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Forget Russia Dumping U.S. Treasuries … Here’s the REAL Economic Threat Washington’s Blog

Forget Russia Dumping U.S. Treasuries … Here’s the REAL Economic Threat Washington’s Blog.

Russia Could Crush the Petrodollar

Russia threatened to dump its U.S. treasuries if America imposed sanctions regarding Russia’s action in the Crimea.

Zero Hedge argues that Russia has already done so.

But veteran investor Jim Sinclair argues that Russia has a much scarier financial attack which Russia can use against the U.S.

Specifically, Sinclair says that if Russia accepts payment for oil and gas in any currency other than the dollar – whether it’s gold, the Euro, the Ruble, the Rupee, or anything else – then the U.S. petrodollar system will collapse:

Indeed, one of the main pillars for U.S. power is the petrodollar, and the U.S. is desperate for the dollar to maintain reserve status.  Some wise commentators have argued that recent U.S. wars have really been about keeping the rest of the world on the petrodollar standard.

The theory is that – after Nixon took the U.S. off the gold standard, which had made the dollar the world’s reserve currency – America salvaged that role by adopting the petrodollar.   Specifically, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia agreed that all oil and gas would be priced in dollars, so the rest of the world had to use dollars for most transactions.

But Reuters notes that Russia may be mere months away from signing a bilateral trade deal with China, where China would buy huge quantities of Russian oil and gas.

Zero Hedge argues:

Add bilateral trade denominated in either Rubles or Renminbi (or gold), add Iran, Iraq, India, and soon the Saudis (China’s largest foreign source of crude, whose crown prince also happened to meet president Xi Jinping last week to expand trade further) and wave goodbye to the petrodollar.

As we noted last year:

The average life expectancy for a fiat currency is less than 40 years.

But what about “reserve currencies”, like the U.S. dollar?

JP Morgan noted last year that “reserve currencies” have a limited shelf-life:

https://i2.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user5/imageroot/2013/10/Reserve%20Currency%20Status.png

As the table shows, U.S. reserve status has already lasted as long as Portugal and the Netherland’s reigns.  It won’t happen tomorrow, or next week … but the end of the dollar’s rein is coming nonetheless, and China and many other countries are calling for a new reserve currency.

Remember, China is entering into more and more major deals with other countries to settle trades in Yuans, instead of dollars.  This includes the European Union (the world’s largest economy) [and also Russia].

And China is quietly becoming a gold superpower

Given that China has surpassed the U.S. as the world’s largest importer of oil, Saudi Arabia is moving away from the U.S. … and towards China. (Some even argue that the world will switch from the petrodollar to the petroYUAN. We’re not convinced that will happen.)

In any event, a switch to pricing petroleum in anything other than dollars exclusively – whether a single alternative currency, gold, or even a mix of currencies or commodities – would spell the end of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

For that reason, Sinclair – no fan of either Russia or Putin – urges American leaders to back away from an economic confrontation with Russia, arguing that the U.S. would be the loser.

Forget Russia Dumping U.S. Treasuries … Here's the REAL Economic Threat Washington's Blog

Forget Russia Dumping U.S. Treasuries … Here’s the REAL Economic Threat Washington’s Blog.

Russia Could Crush the Petrodollar

Russia threatened to dump its U.S. treasuries if America imposed sanctions regarding Russia’s action in the Crimea.

Zero Hedge argues that Russia has already done so.

But veteran investor Jim Sinclair argues that Russia has a much scarier financial attack which Russia can use against the U.S.

Specifically, Sinclair says that if Russia accepts payment for oil and gas in any currency other than the dollar – whether it’s gold, the Euro, the Ruble, the Rupee, or anything else – then the U.S. petrodollar system will collapse:

Indeed, one of the main pillars for U.S. power is the petrodollar, and the U.S. is desperate for the dollar to maintain reserve status.  Some wise commentators have argued that recent U.S. wars have really been about keeping the rest of the world on the petrodollar standard.

The theory is that – after Nixon took the U.S. off the gold standard, which had made the dollar the world’s reserve currency – America salvaged that role by adopting the petrodollar.   Specifically, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia agreed that all oil and gas would be priced in dollars, so the rest of the world had to use dollars for most transactions.

But Reuters notes that Russia may be mere months away from signing a bilateral trade deal with China, where China would buy huge quantities of Russian oil and gas.

Zero Hedge argues:

Add bilateral trade denominated in either Rubles or Renminbi (or gold), add Iran, Iraq, India, and soon the Saudis (China’s largest foreign source of crude, whose crown prince also happened to meet president Xi Jinping last week to expand trade further) and wave goodbye to the petrodollar.

As we noted last year:

The average life expectancy for a fiat currency is less than 40 years.

But what about “reserve currencies”, like the U.S. dollar?

JP Morgan noted last year that “reserve currencies” have a limited shelf-life:

https://i2.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user5/imageroot/2013/10/Reserve%20Currency%20Status.png

As the table shows, U.S. reserve status has already lasted as long as Portugal and the Netherland’s reigns.  It won’t happen tomorrow, or next week … but the end of the dollar’s rein is coming nonetheless, and China and many other countries are calling for a new reserve currency.

Remember, China is entering into more and more major deals with other countries to settle trades in Yuans, instead of dollars.  This includes the European Union (the world’s largest economy) [and also Russia].

And China is quietly becoming a gold superpower

Given that China has surpassed the U.S. as the world’s largest importer of oil, Saudi Arabia is moving away from the U.S. … and towards China. (Some even argue that the world will switch from the petrodollar to the petroYUAN. We’re not convinced that will happen.)

In any event, a switch to pricing petroleum in anything other than dollars exclusively – whether a single alternative currency, gold, or even a mix of currencies or commodities – would spell the end of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

For that reason, Sinclair – no fan of either Russia or Putin – urges American leaders to back away from an economic confrontation with Russia, arguing that the U.S. would be the loser.

Welcome to the Currency War, Part 12: Bankrupt Rome and Soaring Euro-Bonds

Welcome to the Currency War, Part 12: Bankrupt Rome and Soaring Euro-Bonds.

by John Rubino on February 28, 2014 · 14 comments

Only in a world totally corrupted by easy money could the following two things be announced on the same day. First:

 

European Bonds Surge as ECB Stimulus Confines Crisis to Memory

Yields on the euro area’s government bonds have never been lower as the potential for extended European Central Bank stimulus helps exorcise memories of the region’s sovereign debt crisis. 

The bond-market rally is broad based, encompassing both core economies such asFrance and also peripheral markets including Greece, which was pushed to the brink of exiting the currency bloc during the region’s financial woes. Another of those nations, Portugal, took a step toward exiting an international bailout program today as it bought back bonds, while Italy, supported in the turmoil by ECB bond purchases, sold five-year notes at a record-low rate.

“Investors are starting to look at the non-core European bond markets as a viable investment alternative again,” said Jussi Hiljanen, head of fixed-income research at SEB AB inStockholm. “Further ECB actions have the potential to maintain the tightening bias on those spreads,” he said, referring to the yield gap between core nations and the periphery.

The average yield to maturity on euro-area bonds fell to a record 1.6343 percent yesterday, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch indexes. It peaked at more than 6 percent in 2011, the data show.

Italy’s 10-year yield fell seven basis points to 3.47 percent after touching 3.46 percent, a level not seen since January 2006. Portugal’s 10-year yield dropped four basis points to 4.81 percent and touched 4.78 percent, the least since June 2010, while Ireland’s two-year note yield and Spain’s five-year rates dropped to records.

Then, at about the same time:

 

Rome days away from bankruptcy

Eternal city warns it will go bust for the first time since it was destroyed by Nero 

Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister, came under pressure on Thursday as the city of Rome was on the brink of bankruptcy after parliament threw out a bill that would have injected fresh funding.

Ignazio Marino, Rome mayor, said city services like public transport would come to a halt and that he would not be a “Nero” – the Roman emperor who, legend has it, strummed his lyre as the city burnt to the ground.

Marino said that Renzi, a centre-left leader and former mayor of Florence who was only confirmed by parliament this week, had promised to adopt urgent measures to help the Italian capital at a cabinet meeting on Friday.

The newly-elected mayor faces a budget deficit of 816 million euros ($1.1 billion) and the city could be placed under administration if he does not manage to close the gap with measures such as cutting public services.

“Rome has wasted money for decades. I don’t want to spend another euro that is not budgeted,” Marino said, following criticism from the Northern League opposition party which helped shoot down the bill for Rome in parliament.

The draft law would have included funding for Rome from the central government budget as a compensation for the extra costs it faces because of its role as the capital including tourism traffic and national demonstrations.

Other cash-strapped cities complained it was unfair. But Marino warned there could be dire consequences. “We’re not going to block the city but the city will come to a standstill. It will block itself if I do not have the tools for making budget decisions and right now I cannot allocate any money,” he told the SkyTG24 news channel.

Marino said that buses may have to stop running as soon as Sunday because he only had 10 percent of the money required to pay for fuel in March.

He added: “With the money that we have in the budget right now, I can do repairs on each road in Rome every 52 years. That’s not really maintenance.”

How is it that Italy is able to borrow money at low and falling rates – which indicates that borrowers are confident of its ability to pay its bills – while its major city, far more important to that country than New York or Los Angeles is to the US, slides into bankruptcy?

The answer is that Rome is irrelevant in comparison with two other facts. First, Europe is slipping into deflation, which generally leads to lower bond yields. Second, the European Central Bank is virtually guaranteed to respond to fact number one with quantitative easing on a vast scale.

So the bond markets, far from rallying on the expectation of a eurozone recovery, are rising in anticipation of the opposite: a new round of recession/deflation/instability that forces the abandonment of even the pretense of austerity and the adoption of aggressively easy money.

In this scenario, a Roman bankruptcy is actually a good thing because it pushes the ECB, Bundesbank, Bank of Italy and the other relevant monetary entities to stop dithering and start monetizing debt in earnest. Once it gets going, the goal of the program will be to refinance everyone’s debt at extremely low rates, push down the euro’s exchange rate versus the dollar, yen and yuan, and shift the currency war front from Europe to the rest of the world. The race to the bottom continues.

The rest of this series is available here.

Yuan to supersede dollar as top reserve currency: survey

Yuan to supersede dollar as top reserve currency: survey.

 Published: Wednesday, 26 Feb 2014 | 10:29 PM ET
By:  | Writer, CNBC Asia

The tightly controlled Chinese yuan will eventually supersede the dollar as the top international reserve currency, according to a new poll of institutional investors.

The survey of 200 institutional investors – 100 headquartered in mainland China and 100 outside of it – published by State Street and the Economist Intelligence Unit on Thursday found 53 percent of investors think the renminbi will surpass the U.S. dollar as the world’s major reserve currency.

Optimism was higher within China, where 62 percent said they saw a redback world on the horizon, compared with 43 percent outside China.

Hudiemm | E+ | Getty Images

“As China’s economic influence grows, the global importance of the renminbi will become magnified. Indeed, while for decades it has been a ‘greenback world’, dominated by the U.S. dollar as the world’s primary reserve currency, many think a ‘redback world’, in which the renminbi enjoys premier status, is increasingly a possibility,” the report accompanying the survey said.

(Read moreYuan takesanother step forward as a world currency)

This view was shared by European Central Bank Executive Board member Yves Mersch, who said on Wednesday that China’s yuan is gaining importance in international trade and investment and might ultimately challenge the U.S. dollar.

However, skeptics of yuan internationalization argued that the renminbi will never be liquid enough across all asset classes to serve as a viable reserve currency, and that people will not trust the renminbi as a store of value.

Despite being a closely-managed currency, the renminbi’s global clout has been rising steadily. By the end of 2013, the renminbi had become the second most used trade financing currency and ninth most used currency for payments globally.

(Read moreYuan overtakes euro as 2nd most used currency in trade finance)

Recent moves in the yuan have triggered speculation that the People’s Bank of China is getting ready to widen its trading band – which would be a step towards liberalizing the Chinese currency. The yuan is currently allowed to rise or fall by 1 percent in either direction from a level fixed against the dollar each day by the country’s central bank.

Ultimately, a greater role for the yuan would require China to liberalize its financial policies, including decreasing exchange-rate intervention, liberalizing interest rates and relaxing restrictions on capital flows.

Play Video
PBOC is the ‘market’ behind yuan: Julius Baer
Mark Matthews, Head of Research Asia at Bank Julius Baer, says recent weakness in the Chinese yuan could be a move executed by the Chinese central bank to shake out speculators.

Two-thirds of the respondents of the survey expect Beijing to complete its financial liberalization within ten years, with a majority expecting major reforms within five.

(Read moreIs China getting ready to widen the yuan’s band?)

Financial liberalization in the mainland began in earnest after 2009, with the government’s decision to allow cross-border trade settlement in renminbi, ease the process of listing offshore bonds and introduce the renminbi qualified institutional investors (RQFII) program.

The reforms, however, are still limited in scope, with strict quotas for how much currency can move across the border.

Last year, the government launched the Shanghai free-trade zone as a testing ground for financial reforms, including full yuan convertibility.

—By CNBC’s Ansuya Harjani. Follow her on Twitter @Ansuya_H

Welcome To The Currency Wars, China (Yuan Devalues Most In 20 Years) | Zero Hedge

Welcome To The Currency Wars, China (Yuan Devalues Most In 20 Years) | Zero Hedge.

The last 7 days have seen the unstoppable ‘sure-thing’ one-way bet of the decade appreciation trend of the Chinese Yuan reverse. In fact, the 0.95% sell-off is the largest since 1994 (bigger than the post-Lehman move) suggesting there is clear evidence that the PBOC is intervening.

 

The fact that this is occurring with relatively stable liquidity rates (short-term repo remains low) further strengthens the case that China just entered the currency wars per se as SocGen notes, intending to discourage arbitrage inflows. For the Chinese authorities, who do not care about the level of their stock market (since ownership is so low), and specifically want to tame a real-estate bubble, thisintentional weakening is clearly aimed at trade – exports (and maintaining growth) as they transition through their reforms. The question is, what happens when the sure-thing carry-trade goes away?

BofA notes the puzzling divergence between Yuan fixings and short-term liquidity,

The turn of the Chinese New Year brought the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) back into action – it not only restarted repo operations to withdraw liquidity, it actually did it at a much higher rate. The 7d reverse repo rate at which the PBoC injects liquidity is 75bp higher than a year ago, a move considered by the market as a 75bp rate hike over the last year. The new 14d repo (liquidity withdrawal) rate is set at 3.8%, 105bp higher than the rate when 28d repo was last conducted on 6 June 2013. Based on a simple framework, this move is equivalent to another 35bp rate hike (Rate corridor, Chinese style, 18 February 2014).

The puzzle is that both money and bond markets nearly totally ignored such an operation. The 7d repo rate is now fixed nearly 200bp lower since 10 February. Such a massive liquidity improvement in the face of the PBoC’s liquidity withdrawal is puzzling, since by 10 February most of the cash used during Chinese New Year should have flowed back into the financial system already.

The FX market move also begs the question as to why liquidity improved over the last couple of weeks. Generally, the onshore repo rate rises as the RMB weakens against fixing; a normal development because FX outflow dries up liquidity. However, the move in February turned things upside down. Look at the sharp divergence between rates and FX

Which leaves 2 possible reasons for the divergence

It is due to the seasonality of outflows, as this year could be made worse because the onshore rate was much higher before the Chinese New Year. As a result, banks might have borrowed more offshore, helping the RMB to appreciate. After the New Year, this flow reverses and pushes the RMB down. This explains why the CNY leads the CNH in spot selloff. It is also consistent with the large January FX purchase position of CNY466bn. The trouble with this explanation is that as the money flows out, the onshore rate should rise, not drop.

A more popular theory or suspicion puts the PBoC behind the move. As the PBoC buys more USD, it creates natural liquidity in the CNY, leading to much lower repo rates. This explanation is consistent with CNY leading the move, as CNY and CNH spots moved much more than forward, all suggesting a domestic investor-driven rather than foreign investor-driven endeavor. The trouble with this explanation is that the market will have difficulty proving it one way or the other without the central bank explicitly admitting it.

As SocGen notes, the latter makes more sense…

In just short seven days, the once unstoppable appreciation trend of the yuan is reversed. The USD/CNY spot has depreciated by 0.8% since 17 February and the USD/CNH has weakened by more than 1.1%. As for the causes, there is clear evidence of intervention from the People’s Bank of China. We think that the recent yuan move is intended to discourage arbitrage inflows. If short-term capital inflows abate, the depreciation will probably halt.

Ending the inexorable carry trade…

The yuan appreciated by nearly 3% against the greenback and 7% against in nominal effective exchange rate terms in 2013. Over the same period, China’s FX reserves added another $500bn, despite the repeated talk from officials that China has had enough reserves. These seemingly contradictory messages and signs, in our view, suggest that the PBoC never really wants too much yuan appreciation, especially if it is driven by short-term speculative capital inflows.

Which is crucial…

The yuan possesses the very two qualities of a carry trade currency: high onshore interest rates and a gradual but steady appreciation trend. The first quality is partly caused by the Fed’s easing policy and partly by the PBoC’s reluctance to ease domestic liquidity conditions out of concerns over debt risk. This condition is unlikely to weaken significantly in the near term. However, the PBoC is capable of altering the second condition and it seems that it is doing exactly so by reversing the appreciation trend and pushing up the volatility of the yuan.

If we are right about the reason behind the surprising deprecation of the yuan, what will follow next?

– Band-widening? Maybe, but as we have argued before, what matters is how the PBoC manages the currency. To make real difference, we think that the next step in yuan reform should be bolder: the PBoC should move from daily to weekly (or even monthly) setting of the reference rate, while at the same time widening the currency band.

– More depreciation? Probably not much more. Although the central bank does not like too much capital inflows, too much outflows will not be its choice either. The monthly FX position data are something to track for any change in the capital flow direction. A timelier indicator is the spread between CNH and CNY spot rate. If the offshore rate stays persistently weaker than the onshore one by a certain margin, that will be a sign of capital outflows. Then the PBoC will most likely choose to stabilise the yuan again.

The end-result is a concern:

Should the RMB weakening last a while longer, the cross border carry arbitrage flow which has been massive could reverse and lead to higher repo rates. Such a flattening force is a real threat, especially when the PBoC has shown no sign of lowering the repo rates in its operations.

But this certainly will not please the Japanese (trying to devalue and manufacture their own recovery) or any other beggar thy neighbor nation. Welcome to the Currency Wars China… (and we warned here, prepare for more carry unwind and a potential risk flare).

Potential asset deflation is a risk, as the carry trades diminish/unwind. Property prices are at risk – the collateral value for China’s financial systems. This is not a dire projection – it simply seeks to isolate the US QE as a key driver of China’s monetary policy and asset inflation, and highlights the magnitudes involved, and the transmission mechanism. Investors should not imbue stock-price movements and property price inflation in China with too much local flavor – this is mainly a US QE-driven story, in our view.

And lastly, as a bonus chart, we thought the correlation here was interesting…

Average:

Goodbye Dollar, Hello Yuan – FinancialJuice – Live News. Live Discussion.

Goodbye Dollar, Hello Yuan – FinancialJuice – Live News. Live Discussion..

Goodbye Dollar, Hello Yuan


You know what’s it like, the driver stands there in front of the car that has just hit you up the back while looking at something happening down the street rather than checking on you hitting your breaks…and yet, he says “sorry, but you stopped too quickly, it wasn’t my bad driving”. Why is it that people just refuse to admit the truth even where it comes up and slaps them in the face? It’s exactly the same with the Death of the Dollar. Denial is the first stage in the mourning process that people go through when they have lost a loved one. Yes, just the mere fact that there is many an American out there who is actually denying this means that the Dollar is lying feet up on its back, six feet under already today. They are simply, in denying the fact, espousing the 7 stages of bereavement. The Dollar is dead. Today it’s Australia that will be sending flowers to the Americans.

ASX, the Australian Stock-Exchange operator and the Bank of China announced today that they are going to provide a Yuan settlement service between the two countries by the end of the first half-year 2014. China represents the biggest trading partner for the Australian market and trading in Dollars has no sense today. Transactions have been increasingly made in Yuan rather than the Dollar over the past few years. This new agreement comes just after last October’s agreement between the Eurozone and China and the currency-swap deal.

For all of those out there that will be screaming from the rooftops that China is slowing down, that the economy is under-performing (incidentally, they are still performing way better than any of us in the western world) the Chinese currency is one of the top traded currencies today in the world, and Australia has just said they don’t care if the economy is slowing down. The reason why the deal has been struck is because they are looking at China in the long-term view.

Since September 2013, the Yuan has been in the top ten of tradable currencies, according to research carried out by the Bank of International Settlements. The Yuan saw a jump from 17th position in 2010 to 9th place in 2013. There may be a slow-down in the economy and there may be problems with the structural reforms undertaken by the government, but in the long-term the Yuan will be traded more and more. The Australians are proving that today.

The financial market reforms have been centered on liberalization of the capital account and the convertibility of the Yuan. The only countries that offer complete convertibility at the moment are the USA, Japan and Australia.

Certainly the shadow-banking problems are far from over. There will be more that come out of the woodwork in the coming weeks. It is estimated that 40% of the 10 trillion Yuan in trust products that are used in shadow banking will mature in 2014. That means that we could be in for a lot more examples of the $126 million-worth of products issued by Jilin Province Trust that defaulted on the repayment to investors over the past couple of weeks after having made loans to the failing coal company Shanxi Liansheng Energy (at the same time as 6 other trusts also made loans of up to 5 billion Yuan to this company that was already bankrupt and dead). 80% of trust-product principal is going to be repaid to investors between 2014 and 2016. That could spell trouble.

Bailing out trust investors continually will bring about problems of financial stability of the country. But, in the long-term there is the belief that the Yuan will succeed. All of that is true, but the Dollar may well be dead completely, and buried, before the Yuan fails.
In the process of acceptance of bereavement, the next stage after denial will be anger. Then the US will enter the period of bargaining with the rest of the world to try to save its place somehow on the international scene. Once it has been through the penultimate stage of depression (oh, no! Not again!), it will finally accept. But, for the moment, they shall just keep on denying lock, stock and barrel. The rest of the world, like the Australians, are seeing to it that the Dollar dies a quicker death than it would perhaps have normally done.

Remember it’s not the value of the Dollar that is important or whether or not the Yuan can be a valued asset in the world to trade with, it’s the perception that we, as consumers and countries, actually have of that currency. The Australians are showing that the Yuan has just been perceived as possibly of greater value than the Dollar.

Tissue to dry your eyes?

Commentary: Russia’s Sliding Ruble | The National Interest

Commentary: Russia’s Sliding Ruble | The National Interest.

February 15, 2014

As if Russia did not already have enough worries, with the security issues associated with the Sochi Olympics and the growing unrest next door in Ukraine, it now faces severe downward pressure on its currency. Any currency crisis flirts with economic opportunity and political disaster at the same time. The falling ruble can address some of Russia’s structural economic shortcomings, but only if other financial resources are made available in the process.

Russia is not alone in seeing its currency plunge. Turkey, South Africa, Argentina and Thailand have all experienced precipitous declines in their respective currencies since the beginning of 2014.

A common refrain runs through all these cases. The end of the U.S. program of quantitative easing and foreign investors’ rapid retreat from emerging markets has jolted the currency market, creating uncertainty in its wake. Throw in Russia’s low growth rate, high levels of capital flight and endemic corruption and one has all the conditions for a perfect currency storm.

January was a particularly bad month for the Russian ruble, with the currency falling more than 6 percent against the euro-dollar basket. The ruble rebounded a bit in early February, but it has again resumed its downward trend, with many experts speculating that the currency has yet to find its bottom.

The currencies of Russia’s post-Soviet neighbors also are in freefall, most notably in Ukraine, where currency controls have been introduced to save the hryvnia from total collapse. Kazakhstan, meanwhile, preemptively devalued the tenge by 19 percent in an attempt to keep its economy—and its exports—competitive.

To date the Russian government’s response to its currency woes has been reasonably restrained, unlike during the 2008-09 crisis when the Central Bank quickly went through $200 billion in reserves to defend the ruble. Russia currently possesses almost $500 billion in foreign exchange reserves. So to the extent that Russia has a rainy day fund, it is not raining hard enough, from the Central Bank’s perspective, to justify a major intervention to slow the ruble’s slide.

A falling ruble, in fact, solves several problems for the Russian government while setting the stage for a potential economic recovery. President Putin made several big campaign promises in 2012, especially in terms of increased social spending, that put significant strains on the Russian budget last year. Since the Russian government can make these payments with cheaper rubles, the burden on the budget has shrunk.

The decline in the ruble’s value also presents opportunities for Russian exporters, since their products naturally become more competitive abroad as the ruble declines. Though it appears unlikely that most Russian companies are in a position to profit from this changing dynamic, Russia’s wheat exports are up dramatically thanks to the declining ruble.

Russia brings other advantages to this crisis as well, including a balanced budget and a steady stream of hard-currency earnings that are not tied to value of the ruble, thereby allowing the state to replenish its coffers at a consistent rate. So one can clearly identify the scenario where Russia not only survives this devaluation but theoretically comes out in a better place than where it started.

But not all currency crises have happy endings. A weaker ruble portends a lower standard of living for many Russians. The specter of inflation further hovers over Russia as its citizens invariably will now chase after imported consumer products with cheaper rubles.

But the big unknown is whether Russia is flexible enough to benefit from the current financial crisis. As the ruble weakens and the price of labor and other inputs fall, Russia should be in a position to replace expensive imports with more affordable Russian-made goods. Such substitution occurred after the 1998 currency crisis and ultimately contributed to Russia’s sustained recovery.

Yet today, it remains an open question whether Russia possesses adequate financial and human capital to spark such business investment. Over the past decade, Russia’s entrepreneurial spirit has been snuffed out through excessive government regulation, corruption, and the steady rise of state-owned enterprises. The legal environment is so suffocating that Russia may not have sufficient reserves of entrepreneurs willing to assume the risk and invest in the Russian market.

Russia also still suffers from disastrous capital outflows. More than $60 billion dollars left the country last year for various destinations in the offshore banking system—and this money is exactly what Russia requires to buy equipment and otherwise invest in domestic business in order to take advantage of the falling ruble. Yet there is no sign that this money is returning onshore any time soon, especially if the government continues to talk about taxing Russian offshore companies doing business in Russia.

No supplemental investment means no sustained economic turnaround and the growing likelihood that a falling ruble will mirror a weakening economy, as opposed to reversing it. And as recent events in Argentina and Turkey suggest, such a development is a recipe for political failure. In both of these countries, a collapsing currency has fueled speculation as to the long-term prospects of their leaders. President Cristina Fernandez and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan are floundering, in part because to address the currency crisis means to question the very economic policies that have sustained their popularity during their many years in power.

President Putin has not had to face this choice as of yet, but that day of reckoning may be approaching if Russians realize that basic Western consumer goods, foreign travel, and other perks of Russian capitalism are now beyond their reach.

Russians have weathered several currency crises over the past thirty years; so far, no one is shouting that the sky is falling. However, a currency crisis that is not contained could easily spill into politics, something that Putin wants to avoid at all costs. If the latter occurs, then it will be officially raining in Russia, and money will be no obstacle in any attempt to stabilize the ruble.

Will Pomeranz is the acting director of the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies at the Wilson Center in Washington D.C.

Image: RIA Novosti archive, image #978876 / Alexey Kudenko / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Long-Term Charts 1: American Markets Since Independence | Zero Hedge

Long-Term Charts 1: American Markets Since Independence | Zero Hedge.

Sometimes, perhaps all too often; investors, traders, economists, and mainstream media anchors miss the forest and see only the trees (growing to the sky or crashing to the floor). To provide some context on the markets, we present the first of three posts of long-term chart series (and by long-term we mean more than a few decades of well-chosen trends) – stock, bond, gold, commodity, and US Dollar prices for the last 240 years

American Markets Since Independence

 

Stock Prices

 

Interest Rates

 

Commodity Prices

 

The Gold Price

 

The Crude Oil Price

 

The US Dollar

 

 

H/t @Macro_Tourist for these increble charts

 

Of course, as we have noted in the past, Nothing lasts forever… (especially in light of China’s earlier comments )

Argentina’s great decline – Counting the Cost – Al Jazeera English

Argentina’s great decline – Counting the Cost – Al Jazeera English.

It has gone from being one of the world’s wealthiest nations to a serial defaulter, but can it get back on track?

 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?

Ukraine Imposes Limits On Interbank Operations | Zero Hedge

Ukraine Imposes Limits On Interbank Operations | Zero Hedge.

Keep those dominoes steady… steady… and nobody exhale:

  • UKRAINE IMPOSES LIMITS ON SOME INTERBANK FX OPERATIONS
  • UKRAINE TIGHTENS RULES ON COPRORATE FOREIGN-CURRENCY PURCHASES
  • UKRAINE CENTRAL BANK CITES HRYVNIA VOLATILITY ON FX MEASURES

There is of course, good news:

  • UKRAINE CENTRAL BANK SAYS INTERBANK LIMITS ARE TEMPORARY

Just like in Cyprus.

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