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.

Would Virgin Islanders prefer to be an American outpost?

Growing up in the U.S. Virgin Islands I noticed the rift between those who considered themselves ancestral Virgin Islanders and those of us who were either born in or children of people born in the Eastern Caribbean.  This rift, in my opinion, was fueled by the native Virgin Islander belief that being citizens of the United States gave them a certain privilege or right to be condescending to anyone else from the Caribbean.  It was never surprising to hear a “local” refer to down-islanders as “garrot” or “islo” in reference to the fact that the person being persecuted came from further south and east in the Lesser Antilles.

It is no wonder so many of our families started separate civic organizations like the Nevis Benevolent Society or formed churches such as the Bethel Baptist Missionary Baptist Church whose membership was comprised mostly of individuals who hailed from the British Virgin Islands, St. Kitts, Nevis, Anguilla, and Antigua.

On the other hand, arguably this behavior from native-born Virgin Islanders, albeit condescending and disrespectful of those whose lineage did not historically run through the Virgin Islands from birth, may be part of a native attempt to maintain a Virgin Islands identity unique from other Caribbean nations and territories. 

Virgin Islanders have likely struggled with identity dualism since the territory was formally transferred to the United States from Denmark in March 1917.  The identity struggle likely intensified as the U.S. Virgin Islands found itself surrounded by a Caribbean tossing off governance from European powers and going their own way.  Jamaica gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1962.  Barbados and Guyana also broke from the United Kingdom in 1966.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines went their own way in 1979, while Antigua and Barbuda and St. Christopher (St. Kitts) and Nevis gained independence in 1981 and 1983, respectively.

The schizophrenia of being a Virgin Islander and an American tends to be received with more indifference and a smirk from Caribbean nations versus respect as a Caribbean neighbor.   

This schizophrenia apparently seeped into the constitutional politics of the Virgin Islands.  In its fifth attempt in 2010 to draft a constitution for the US Virgin Islands, the constitutional drafting committee ran afoul of the US Department of Justice by recommending tax exemptions for ancestral native Virgin Islanders and native Virgin Islanders.  A native Virgin Islander is defined as someone born in the Virgin Islands on or after 28 June 1932.  An ancestral native Virgin Islander is defined as someone born in the Virgin Islands prior to and including 28 June 1932 as well as descendants of such individuals whether residing in the territory or not.

Under the proposed constitution, ancestral native Virgin Islanders and their descendants would receive a tax exemption on ownership real property.  This exemption would not flow to native Virgin islanders or any non-Virgin Islander domiciled in the territory.  A law distinguishing who would receive and not receive a tax benefit based on place and timing of birth, in the opinion of the Justice Department, would create multiple tiers of citizens. These designations, apparently not tied to a legitimate governmental interest, would run afoul of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The Department of Justice was also concerned with the drafting committee’s apparent attempt to usurp United States sovereignty over the coastal waters of the Virgin Islands.  In its constitutional proposal, the committee provided language that the Virgin Islands would exercise sovereignty over its inter-island waters and over waters extending twelve nautical miles from each island’s coast up to the borders with international waters.  The lack of mention of US sovereignty over this twelve-mile area, in the Justice Department’s opinion, raised the concern that such a measure, if enacted, would violate federal law.  

At the end of the day, the initiative to draft a constitution adds weight to what University of the Virgin Islands professor Paul Leary identified in a 2020 opinion piece discussing the feasibility of an independent U.S. Virgin Islands.  The Virgin Islands is experiencing “the absence of a clear national identity.”  His observation is a reminder that a national identity is the platform upon which a country must be built.  The Virgin Islands are way too small to play “nation-state” politics.  The size of the territory would only lead to more intense conflict among groups of native and non-native Virgin Islanders trying to divide up a near non-existent pie.

The cohesiveness necessary for nationhood in the U.S. Virgin Islands may be two to three generations away, but given the economic circumstances of the territory, where young people constantly move to the mainland for work and business opportunity, the development of a cohesive nation may experience unacceptable delay.  In the meantime, the Virgin Islands of the United States may have to optimize its status as an American outpost in the Caribbean; subject to scorn from its independent neighbors, relying on the United States for its identity, and pushing away its Caribbean brethren.      

Our Africa index shows dollar strengthening against key currencies; Trump last ditch effort at US-Africa trade …

As of 5:10 pm AST, here are exchange rates between the United States and key African nations:

Pairs OANDA as of 18 December 2020 OANDA as of 23 December 2020 Notes 
USD/KES 110.603 109.163 Dollar weakening 
USD/NGN 379.792 380.931 On 21 December USD/NGN peaked at 383.512 
USD/GHS 5.8522 5.87027 Dollar strengthening 
USD/CDF 1951.91 1950.60 US redesignation under AGOA on 22 December 
USD/AOA 649.638 649.479 Flat 
USD/ZAR 14.6031 14.6359 Dollar strengthening 

Source: OANDA

Legal/Political events impacting US-Africa trade relationship

Trump re-designates the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a sub-Saharan beneficiary nation under the Trade Act of 1974

Yesterday, President Donald J. Trump designated the Democratic Republic of the Congo a beneficiary sub-Saharan country under the Trade Act of 1974 as amended by the African Growth and Opportunity Act and the Africa Investment Incentive Act. Pursuant to 19 U.S.C. 3703, the President has determined that the Democratic Republic of the Congo has made progress or is making progress toward the following:

(A) a market-based economy that protects private property rights for men and women, incorporates an open rules-based trading system, and minimizes government interference in the economy through measures such as price controls, subsidies, and government ownership of economic assets;

(B)the rule of law, political pluralism, and the right to due process, a fair trial, and equal protection under the law;

(C)the elimination of barriers to United States trade and investment, including by—(i)the provision of national treatment and measures to create an environment conducive to domestic and foreign investment;(ii)the protection of intellectual property; and(iii)the resolution of bilateral trade and investment disputes;

(D)economic policies to reduce poverty, increase the availability of health care and educational opportunities, expand physical infrastructure, promote the development of private enterprise, and encourage the formation of capital markets through micro-credit or other programs;

(E)a system to combat corruption and bribery, such as signing and implementing the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions; and

(F)protection of internationally recognized worker rights, including the right of association, the right to organize and bargain collectively, a prohibition on the use of any form of forced or compulsory labor, a minimum age for the employment of children, and acceptable conditions of work with respect to minimum wages, hours of work, and occupational safety and health.

The President has also determined that the Democratic Republic of the Congo does not engage in activities that undermine United States national security or foreign policy interests; and does not engage in gross violations of internationally recognized human rights or provide support for acts of international terrorism and cooperates in international efforts to eliminate human rights violations and terrorist activities.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo lost its designation as a beneficiary sub-Saharan nation in 2010 under the Obama administration, according to the President’s executive order. With this new designation, certain textiles and apparel will be able to enter the United States duty free.

Sources: Executive Office of the President; Legal Information Institute-Cornell University

Federal Reserve releases select exchange rates as of 11 December 2020

Atlanta 14 December 2020, 9:43 PM EST

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System today released the foreign exchange rates for the following foreign exchange pairs. Compare with exchange rates quoted by foreign exchange broker OANDA as of 9:59 PM EST:

Federal Reserve OANDA

EUR/USD = 1.2112 EUR/USD = 1.21443

GBP/USD = 1.3197 GBP/USD = 1.33503

USD/CAD = 1.2767 USD/CAD = 1.27508

USD/JPY = 103.880 USD/JPY = 103.93

So far, a quiet bond market …

As of 10:14 am AST 30 November 2020, U.S. Treasury rates and Federal Funds rates are as follows:

3-month: .08%

6-month: .09%

12-month: .10%

2-year: .15%

10-year: .85%

30-year: 1.58%

Fed Funds Rate: 0.08%

Federal Reserve Target: 0.25%

Prime Rate: 3.25%

Source: Bloomberg

Major political/legal events impacting currencies

On 27 November 2020, President Donald J. Trump nominated Brian P. Brooks as Comptroller of the Currency for a term of five years.  As Comptroller, Mr Brooks would be responsible for administering the United States’ national banking system as well as the branches of foreign banks doing business in the United States.  Mr Brooks is currently serving as acting Comptroller.  His nomination must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Source: Executive Office of the President

As of 10:25 am AST 24 November 2020, Foreign exchange rates between U.S., select countries in East Africa, West Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia, and BitCoin

As of  10:25 am AST, 24 November 2020:

How to read the chart:

CAD/USD: If you come to the United States with one Canadian dollar (CAD)and wish to sell it for a US dollar (USD), the market price is .76486 USD.

USD/CAD: If you take a US dollar (USD) to Canada and wish to sell it for a Canadian dollar (CAD), the market price is 1.30725 CAD

CAD/USD=0.76486   USD/CAD=1.30725

CNH/USD= 0.15227   USD/CNH=6.56585

EUR/USD= 1.18633   USD/EUR=0.84284

DKK/USD =0.15930   USD/DKK=6.27554

NGN/USD= 0.00261    USD/NGN=378.884

JPY/USD=0.00961    USD/JPY=104.01

INR/USD=0.01348       USD/INR=74.0457

JMD/USD=0.00672     USD/JMD=145.825

GYD/USD=0.00469       USD/GYD= 204.934

GHS/USD=0.17100     USD/GHS= 5.81368

XCD/USD=0.37037        USD/XCD= 2.70

KES/USD = 0.00905       USD/KES= 108.605

BTC/USD= 18,431.20     USD/BTC= 0.00005

Source: OANDA

Major political/legal event in the United States

Biden to nominate Janet Yellen for Treasury secretary

Axios reports that presumptive U.S. president-elect, Joseph R. Biden, will announce later today his choice of Janet Yellen as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.  Ms Yellen, 74, served as chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 2014 to 2018.

Source: Axios

9:47 am 11 November 2020, Foreign exchange rates between U.S. and select countries in East Africa, West Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia

As of  9:47 am EST, 11 November 2020:

How to read the chart:

CAD/USD: If you come to the United States with one Canadian dollar (CAD)and wish to sell it for a US dollar (USD), the market price is .76819 USD.

USD/CAD: If you take a US dollar (USD) to Canada and wish to sell it for a Canadian dollar (CAD), the market price is 1.30157 CAD

CAD/USD=0.76819   USD/CAD=1.30157

CNH/USD= 0.15142   USD/CNH=6.60316

EUR/USD= 1.18174    USD/EUR=0.84611

DKK/USD =0.15870     USD/DKK=6.29960

NGN/USD= 0.00262    USD/NGN=379.530

JPY/USD=0.00951       USD/JPY=105.18

INR/USD=0.01347       USD/INR=74.0906

JMD/USD=0.00674      USD/JMD=145.426

GYD/USD=0.00478       USD/GYD= 209.215

GHS/USD=0.17136       USD/GHS= 5.82457

XCD/USD=0.37037        USD/XCD= 2.70

KES/USD = 0.00911       USD/KES= 108.146

Source: OANDA

Major political/legal event in the United States

Last Monday, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data released the October 2020 Survey of Consumer Expectations, which shows a decline in income and spending growth expectations. Changes in labor market expectations were mixed showing declines in both average job loss and job finding expectations. Median inflation expectations declined at the short-term horizon, while remaining unchanged at the medium-term horizon. Uncertainty and disagreement about future inflation decreased slightly but remained at an elevated level.

What does the narrative of fair trade with China mean?

This morning I watched the Fox Business Network‘s Mornings with Maria.  They have been featuring news clips of an interview that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had with host Maria Bartiromo where he criticizes China’s trade policy toward the United States and warns Americans of the Chinese intent to steal American intellectual property and Americans’ personal information.  The United States has been making it clear for years that it is unhappy with what it describes as an imbalance in trade between the two nations.

China has a potentially large consumer market, its emergence stymied in part to its current status as a creditor nation where it finances other nations, including the United States versus living off of the dead aid provided by western nations as part of their policy of noblesse oblige toward emerging, lesser developed countries.  In addition, given its growing economic power, it is easily in a position to influence economic affairs in southeast Asia.  As a provider of inexpensive telecommunications equipment it has been able to enter Europe’s telecommunications market providing competition for American made telecommunications products.

But at the heart of the American narrative may be the fear that the Anglo-American world view or philosophy is being challenged by an alternative Chinese view that, if not held under control, will replace the Anglo view thus making the current American narrative on political economy i.e. the greatness of the republican form of government combined with a free market, less attractive for leadership in other nations to use the American model for governing their domestic and foreign trade affairs.

Pompeo and other American leaders have been using the media to signal to Americans that China’s actions are a threat to the American economy thus a threat to the American way of life.  I can see the broad strokes.  For example, if China continues to lock the US out of additional trading opportunities in China and can price the US out of European and other Asian technology and manufacturing markets, America’s wealth and trade influence would shrink and the US would be forced to become more self-reliant.  America, facing a challenged supply chain, would see shortages and increasing prices for goods and services thus the threat to the American way of life.

Pompeo also describes China’s activity as a threat to American democracy.  That threat I don’t buy into and I see it more as a jingoistic ploy than anything else.  Democracy refers to a citizen’s ability to participate in the process whereby political leaders are selected.  Pompeo has yet to state his case in a cogent manner.  He has insinuated that China has deployed an influence campaign targeting voters and elected officials alike but has provided no specifics.

In addition, the terms fairness and balance are continuously uttered, likely part of the jingoism campaign, as Americans tend to conflate fairness and balance with democracy.  A fair and balanced trade relationship between two countries has nothing to do with how the leaders in each respective country are chosen.  Americans should be asking themselves and their leaders why connecting these points creates such a sound political narrative that US electorate would have no other choice but to support any legal initiatives or actions that promote escalated tensions.

And the legal actions and initiatives are being turned up.  The Justice Department recently told PBS News that 60% of its trade cases are against China and that its actions against China are more in line with stopping illegal activity versus expressing an intellectual bias.

I see law as the codification of an originating philosophy transmitted via a narrative and  refined by politics and policy.  What is missing here is the jurisprudence.  For the citizen to properly understand the government’s legal actions against China trade policy, the focus has to come off of messages that conflate democracy, fairness, and balance, and look for the philosophy that is being promoted.  Conflation promoted by government officials should open up the citizens’ minds to questions about the mismatch between the politics, the policy, and the messaging.

Getting to the why is critical.