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: White House, Treasury focus on economics and finance to neutralize Russia’s military invasion …

Interbank, U.S., White House. The White House provides additional details on how it will impose sanctions on Russia. See press release here. Source: Executive Office of the President.

Interbank, U.S., White House. Joint Statement on restrictive economic measures placed on Russia. See press release here. Source: Executive Office of the President.

Interbank, U.S. Treasury, Russia. U.S. Department of the Treasury announces prohibition on transactions with the Central Bank of Russia. See press release here. Source: U.S. Department of Treasury.

Interbank, U.S., Federal Reserve, consumer survey. The Federal Reserve Board in March will begin a statistical study of household finances, the Survey of Consumer Finances, that will provide policymakers with important insight into the economic condition of a broad cross section of American families. See press release here. Source: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

Interbank, Bank for International Settlements, view on markets. The BIS released its quarterly view on world markets. In the prior three months, fixed income markets were jolted by shift toward tighter monetary policy; stock markets plummeted; and investor sentiment grew toward Asian economies. See press release and report here. Source: Bank for International Settlements.

Foreign exchange rates of interest and dollar index at 11:08 am AST

EUR/USD=1.12616

GBP/USD=1.34029

USD/CAD=1.27029

USD/MXN=20.3433

Source: OANDA

Dollar Index=96.74

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: The United Kingdom moves closer to adopting a central bank digital currency; other news…

Links you should be following:

Central banks, Bank of England. The UK is ahead of the curve when it comes to digital currency adoption, according to new research. A report by PwC reveals the UK is fifth in the world when it comes to preparing for the adoption of a central digital currency although a consumer offer remains a while off yet. UK leads race across Europe to introduce interbank digital currency (msn.com)

Central banks, Central Bank of Nigeria. It is the norm to hear talks around the need for convergence in Nigeria’s foreign exchange (FX) markets. This implies that there is mispricing. Historically, this mispricing has always been between the parallel market rate, which trades at a premium to the CBN’s managed rates across different FX windows. Liquidity, price discovery in Nigeria’s FX market Opinion — The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News

Central banks, Federal Reserve. Excess cash in the financial system has pressured overnight interest rates, in some instances pushing them negative, which, analysts said, could prompt the Federal Reserve to lift the short-term rates it manages. EXPLAINER-U.S. repo market flirts with negative rates as Fed seeks to absorb excess cash | Nasdaq

Central Banks, Central Bank of the Bahamas. The Bahamas and Cambodia rank as the two top central bank digital currencies. Bahamas Ranks First in CBDCs, China’s Digital Yuan Third: PwC Report – BeInCrypto

Central banks, Central Bank of India. The rupee advanced by 23 paise to 74.64 against the US dollar in opening trade on Tuesday, tracking weaker dollar against key rivals and a positive trend in the domestic equity market. Forex traders said the government’s decision to open COVID vaccination to all above 18 years from May 1 lifted investor sentiment. Rupee Rises 23 Paise to 74.64 Against US Dollar in Early Trade (msn.com)

The market is opening. The rates to start your day:

As of 8:59 am, Bloomberg reports that the three month yield on U.S. Treasurys is at 0.02% while the two-year comes in at .16%. The ten-year Treasurys are trading at 1.60% and 2.30%, respectively.

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

The Opening Takeaway: I Expect the Federal Reserve, US Treasury to Pull the Trigger on Cryptocurrency.

Yesterday, the markets saw some pull back in shares for Coinbase (Nasdaq:COIN) with the cryptocurrency exchange closing yesterday at $332.75, down from a high of $409.62 back on 14 April. The pull back was reportedly expected among some analysts as some investors took a little cream off the top. From a market perspective, I was not impressed with the offering. In the end, Coinbase is a market exchange platform for cryptocurrency relying on transactional fees for its survival and maintaining credibility among market participants as an information finder and margin provider for traders.

How well Coinbase does is a direct function of how well cryptocurrency does. As long as cryptocurrency stays in its digital asset lane, it may need not worry about too much regulation. Should it dip its toe further into the currency lane, that is where bitcoin, ethereum, dogecoin, etc., may find themselves in a world of hurt.

A currency’s legitimacy comes from the “king.” The king airdrops the currency throughout his jurisdiction for the purpose of washing and compounding it through a jurisdiction’s merchants, producers, and consumers. The currency says a lot about the economic value of the king’s jurisdiction and to maintain the prevailing narrative the currency represents, the king must control or heavily influence its value and circulation. The decentralized financial mechanism that cryptocurrency survives on does not fit into the command and control scheme of the king.

So far the US Federal Reserve has been ambivalent about its view of cryptocurrency. The US Treasury has been a bit clearer about its view of cryptocurrency as a currency based on Janet Yellen’s concerns about cryptocurrency being used for nefarious activities such as money laundering and drug trafficking. Neither the Federal Reserve or the US Treasury has expressed their concerns based on the philosophical underpinnings of currency, but I believe that when it is time for the central bank and the Treasury Department to pull the public policy trigger, control of the currency will be the ultimate public policy rationale.

Countries such as The Bahamas and Cambodia (see the links above) are not waiting. In the interbank, foreign currency exchange world, The Bahamas and Cambodia are near non-existent, but in the digital space they are the leaders in issuing central bank digital currency, taking digital payments to the next level. Over 60 countries are experimenting with or planning deployment of central bank digital currencies where their fiat currencies are tethered to block chain digital technology. Critics argue the point that outside of the digital tethering, a central bank issued digital currency does not increase the value of the fiat currency much. Maybe.

Other than requiring more use out of your cellphone or apps on your desktop, a central bank bank-issued digital coin may seem like mere aesthetics, but what is being ignored is the increased control that the government and central banks can exercise over the currency. Taking it to the extreme, I can see a government requiring that all transactions conducted within its jurisdiction be done via its central bank-issued digital currency with the primary reason being ensuring the collection of taxes on these transactions while better monitoring nefarious activities. I can see such a move beginning in countries that place less emphasis on free markets or individual privacy. The US will hem and haw over such a move especially when it sees China doing it, but if digitisation puts China out further ahead then I can see the United States capitulating to the new digital reality.

As for bitcoin, ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies, they may end up staying in the digital asset space. Their calling card is built on decentralized finance and opaqueness. They won’t become universally used currency for the masses.

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