can only occur via constant monitoring and initiatives to keep government at bay.  That is the trader and broker’s daily call to action.

Alton Drew

24.11.2021  

Interbank Market News Scan: Yellen appoints a new Comptroller of the Currency chief …

Links of interest to follow …

Trading desks, investment banks. Barclay’s CEO Staley on trading revenue, compensation costs, and return to office. Barclays CEO Jes Staley Staley on Trading Revenue, Compensation Costs, Return to Office: Video – Bloomberg

Trading desks, banks. Citigroup, Nuveen accused of mishandling evidence in muni brawl. Citigroup, Nuveen Accused of Mishandling Evidence in Muni Brawl – Bloomberg.

Trading desks, banks, blockchain. European debt pioneer trumpets revolution coming from blockchain. EIB’s Richard Teichmeister Says Revolution to Come From Blockchain – Bloomberg

Banks.  U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen plans to make her mark by naming a new supervisor for a major U.S. banking regulator that Democrats say was too friendly to large banks under the Trump administration, according to two people familiar with the matter. Yellen to Shake up U.S. Bank Regulator With New Appointment – Sources | Investing News | US News

Banks, central banks. The U.S. nonprofit Digital Dollar Project said on Monday it will launch five pilot programs over the next 12 months to test the potential uses of a U.S. central bank digital currency, the first effort of its kind in the United States. Digital Dollar Project to launch five U.S. central bank digital currency pilots | Reuters

Foreign exchange rates of interest …

Currency PairsRates as of 11:05 pm EST 3 May 2021
EUR/USD1.2047
GBP/USD1.3879
AUD/USD0.7742
USD/CAD1.2293
USD/JPY109.1900
USD/NOK8.2964
USD/CHF0.9124
USD/SEK8.4250
USD/MEX20.2220
Source: Reuters

Janet Yellen’s Senate testimony emphasizes American Rescue Plan as integral to turning around the economy

The following is Janet Yellen’s written testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking and Finance …

“Chairman Brown, Ranking Member Toomey, members of the Committee, thank you for having me.

We are meeting at a hopeful moment for the economy – but still a daunting one. While we’re seeing signs of recovery, we should be clear-eyed about the hole we’re digging out of: The country is still down nearly 10 million jobs from its pre-pandemic peak.

When Congress passed the CARES and Consolidated Appropriations Acts last year, it gave the federal government some powerful tools to address the crisis. But upon taking office, I worried they weren’t powerful enough. After all, there were – and still are – some very deep pockets of pain in the data.

One-in-ten homeowners with a mortgage are behind on their payments, and almost one-in-five renters are behind on their rent. There are 22 million people who say they don’t have enough food to eat. One-in-ten adults are hungry in America.

I looked at data like these, and I worried that the COVID economy was going to keep hurting millions of people now and haunt them long after the health emergency was over.

We know that when the foundations of someone’s life fall apart – when they lose the roof over their head or the ability to eat dinner every night – the pain can weigh on them for years. Their earning potential is permanently lowered.  I worried about this happening on a mass scale.

That’s why I advocated very hard for the American Rescue Plan, and it’s why my first – and most enthusiastic – message today is: Thank you.

With the passage of the Rescue Plan, I am confident that people will reach the other side of this pandemic with the foundations of their lives intact. And I believe they will be met there by a growing economy. In fact, I think we may see a return to full employment next year.

Of course, the speed and strength of our recovery depends, in part, on how we implement the legislation. Treasury is tasked with much of that work, and there is nothing that I – or my team – take more seriously. We appreciate your oversight on this matter, and I want to briefly tell you about how we’ve been working.  

Since taking office two months ago, we have been expediting relief to the areas of greatest need. For example, small businesses – and especially the smallest small businesses, which are disproportionally owned by women and people of color.

The pandemic has hit these businesses hard. The Paycheck Protection Program was an early lifeline, but because of issues with the program’s design, the first rounds often didn’t reach the smallest sole proprietorships. We’re addressing that now. We worked with SBA to tweak how the program was implemented. It’s allowing the PPP to reach millions more microbusinesses and entrepreneurs, especially in rural and low-income areas.

We’re also building capacity to support these communities over the longer term. Because of the December legislation, Treasury now has $12 billion to inject into community development financial institutions and minority depository institutions. In turn, these CDFIs and MDIs can lend that capital out, helping people buy homes and start businesses in places that the financial services sector traditionally hasn’t served well.  

Then, there are the families I spoke about, the ones struggling to keep a roof over their head and food on the table.

The American Rescue Plan provides more than $30 billion to help renters and homeowners at risk of losing their homes. And we’re making sure that assistance flows as efficiently as possible.

For instance, the previous Administration put in place rules that required tenants and landlords to provide quite a bit of documentation to get rental assistance, including detailed statements about their income. But some people don’t have access to those documents. We’re cutting through the red tape for them, while still taking reasonable steps to prevent fraud and abuse.

And of course, we’ve been sending direct payments to Americans – a lot of Americans. As of last week, we had issued over 90 million payments. 

And all this is just a fraction of Treasury’s work. There are so many more relief programs, including one that will provide $350 billion in aid to state and local governments. Implementing all of it is more complicated than it sounds, and we are working closely with stakeholders to make sure that these programs are both efficient and effective.

Behind these many relief programs, these millions of transactions, are a staff of very dedicated (and very tired) Treasury and IRS employees. My final word is to them: Thank you. You are putting on a master class in how government should work in the furnace of a crisis. I’m grateful to be your colleague.

With that, I am happy to answer any questions you have.”

Government strategy: Is Biden staffing up for currency war with China and the Eurozone?

Last Friday, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York announced that the head of its markets group, Daleep Singh, has resigned to join the Biden administration as both Deputy National Security Advisor and Deputy National Economic Advisor. This is the second prominent Biden administration choice being asked to sit in what apparently are two different policy realms: foreign and domestic. Dr. Susan Rice, who is an expert in foreign affairs, is currently Mr Biden’s assistant for domestic policy and chair of the domestic policy council in Mr Biden’s absence.

Mr Biden reportedly thinks of domestic and foreign policy as one and the same. One of the holdovers from the Trump administration is the focus on China. Mr Biden has expressed that China should expect “extreme competition” from the United States while emphasizing that there is room for accord without conflict. Mr Biden has signaled that avoiding conflict during intense competition may require falling back on existing international law.

Mr Biden’s China agenda will require buy-in from the American public. American manufacturers and farmers in particular were directly impacted by the Trump administration’s tariff war with China. Mr Biden will need a domestic policy agenda that gets Americans on board with his China initiative while crafting a policy agenda towards China that reflects benefits in the American domestic economy.

The currency portion of the foreign agenda toward China for now does not include a currency war. At the outset of her tenure Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen signaled that the US would abandon any remnant of the “strong dollar” policy favored by the Trump administration preferring instead to allow the market to determine currency rates. The dollar’s overall steady weakening in currency markets makes its domestically produced goods more attractive to foreign importers, a weakening not due to any market intervention on the part of the United States. In theory this makes domestically produced items more attractive price wise to US taxpayers and makes imports from foreign nations i.e. China, more expensive.

Secretary Yellen will be receiving direct messaging from the Executive Office of the President on China and likely on currency issues. Ms Yellen, as Treasury secretary, is a member of the National Security Council for which Mr Singh will now have a high staff role. Mr Singh has extensive experience in the area of foreign exchange having focused on U.S. interest rates and the currency markets for the better part of eight years when he was with Goldman Sachs. Secretary Yellen is also a member of the Domestic Policy Council where Dr. Rice will serve as chairman when Mr Biden is not present.

The government strategy takeaway here is to pay additional attention to the messaging from the national security council and the domestic policy council and ascertaining whether messages out of the Executive Office of the President and the Treasury Department are in sync when it comes to the US’ stance on currency markets.

Interbank market scan: End of US portion of trading day sees dollar mixed in light of no major Federal Reserve, Treasury actions

Currency pairsExchange Rate as of 9:48 am EST 3 February 2021The eventPost Event-Exchange Rate as of 4:15 pm EST 3 February 2021Impact
AUD/USD0.7612No major Fed or Treasury event0.7616Slight dollar weakening
USD/CAD1.2791No major Fed or Treasury event1.2781Dollar weakening
USD/CNY6.4580No major Fed or Treasury event6.4579No change
EUR/USD1.2018No major Fed or Treasury event1.2029Dollar weakening
USD/INR72.8358No major Fed or Treasury event72.8086Dollar weakening
GBP/USD1.3642No major Fed or Treasury event1.3635Slight dollar strengthening 
USD/JPY105.0100No major Fed or Treasury event105.0500Dollar strengthening
USD/MXN20.1116No major Fed or Treasury event20.2050Dollar strengthening
USD/DKK6.1900No major Fed or Treasury event6.1919Dollar strengthening
USD/NOK8.6078No major Fed or Treasury event8.5865Dollar weakening
Source: Reuters

Government strategy: A reminder to ignore the noise …

I came across this quote from fellow blogger Brian Twomey regarding the noise in the currency trade market:

“Much occurred in 6 months: elections, change from Republicans to Democrats, Covid, lockdowns, gazillions of central bank meetings, average Inflation Targets. The market and the target price doesn’t care to such things and will never care in the future. The target price and the price path to target is the only concern.”

I agree the past eleven months have been noisy given the last election and the Covid pandemic. One way to block out the noise is to remodel how you view government’s role in the political economy. You start by creating two major blocks.

The first block is comprised of “The Barbarians”, the citizenry whose passions America’s founders were concerned about. The Barbarians are made up of the taxpayers and consumers whose dollars keep the political economy going. Between February 2020 and November 2020, the U.S. listened to a lot of noise generated by two management companies vying for the job of controlling government and managing the populace: the Democrats and the Republicans. The Barbarians chose the Democrats during the 2020 silly season to be their political managers.

The second block is “The Cosa Nostra.” Within this block is where the interbank market operates; where banks trade overnight dollars in order to meet their reserve requirements and acquire foreign exchange. This block is co-managed by the Federal Reserve and the Treasury. Specifically, the Treasury, as a political agency, plays a conduit role tying the Barbarians to the Cosa Nostra. To fund the political promises made to the Barbarians, the Treasury issues bonds underwritten by the Federal Reserve and taxes the Barbarians in order to raise proceeds necessary for paying off its IOUs to the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve is the Treasury’s chief underwriter.

The political independence of the Federal Reserve and the lack of significant regulation of the interbank market for foreign exchange should tell the trader that it is okay to ignore the noises of the chattering classes both within government and the media. A well run political management company aware of its role in the political economy would minimize any breach of the gates separating the masses from the Cosa Nostra that can be caused by a passionate set of barbarians.

The government strategy takeaway here is to keep focus on the conduit role of government, specifically the Treasury. The pandemic stimulus discussions are a great example. How much will this package cost? How much of it will be financed? At what interest rates? Will there be a generation of yield such that capital flows into the U.S.? Will this capital flow raise demand for the US dollar?

If government activity does not generate the above questions, then it is just noise.

Interbank market scan: The US House today begins voting on Biden American Rescue Plan; central banks, foreign exchange, cryptocurrency …

The Takeaway

Across seven of ten major currency pairs the dollar exhibited continued weakness after two pandemic related events. First, there was the meeting between President Joe Biden and ten Republican senators. The President released a statement that signaled that he preferred the Democratic-controlled Congress pursue the reconciliation, a stream-lined process for getting approval of $1.9 trillion in spending on Mr Biden’s “American Rescue Plan.” The GOP senators wanted a package price tagged at $618 billion.

The second event will be actual voting on rules that provide instruction in the House on determining how revenue and spending targets be reconciled with appropriate changes in existing legislation. That vote begins today around 6:30 EST.

The main takeaway at this juncture is that the US government will have to borrow funds to finance Mr Biden’s plans and there is conjecture that Treasury will have to borrow more than the $1.9 trillion that Mr Biden is requesting. Central banks from emerging and commodity-driven economies are preparing to ramp up their reserves of the US dollar in order to buy up Treasurys when the debt is issued for purchase. Interest rates on the debt and yields are expected to inch up which theoretically should be accompanied by increased demand for the dollar. The Federal Reserve’s $120 billion per month of debt combined with other central purchases of US debt may work to create a supply of dollars to tamp down the dollar price.

Currency pairsExchange Rate as of 4:45 pm EST 1 February 2021The eventPost Event-Exchange Rate as of 2:00 pm EST 2 February 2021Impact
AUD/USD0.7641Biden signals preference for reconciliation; Congressional Democrats prepare to vote on stimulus0.7585USD strengthening
USD/CAD1.2776Biden signals preference for reconciliation; Congressional Democrats prepare to vote on stimulus1.2811CAD strengthening
USD/CNY6.4267Biden signals preference for reconciliation; Congressional Democrats prepare to vote on stimulus6.4551USD weakening
EUR/USD1.2135Biden signals preference for reconciliation; Congressional Democrats prepare to vote on stimulus1.2019USD strengthening
USD/INR72.8760Biden signals preference for reconciliation; Congressional Democrats prepare to vote on stimulus72.9415INR weakening
GBP/USD1.3699Biden signals preference for reconciliation; Congressional Democrats prepare to vote on stimulus1.3654USD strengthening
USD/JPY104.6400Biden signals preference for reconciliation; Congressional Democrats prepare to vote on stimulus105.0700USD strengthening
USD/MXN20.5641Biden signals preference for reconciliation; Congressional Democrats prepare to vote on stimulus20.1798USD weakening
USD/DKK6.1262Biden signals preference for reconciliation; Congressional Democrats prepare to vote on stimulus6.1874USD strengthening
USD/NOK8.5474Biden signals preference for reconciliation; Congressional Democrats prepare to vote on stimulus8.6173USD strengthening
Source: Federal Reserve and Reuters

The news scan

Both houses of Congress were preparing to take the first steps forward on U.S. President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, with initial votes on Tuesday launching efforts to fast-track passage. U.S. Congress readies first steps toward $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill | Reuters

Several central banks have ventured into unusual territory in the opening weeks of this year, announcing currency sales in advance as they tread a delicate line between dulling the impact of a sliding dollar and dodging the ire of the US Treasury. Central banks take rare step of flagging currency sales in advance | Financial Times (ft.com) https://www.ft.com/content/0383f3a4-41a0-464a-b831-fd1a09a6b1b0

As the Treasury Department holds its largest auctions on record, global central banks could play a familiar role in helping to sop up the deluge of debt supply set to hit markets this year. Here’s why foreign central banks are set to reprise role as big buyer of U.S. government debt (msn.com)

The U.S. Department of the Treasury today announced its current estimates of privately-held net marketable borrowing[1] for the January – March 2021 and April – June 2021 quarters[2]. TREASURY ANNOUNCES MARKETABLE BORROWING ESTIMATES | U.S. Department of the Treasury