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.

The J-Cubed Corporation and its discount currency …

The J-Cubed Corporation (Jay Powell, Janet Yellen, and Joe Biden) are responsible for wholesale production of a currency ( a fast food restaurant coupon) and creating an underlying value for that currency that makes it attractive to other public corporations ie nations.

The banks, (licensed resellers or “currency pimps”) are responsible for getting the currency into the hands of individuals and businesses that put the coupon to its best use while generating taxes for the J-Cubed Corporation and steady bond yields for individuals (“The Global Johns”).

Are the wholesalers and resellers putting out too much currency? Since October 2020, the U.S. monetary base (currency in circulation plus reserves held in accounts at Federal Reserve banks) has increased by approximately 28.8%. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve’s preferred metric for inflation, the personal consumption expenditure index, has increased approximately five percent during the same period.

The yield on U.S. 10-year bonds is at 1.49% at the time of this print, up 57 basis points since December 2020.

My question is, will Joe Biden be able to create a narrative that scores him some political points between now and when inflation is expected to abate, which is between early spring and the fall of 2022.

As Bill Clinton learned quickly and clearly in 1994, a sound economy and a path to re-election is about keeping The Global Johns happy. Any other reference to “economy” is just refried noise for the business media to transmit …

Alton Drew

24.12.2021

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: The world waits for the Fed’s decision on tapering …

Interbank, China. The following are the parity rates for the Chinese renminbi. https://www.bignewsnetwork.com/news/271640484/market-exchange-rates-in-china—-nov-3

Interbank, India. The rupee appreciated by 22 paise to close at 74.46 (provisional) against the US dollar on Wednesday on the back of easing crude oil prices and foreign fund flows into domestic IPOs. https://www.business-standard.com/article/markets/rupee-appreciates-22-paise-to-close-at-74-46-against-the-us-dollar-121110301094_1.html

Interbank, foreign currencies, Afghanistan. Taliban bans foreign currencies in Afghanistan. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-59129470

Interbank, central bank digital currencies. A network among multiple central bank digital currencies could create efficiencies in the tens of billions of dollars and benefit all participants, according to a new report. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-11-03/what-a-global-central-bank-digital-currency-network-might-do?sref=oriheOus

Interbank. There is a disconnect between exchange rates and the classical variables that explain them. https://insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu/article/why-currency-exchange-rates-fluctuate

My Morning Takeaway: The trader should seek out best information sources on the future …

The Bloomberg article I note above has me thinking about how currency trade will look in the near future.  I am not surprised about the discussions being held regarding how a central bank digital currency will be distributed globally.  If efficiencies are created by a network of central bank digital currencies, especially where banks can save on settlement costs, then the trader, in my opinion, should get as much insight into the degree of volatility spawned by an increasingly efficient network.

If we assume efficiency involves an increase in data that can be analyzed at a faster rate, then a broker should be able to convey this information to a trader using her broker network.  Again, the ability of a broker to provide this type of information thus giving the trader insights on how volatility may impact price movements will prove invaluable to both the trader and broker.

Another side-note thought on the future: the role of the bank in a central bank digital currency future.  I don’t see the banks being cut out of the payment system per se.  The banks’ strategic and tactical position in the payments system makes them too valuable for central banks to kick to the curb.  Credit creates money and the banks will continue their role as the retail distributors of the currency whether that currency is a central bank distributed coin or not.

Alton Drew 3.11.2021

A quick thesis statement on trade and currency …

Man engages for the sole purpose of exchanging value. The carry trade is the movement of value from a place of low returns to a place of higher returns. A payment system is the conduit for extracting value where that value is captured in a currency. Labor and capital are the forces that combine to extract value. An optimal exchange of value is a function of a transparent, quick, efficient payment system, untaxed, with no leakage. Public policy should be in line with this philosophy of a payment system.

An importer wants to short the dollar …

Tywin Lannister decides to invest in the import/export business.  He wants to import certain goods from the United Kingdom and resell them in the United States.  He estimates that he will need 7.5 million British pounds (GBP) to purchase, package, process, and deliver his British goods to the U.S. 

At an exchange rate of $1.3740 per British pound, he estimates borrowing $10.305 million from his US bank.  The borrowed amount also includes his estimated profit.

To sweeten the deal with the prime brokerage division of his bank, he offers up $1.05 million dollars in cash and securities as collateral.

Lannister’s business venture so far in Great Britain is a success.  His take comes in (for the purpose of this discussion) at the estimated 7.5 million GBP which also includes his profit.  He would not mind expanding his profit so he hopes that the dollar weakens or depreciates. Fortunately for Lannister the dollar price of a pound has increased to $1.5801.  After converting his pounds to dollars, he realizes $11.85 million, and after repaying his loan, he takes home approximately $1.54 million in profit from his venture.

Lannister likely benefited from a number of market forces.  For example, incomes in the US may have been increasing faster than those in the UK thus increasing demand for the UK’s exports and currency.  The UK’s currency appreciates versus the US.

Prices in the US may have been rising rapidly when compared to prices in the UK. The resulting demand for lower priced UK products would have resulted in an appreciation of the UK’s products and currency.

In addition, interest rates in the UK may have risen higher than in the US, incentivizing the movement of money from the US to the UK resulting in an appreciated UK currency.

A trader’s sound monetary policy strategy will emphasize interest rate moves, but will not discount to zero the other market forces that impact currency values.  Lannister no doubt kept his eyes on all the factors, but given that a central bank is the “farmer” of its nation’s respective currency, Lannister, and any other importer, will pay close attention to the interest rate actions (monetary policy) of its central bank.

Alton Drew 23 September 2021

Interbank Market News Scan: The fallacy of free markets

1 September 2021

It is in the best interest of governments and their central bank underwriters that government maintains some control over the market price for currencies.  As a reflection of the underlying value of a political economy, currency prices signal a country’s capacity to entertain investment.  Stable currency prices transmit a message that the underlying economy operates in an environment of legal, social, and regulatory certainty.  Whereas financial markets enjoy the profits and arbitrage opportunities that volatility may bring, governments and their central bank underwriters prefer a law-and-order environment for trade.  Certainty of domestic and foreign investment along with tax and customs collection is the higher priority for government.

There is a lot of noise that, in my opinion, blocks out these basic tenets of political economy.  It is no wonder that chartists or technical analysts focus primarily on pip movements on their bar graphs.  Pontification on future government moves can cause hair to be pulled out and put a trader into a state of mental numbness.  The trader cannot, however, take her eyes off of the policy ball for it is the policy maker, in this case the Federal Reserve, that provides the nutrients for currency growth and circulation.  It is their narrative that drives prices.  It is their decisions on reserve requirements, asset purchases, and fed fund and discount window rates that signal to their currency vendors, the banks, the varying rates that currency is sold to the public.

And thus, this is part of the fallacy; that banks are somehow free market players charging a market-driven interest rate for loans.  On the contrary.  Banks are more like government chartered (commissioned) privateers who sell currency to the public either via loans or directly over the counter during foreign exchange transactions.  Banks are merely doing the bidding of a government that needs its currency to flow to activities that eventually generate taxable events.  Banks provide government with a low-cost information search alternative for seeking out and financing high-yielding taxable events.

The trader should maintain focus on policy narratives and decisions that will impact the price of the dollar, currently the world’s most prevalent reserve currency.  Central banks are consuming economic, political, and these days more social data and inputting this information into their narrative.  The narrative creates the marching orders for their chief currency vendors, the banks.  There is no free market when your marching orders come from the central bank.  The free market is a fallacy that serves only to create a lot of noise from amongst the chattering classes.

Alton Drew

For a consultation on any regulatory or legislative discussions or announcements, please reach out to us at altondrew@altondrew.com for information on consultation rates and to reserve an appointment.

Interbank Market News Scan: The increase in US currency in circulation is correlated with a decrease in US dollar value

29 August 2021

Data from the Federal Reserve shows that between July 2020 and July 2021 the amount of currency in circulation increased approximately 10% from $1,981.7 billion in July 2020 to $2,186.4 billion in July 2021.

Data from the MarketWatch dollar index showed that over the period July 2020 to July 2021, the value of the dollar decreased by 1.26%.

DateCurrency in circulation (in billions)MarketWatch Dollar Index
July 2020$1,981.793.35
August 2020$2,007.692.14
September 2020$2,027.593.89
October 2020$2,040.594.04
November 2020$2058.391.87
December 2020$2071.689.93
January 2021$2094.290.58
February 2021$2100.990.88
March 2021$2117.893.23
April 2021$2154.991.28
May 2021$2169.590.03
June 2021$2179.192.44
July 2021$2186.492.17

Sources: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, MarketWatch Dollar Index

In theory, American demand for imports, American investments in foreign countries, and speculation adds to the supply of American dollars.  Government intervention can also add to the supply of US dollars.  Expected tapering of US Treasury bills and agency mortgage-backed securities is expected to start later this year and this activity may result in a reduction of US dollars in circulation as the Fed sells off these securities.  The scarcity in dollars should see a future increase in dollar index value as well as an increase in interest rates.

The Federal Reserve tills the currency soil while the banks distribute the currency fruit.  If dollars are distributed by banks via loans at higher interest rates, tax generating activities via business and commerce may slow down.  The narrative behind the American currency, that American capitalism is the appropriate policy for generating and distributing wealth, will be tainted where capital becomes too expensive for businesses to access.

From the fiscal side, President Biden’s $3.5 trillion dollar infrastructure could suck more air out of the room putting upward pressure on rates and making more capital inaccessible by businesses.  Upward pressure on interest rates will only compound the fears that current inflationary trends will become more stationary than transitory.

Alton Drew

  For a consultation on any regulatory or legislative discussions or announcements, please reach out to us at altondrew@altondrew.com for information on consultation rates and to reserve an appointment.

Interbank Market News Scan: As Afghanistan transitions, currency traders should wait for dust to settle in light of China’s influence …

15 August 2021

Currency pairExchange rate10-year yield, government securities
AFN/CNY0.07982.88
AFN/USD0.012331.28
Source: OANDA

The transition of political power occurring in Afghanistan today should have traders and brokers asking about the currency trade opportunities under a Taliban-led Afghanistan.  The price of the Afghani has been falling in both US dollars and Chinese renminbi over the last 90 days.  I suspect as Afghanistan moves through its transition over the next 48 hours that western investors will wait for the dust to settle on where yields Afghani-denominated securities will fall out.

After two decades in Afghanistan, the lightening quick deterioration in the ability of the government to maintain control of its territory speaks negatively about the United States as a stabilizing force in the region.  That accolade right now may belong more in China’s court than the U.S.  China has stayed engaged with Afghanistan primarily due to three concerns.

First, the protection of small and medium sized Chinese enterprises in Afghanistan; second, to stop the training of Uygur supporting insurgents from an area of Afghanistan that lies along China’s western border; and third, to maintain a vital component of its Belt and Road Initiative, a policy of transportation and communications infrastructure that facilitates the transfer of resources to China.

China is Afghanistan’s largest investor, having provided Afghanistan with telecom equipment and other telecom infrastructure.  China extracts oil in the Amu Daya basin, and also mines lithium and copper, both essential to providing telecommunications equipment and facilities.

Geographically, Afghanistan provides China with the shortest route between China, the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, and the Arabian Sea, important for cost effective movement of trade.

And because China has shown no interest in “rebuilding Afghanistan”, including altering its political, social, or ideological institutions, it has been able to maintain a dialogue with the Taliban, important now more than ever as Afghanistan sees a change in leadership.

The takeaway:  Traders should monitor the developing government relationships and take note of relative changes in income, prices, commodity availability, and interest rates.

Alton Drew

Sources:

OANDA

China to ‘capitalise’ on West’s Taliban failure as US geopolitical power diminished | World | News | Express.co.uk 

Why China and Russia might find common security ground in Afghanistan | South China Morning Post (scmp.com)

Slowly but surely, China is moving into Afghanistan (trtworld.com)

For a consultation on any regulatory or legislative discussions or announcements, please reach out to us at altondrew@altondrew.com for information on consultation rates and to reserve an appointment.

Banks as currency agents …

Banks should think of themselves as the private sector currency agents of the State.  The currency encapsulates the economic, commercial, and social value of a political economy.  A State-issued currency ties the State’s citizens to a particular value system while providing a mechanism that accounts for a citizen’s wealth and serves the citizen as a medium of exchange for goods and services, including the payment of taxes to the State.

Banks help distribute State-issued currency primarily through the creation of credit.  Banks are a “port of call” for currency; receiving deposits from its customers, capital from its investors, and placing State-issued Treasurys, underwritten by the central bank, into its investment portfolio.  Banks issue loans to their customers creating money in the process.  This money can be deposited at other banks or used by consumers or businesses for purchases.  The fees for financial services provided to consumers and the interest earned from lending to end users and producers provide the banks with income that, along with the income generated by businesses financed by banks, can be taxed by the State.

The fallout from the 2007-2008 financial meltdown has created a narrative that banks are entities separate from the State; private sector “bad boys” whose reckless behavior from creating financial instruments doomed to perform poorly caused people to lose jobs and credit to freeze.  The narrative had citizens questioning why these misbehaving banks received bailouts from the U.S. government while ordinary citizens had to bear the brunt of the rippling effects throughout the economy. 

The answer is simple.  Selling debt instruments and earning fees for placing these instruments into the hands of investors part of the implicit agreement between the State and the banks as currency agents.  Even as elected officials such as Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts and Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, argue for increased regulation of America’s larger banks, the truth of the matter is that dismantling the mechanisms of banking would be too costly to the State’s currency distribution system.  The State would have to re-write its laws to support an alternative system and for all the noise against the current system, seems to be in no rush to replace it.