Home » Posts tagged 'currency devaluation'
Tag Archives: currency devaluation
Following the 20% devaluation of Kazakhstan’s currency on Tuesday, the nation has quietly drifted into a very un-safe scenario. As the following clip shows, tanks and Humvees are lining the streets around Almaty as stores are closed and food is running desperately short. Local accounts note that the people are growing increasingly indignant. At a mere 192bps, the cost of protecting Kazakhstan sovereign debt from default (or further devaluation) seems cheap in light of this.
Tanks and Humvees lining the streets around the largest city in Kazakhstan…
Kazakhstan CDS remain notably cheap…
With only $24.5 billion left in FX reserves after valiantly defending major capital outflows since the Fed’s Taper announcement, the Kazakhstan central bank has devalued the currency (Tenge) by 19% – its largest adjustment since 2009. At 185 KZT to the USD, this is the weakest the currency has ever been as the central bank cites weakness in the Russian Ruble and “speculation” against its currency as drivers of the outflows (which will be “exhausted” by this devaluation according to the bank). The new level will improve the country’s competitiveness (they are potassium heavy) but one wonders whether, unless Yellen folds whether it will help the outflows at all. The Kazakhstan stock index is up 12% on the news…
The tenge, introduced in 1993 after the breakup of the Soviet Union two years earlier, weakened the most against the dollar last month since July. Kazakhstan devalued its currency by 21 percent in February 2009, as the biggest energy producer in central Asia spent billions of dollars to support the economy and bail out its biggest lenders following the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.
“The devaluation was a surprise for many people, considering the central bank’s assurances that the exchange rate is stable,” Damir Seisebayev, director of the analytical department at ?? Private Asset Management in Almaty, said by e-mail. “But you have to be realistic. What is the tenge? It’s the ruble rate multiplied by five. This is a tested formula.”
The Kazakhstan Stock Exchange gained 12 percent after the announcement, data on the bourse’s website show.
So it must be great news, right? Just as Venezuelan stock holders…
“The move reflects a combination of factors, including the steady deterioration in the current-account position, worries over the impact of weak growth in Russia and the ruble’s managed depreciation,” Tim Ash, chief emerging-markets economist at Standard Bank Group Plc. in London, said in a note today.
It has gone from being one of the world’s wealthiest nations to a serial defaulter, but can it get back on track?
Counting the Cost Last updated: 08 Feb 2014 04:56
|Argentina was once the world’s seventh richest country. But economic mismanagement by successive governments has left the country looking down the barrel of another default.
Since the 1980s, Buenos Aires has defaulted three times on its debts – most famously, perhaps, in 2001 when it refused to pay the creditors of its $95bn debt. Since then it has essentially been shut out of international markets.
To service its debt, Argentina started using central bank reserves. But the peso has been devalued by almost 20 percent, leading to spiralling inflation as a toxic cocktail of uncertainty and speculation drives prices through the roof. And Argentinians are feeling the pinch:
“We are in bad shape,” says mother of six Cynthia Cabrera. “With what my husband makes loading trucks at the vegetable market, we can’t survive. I have to ask the grocer to give us credit. We live day to day. Here we either eat at midday or at night; I can’t afford two meals now.”
So, what will it take for the government to get the country’s economy back on track? And can it come soon enough?
A double-edged economic sword
When a central bank raises interest rates, it increases the value of its currency, curbing inflation, cooling the economy and attracting investors seeking higher returns.
Lowering interest rates, on the other hand, devalues a currency, making it less attractive to investors, but easier for businesses and consumers to borrow money and spur economic growth.
Some forces, however, are beyond the control of central bankers, especially those presiding over emerging economies vulnerable to sudden shifts in foreign investment. Political unrest or disappointing economic news at home or in key trading partners can trigger a flight of capital from emerging markets.
For six years, the Federal Reserve’s low interest rate policies have pushed investors into emerging markets such as Turkey, Brazil, Argentina and South Africa where they could earn more for their money.
Many have profited handsomely from fast-growing industries feeding China’s insatiable demand for raw materials, but a slowdown in China’s manufacturing combined with Fed stimulus unwinding has spooked emerging markets investors. In recent weeks, they have cashed in their chips for dollars, leaving a glut of devalued local currencies and while that makes exports more attractive, it also raises the frightening spectre of runaway inflation.
Counting the Cost examines this double-edged economic sword.
Europe’s lost generation?
Unemployment is the millstone of this financial crisis, and particularly so amongst 15 to 24 years old. About one-in-four young people in the European Union are unemployed. In the US it is only slightly better at 16 percent.
In the UK alone, youth unemployment cost almost $8bn in 2012, and according to consultancy firm McKinsey, 27 percent of employers have left ‘entry level’ jobs unfilled because they could not find anyone with the necessary skills.
So, how can youth unemployment be tackled? And has it created a lost generation?
“Is the falling exchange rate good news or bad news?”
I was on CBC radio yesterday morning for about 5 minutes, talking about the exchange rate.
From this experience, and from previous similar experiences, this is what reporters want to ask:
“Who gains, and who loses, from the fall in the exchange rate? For Canada as a whole, is the fall in the exchange rate good news or bad news?”
And the answer they expect to hear is:
“Exporters gain; importers lose. On the one hand it reduces unemployment; on the other hand it increases inflation.”
I don’t think reporters are alone in looking at it from that perspective. Most non-economists are probably the same. But economists are uncomfortable answering that question. Let me try to explain why:
The exchange rate didn’t just fall. Something, call it X, caused it to fall. So when we ask “Is the fall in the exchange rate good news or bad news?”, what are we really asking? You can’t give a good answer if you are unclear on the question.
We might be asking:
1. “Is X good news or bad news?”
Or, we might be asking:
2. “Given that X happened, should the Bank of Canada take action to prevent the fall in the exchange rate?”
To my mind, that second question is the useful one to ask. Because, even if we think we know what X is, and whether X is good news or bad news, if we can’t do anything about X, that isn’t very useful.
2a. An economist can say something useful about the benefits of two different monetary policies: would it be better for the Bank of Canada to fix the exchange rate, or should it target inflation and let the exchange rate adjust to wherever it needs to keep inflation on target?
2b. Or, an economist can say something useful about whether the Bank of Canada, in this particular case, needs to prevent the exchange rate falling in order to prevent inflation rising above the 2% target.
I decided to answer that second question, in the form 2a. I said it would be better for the Bank of Canada to target 2% inflation than to fix the exchange rate to the US Dollar.
I didn’t really answer 2b. But I think that, in this particular case, the Bank of Canada is right to let the Loonie depreciate, to help bring inflation back up to the 2% target.
My guess is that X is mostly news about Canadian inflation coming in lower than had previously been expected, and the realisation that the Bank of Canada would therefore not be raising interest rates as quickly as had previously been expected. (Note that when Statistics Canada released the December CPI data, on Friday morning, and inflation was just slightly higher than I had expected, the Loonie gained nearly half a cent in the next hour.) And maybe weaker commodity prices are part of X too. And maybe the US recovery, and the prospect of rising US interest rates, is part of X too.
Sometimes, when a reporter asks you a question, it’s best not to answer it, and to answer a different question. Not because you are weaseling out of answering the reporter’s question, but because you think about it differently, and you think the reporter’s question isn’t the right one to ask. (I now have more sympathy for politicians being interviewed, when they appear to duck an apparently straight question!)
Update: by the way, when reporters want to interview an economist, they (or one of the people they work with) will normally want to have a pre-interview discussion first. This is your chance to suggest they re-frame the question in the way you think it should be framed. You can tell them you wouldn’t be able to give a good answer to that question, but you could give a good answer to a different but related question. Because very few reporters have any economics background, they don’t really know what questions to ask. And, from my experience, they seem to be willing to listen to your suggestions, because they are trying to prepare for the interview, as well as help you prepare.
It would be interesting to hear any reporter’s thoughts on interviewing economists. (It must be tough!)
Posted by Nick Rowe on January 28, 2014
Here is how Reuters summarized the soaring price expectations in the country under its first day with “relaxed” controls:
Argentina’s sudden relaxation of currency controls, long touted by the government as essential to the country’s financial health, has left investors wondering what’s next for Latin America’s crisis-prone No. 3 economy. Shopkeepers around the country hurriedly placed new price tags over the weekend on imported items from Cuban cigars to Asia-made televisions, reflecting a more than 20 percent drop in the official peso rate over recent days.
The consumer price surge came after the government said on Friday it would lift a two-year-old ban on Argentines buying foreign currency, allowing savers access to coveted U.S. dollars while the peso was left to plummet. Friday’s relaxation of controls came as central bank reserves fell beneath $30 billion, a level suggesting its interventions in support of the anemic peso had become unsustainable.
But allowing average wage-earners to access U.S. dollars was sure to pressure reserves as well, because the central bank is the main source of foreign exchange. The announcement on Friday ended a two-year ban on saving in the greenback.
So far inflation has been in check, mostly thanks to a price freeze imposed this month on staple foods which has kept a lid on basic supermarket items. Reuters says that “no one knows how long those prices can hold while labor unions prepare wage demands based on one of the world’s highest inflation rates.” For now, they are holding. They won’t for long, and if Argentina reports 30 percent inflation this year, as private analysts expect, it would mark the fastest rate since the 2002 crisis, when inflation reached 41 percent.
However, one thing is certain: dollar demand by the general population is sure to flood the central banks, and force reserve depletion, which have been declining at a pace of over $100MM per day and were last at $29.1 billion, at the central bank to really pick up pace. To wit:
Conditioned by previous crises to save in dollars, Argentines are obsessed with the greenback. The currency control regime ending on Monday forced people to go to the black market for dollars needed to protect them from the weak peso and fast-rising consumer prices.
Luckily for the central bank, as Bloomberg calculates, at most 20% of the population will actually be able to take advantage of the “relaxed” capital controls, because only Argentines who earn at least 7,200 pesos ($901) per month will be allowed to buy dollars, Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich told reporters today. And since only 20% of Argentines earned 7,000 pesos or more as of 3Q 2013,according to the National Statistics and Census Institute, it means that 80% of the population will get all the “benefits” of inflation with zero benefits from dollar purchase price protection.
And it’s not like even the rich will be able to truly benefit: he limit for FX purchases will be $2,000/month and will be taxed at 20% unless deposited with bank for at least a year.
So in other words, Argentina’s capital control “fix” was largely a sham, designed to hide the real motive behind last week’s announcement – push inflation far higher, perhaps under some persistent external influence, which in turn would lead to even more social instability. This could be a problem.
Consumer prices are a big worry on the street, but the issue has not sparked mass protests lately. Tensions could rise over the weeks ahead as labor demands pay increases in line with private economists’ 2014 inflation estimates. Fernandez has mentioned neither consumer prices nor the peso’s plight in recent speeches, leaving her cabinet to announce policy changes. The next presidential election is next year, with Fernandez unable to seek a third term.
Possible candidates from the main parties offer policies that lean in a more pro-investment direction that Fernandez’s, as the outgoing leader tucks into her last two years in power.
“If the government fails to prevent inflation from accelerating it will probably hurt the chances of presidential aspirants who are aligned with the administration,” said Ignacio Labaqui, an analyst with Medley Global Advisors.
“A deeper economic crisis could provide a window of opportunity for candidates who are more business friendly.”
Such as technocrats from… Goldman Sachs?
Is this how it starts?
The third great market crash of the 21st century?
At Ben Bernanke’s perhaps final public appearance at the Brookings Institution on January 16th, the beginnings of the 2008-2009 financial crisis were linked to the issues of a French bank in the summer of 2007, an incident little noticed at that point in time.
This time around will it be the currency problems of frontier and emerging markets? The default of a Chinese trust fund, discussed in some detail here atForbes? Or something else altogether, totally hidden at the moment? Or nothing at all?
With U.S. equity markets suffering their deepest losses since 2012, there were plenty of disparate concerns to go around this past week.
These included the fear of the Fed’s tapering ultimate timing and impact, weakening China growth, those currency devaluation jitters, a lackluster U.S. earnings season, perceived overheated equity market valuations, and that China trust fund, to mention a few. There was also the end of week concern that the selling could feed upon itself, as those market-makers selling puts on indices and calls on the VIX could get squeezed and have to hedge next week with more S&P futures selling.
On the week, the Dow gave up -3.5%, finishing below 16,000 for the first time since mid-December. The S&P 500 lost -2.6%, closing below the key 1800 level at 1790. And the NASDAQ fared the best, down “only” -1.7%, helped by the relative strength of some of its high-fliers. Notably, the VIX popped close to +46%, ending the week just above 18, although still far below panic levels.
It is a bit iffy to reconstruct the true narrative of the week, as things seemed to get rolling to the downside on Monday evening. Influential Fed watcher Jon Hilsenrath of the WSJ wrote of January FOMC tapering possibilities:
A reduction in the program to $65 billion a month from the current $75 billion could be announced at the end of the Jan. 28-29 meeting, which would be the last meeting for outgoing Chairman Ben Bernanke.
Coincidence or not, the next four trading days were all on the negative side of the ledger for the Dow, although the S&P hung in decently on Tuesday and Wednesday. But then China’s HSBC PMI numbers hit, indicating a drop in January to 49.6 from December’s final reading of 50.5, moving “below the 50 line which separates expansion of activity from contraction.” (Reuters).
This, combined with the currency devaluation news, with Venezuela, Argentina, and Turkey leading the headlines, seemed to fuel the overall“emerging market risk” theme which overwhelmed markets on Friday.
Not helping were some comments coming out of Davos. Larry Fink ofBlackRock BLK -3.95% said there was “too much optimism” in the markets. He added, according to Bloomberg , “The experience of the marketplace this past week is going to be indicative of this entire year. We’re going to be in a world of much greater volatility.”
This came on the heels of Goldman’s chief strategist, David Kostin, saying two weeks ago that market valuations are “lofty by almost any measure.”
But the real outlier came from Dr. Doom himself, NYU professor and head of Roubini Global Economics, Nouriel Roubini. Roubini seized on yet another global issue, tweeting:
@ Nouriel: “Japan-China war of words goes ballistic in Davos” and “A black swan in the form of a war between China & Japan?” along with various comments on the emerging market issues, saying, “Argentina currency crisis & contagion to other EM – on top of weak China PMI – suggests that some emerging markets are still fragile.”
The China/Japan “conflict” story was the shocker, and apparently goes back to some comments allegedly made by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abewhich compared China/Japan tensions to those found between Germany and Britain prior to World War I. (CNBC) In an interview with Business Insider, Roubini called the events of last week “a mini perfect storm,” alluding to“weak data in China, fresh currency market turmoil in Argentina, and a worsening chaotic situation in the Ukraine.”
It is a bit amusing to note that while Mr. Roubini was serving on several panels at Davos, giving press interviews, and tweeting non-stop, he also found time (or one of his associates did) to post a ranking of “top Tweeters” from the World Economic Forum, showing himself in 5th place. (See Twitter imagehere.)
Let’s take a very quick look at a few of the other notable quotes from newsmakers this week:
–“I don’t think it (marijuana) is more dangerous than alcohol.” –President Obama in a New Yorker interview published last Sunday. The remark created a firestorm of controversy, including reportedly negative feedback from DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart and many others. (Huffington Post)
–Apple is “one of the biggest ‘no-brainers’ we have seen in five decades of successful investing.” –Fund manager and legendary investor Carl Icahn, in continuing to tout AAPL’s undervaluation and push for stock buybacks by the company. Forbes also noted that Icahn grabbed headlines last week for now getting involved with eBay and urging a spinoff of its PayPal holding.
–“Gross: PIMCO’s fully engaged. Batteries 110% charged. I’m ready to go for another 40 years” –PIMCO’s Bill Gross tweeting after the highly visible and speculation-provoking departure of Mohamed El-Erian. Mr. El-Erian reportedly said in a letter to PIMCO employees, “The decision to step down from PIMCO was not an easy one.”
–“It’s a very juicy target.” –Andrew Kuchins, Russia Program Director for CSIS, in commenting on the terrorist threats at the Sochi Olympics and the need for extensive security and preparedness planning. (USA Today)
–“It’s so easy to enter, a caveman could do it.” –Warren Buffett, a bit jokingly, in announcing his company’s sponsorship of a $1 billion March Madness challenge along with Quicken. (Fox Sports) The simple idea is that an absolutely perfect bracket will produce the billion-dollar winner, but the offer includes also some twenty $100,000 winners for the best, if imperfect, brackets. There is also a charity angle, but at something like 1 in 9.2 quintillion odds (we have seen varying estimates all over the place) Berkshire is likely not facing too much risk here.
–“A lot of people got dead in that one.” –retired NYC detective and now security consultant/media celebrity Bo Dietl on the Don Imus program, commenting on the history of the Lufthansa “Goodfellas” robbery and this week’s arrests in the case.
–And in another high profile criminal case, famed lawyer Roy Black said of client Justin Bieber, “I’m not going to make any comments about the case except to say Mr. Bieber has been released on bond and we agreed that the standard bail would apply in this case.” (CBS Miami)
–“We’ve lost some of our consumer relevance.” –McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson in a call after client traffic comps greatly disappointed in the recent earnings release. This was the flipside of Netflix, which surged dramatically after their latest numbers and user figures, with NFLX stock up some 17% despite the terrible market week.
–“We believe POS malware will continue to grow.”–The FBI in a statement on the troubling hacking of Target and other retailers, which was revealed in far greater detail this week, including the hacking intrusion of Neiman Marcus. (Yahoo)
–“It was so awesome!” –ESPN reporter Erin Andrews, in a slightly hard to believe remark on the antics of Seattle defensive back Richard Sherman after last week’s NFC title game. Her initial real-time reaction to the interview seemed at odds with that statement, as she stood in utter disbelief in the post-game situation. (seattlepi.com)
Let’s close it out there, as all eyes will be on the opening of foreign equity markets tonight and the U.S. futures trading. Well, maybe not all eyes, as the Grammy Awards also kicks off this evening. But the really big event of the week will be President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday evening. Presidential senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer predicted in an email of the upcoming SOTU address, according to Bloomberg:
Pfeiffer: ‘Three words sum up the president’s message on Tuesday night: opportunity, action, and optimism. The core idea is as American as they come: If you work hard and play by the rules, you should have the opportunity to succeed.’ While Obama ‘will seek out as many opportunities as possible to work with Congress in a bipartisan way,’ Pfeiffer said he ‘will not wait for Congress’ to act on some of his goals.’
Have a good week!
Dozens died in Sudanese protests against fuel price rises in September [Al Jazeera]
Sudan’s central bank has devalued the Sudanese pound by almost a quarter against the US dollar, the second such move in little over a year as the African country struggles with hard currency shortages.
Sudan’s economy has been in turmoil since South Sudan’s secession in 2011 took away of three-quarters of oil production.
Oil was the driver of the economy and source for dollars needed for food and other essential imports. Sudan produces too little to feed its around 32 million people.
Bidding prices for the Sudanese pound were stated as 5.6871 for one dollar, compared with 4.4 previously, central bank data on Reuters terminals showed on Monday. The official rate was nearer 3 Sudanese pounds to the dollar in 2011.
The central bank has been trying to bridge a ballooning gap with the black market rate where one dollar costs 7.8 Sudanese pounds as import firms struggle to get their hand on hard currency.
The black market rate has become the benchmark for banks and firms.
A central bank official, asking not to be named, said the rate had been already changed in September when the government cut fuel subsides. He did not elaborate.
The subsidy cuts led to mass protests, with dozens of people killed in the capital, Khartoum.
The secretive central bank tends not to announce devaluations, which are embarrassing for the government, which denies there is a shortage of hard currency.
Sudan has sought to offset the loss of southern oil reserves by boosting gold sales, which make up almost 70 percent of exports. But a recent sharp fall of the global gold prices means 2013 revenues will be well below last year’s $2.2 billion.