Category

Dollar

IMF Warns of Slower Growth As Currency War Rages On

Meetings of the Group of Seven (G-7) countries in Washington this week could feature a clash of views that have sparked an international currency war even as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned that growth in developed economies is slowing.

The conflict represents a fundamental disagreement about how to sustain the global economic recovery among countries that prefer flexible exchange rates like the United States, and others that are resisting calls to allow its currency to appreciate, like China.

A renewed push for easier monetary policy came as the IMF warned growth in advanced economies is falling short of its forecasts.

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We Want to Hear From You: Are You Prepared for the Global Currency War?

The housing market remains in the dumper. U.S. stocks – despite a rally – are still 22% below their record highs of two years ago. And the "official" unemployment rate remains at a heart-stopping 9.6%.

With their knees almost ready to buckle under such burdens already, how will American consumers respond when clothes, computer accessories or other key consumer staples at their neighborhood Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) undergoes an overnight price hike of 30% to 60%?

As the United States aims to increase exports by debasing the dollar, a global currency war is underway that could swallow consumers and investors if they don't prepare for the likelihood of a weaker dollar.

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You Heard It Here First: A Global Currency War is Being Fought – And There Will Be No Victors

Brazil's finance minister, Guido Mantega, recently acknowledged to the global investment community what most trade officials already believed: An "international currency war" has broken out.

And, in this war, there won't be a real victor.

"We're in the midst of an international currency war, a general weakening of currency," Mantega told The Financial Times. "This threatens us because it takes away our competitiveness."

Mantega's comments came just weeks after Japan joined Switzerland in intervening in the foreign-exchange market. But the reality is that the currency war has been under way since 2008.

At least, that's when Money Morning Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald first warned that countries – most notably the United States – would debase their currencies in a race to boost their exports and keep economic growth afloat.

"The government has adopted a weak-dollar policy," Fitz-Gerald said in an interview in March 2008. "They're sending out a message loud and clear: 'We want you to sell the dollar.'"

By holding the central bank's benchmark lending rate down in a record low range of 0.00% to 0.25% for close to two years now and buying up Treasuries in a policy known as "quantitative easing," the U.S. Federal Reserve is effectively debasing the dollar.

But the U.S. central bank isn't alone.

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Seven Ways to Profit From the Worldwide Currency War

If you're like me, and you spend a lot of time perusing financial Web sites in search of the latest global investing news, you've probably started to see a lot of stories about rapid shifts in foreign exchange rates – including some "currency pairs" that have traditionally been rather slow-moving.

Back during the spring, for instance, the news was full of stories about how Switzerland was buying up European euros in an effort to weaken the strong Swiss franc – only to have that country change course and diversify its holdings by purchasing U.S. dollars.

During the summer, we watched as Japan entered the foreign exchange (or "FX") markets for the first time in nearly a decade in order to buy U.S. dollars.

Even South Korea has been a contestant in the currency-transaction arena, with that Asian tiger working to weaken its currency, the won, in an effort to improve its exports. Just yesterday (Monday), the won rose for the sixth-straight day, its longest winning streak in eight weeks, after the nation's foreign-exchange reserves climbed to a record $290 billion.

These events aren't random. But they are related. They're part of a worldwide currency war that's being waged before our eyes – and that will prove very costly to investors who don't recognize the game that's being played. Fortunately, we do – and we're going to tell you all about it.

To find out about those profit plays, please read on…

To find out about those profit plays, please read on...

Currency Exchange Rates and Your Investments: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You

You may be facing immense foreign-currency risks in your investment portfolio – and not even realize it.

If that's the case, don't feel bad: You're not alone.

The reality is that most American investors have no idea that currency exchange rates directly affect U.S. corporate earnings, this country's stock market, or the growth rate of our economy.

The bottom line: These investors don't realize that they face some pretty major foreign-exchange-rate exposure in their investment portfolios – as well as with the individual stocks contained in those portfolios.

This exchange-rate exposure can be accompanied by some pretty major risks. Understanding how currency fluctuations can enhance or destroy corporate earnings, the export sector and the U.S. economy, and even your personal wealth will make you a smarter, better investor.

To understand how the currency markets are determining the fate of our economy, please read on...

Money Morning Mailbag: There's No Way Around the Dangers of Municipal Bonds

Money Morning Contributing Editor Martin Hutchinson last month introduced readers to the dangers of municipal bonds. While many investors assumed munis offered a safe haven in turbulent times, the battered condition of state and local finances has left many munis running the risk of default.

"Brokers will tell you that particular state and municipal bond issues are 'safe,' meaning that they are rated highly by the rating agencies," said Hutchinson. "However, the rating agencies got it wrong on subprime mortgage instruments, and it seems pretty clear that they are getting it wrong on states and municipalities."

On the municipal level, local property taxes are the primary revenue source. Declining home prices and increased mortgage delinquencies are creating a housing market that offers little local revenue. Municipalities are then left struggling to make ends meet.

Hutchinson said the vicious cycle could send municipal-bond defaults soaring past 2009's $6.4 billion.

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China Dumps the Dollar as Yields Sink

China cut its holdings of Treasury notes and bonds by the most ever in June, instead favoring the debt of Europe, Japan and Korea. The move has fueled speculation that plummeting U.S. yields are driving away the Asian giant, which has ambitions for its currency, the yuan, to replace the dollar as the world's main reserve currency.

China's holdings of long-term Treasuries fell by $21.2 billion in June to $839.7 billion, a U.S. government report showed recently. Total Chinese investment in U.S. debt declined 2.8% to $843.7 billion, the smallest in a year, following a 3.6% slide in May.

The shift comes as President Barack Obama increases U.S. debt to record levels, making it harder to finance sales to sustain the U.S. economic expansion.

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The Fed's Treasury Purchase Plan is Just Further Proof That It's in the Denial About the Dollar

This week's decision by the U.S. Federal Reserve to buy Treasuries in an effort to prop up borrowing is further proof that the economy is worse off than policymakers would have us believe. But more than that, the Fed's Treasury purchase plan is just one more reason for investors to anticipate inflation and take steps to protect their money from it.

In case you missed the news, here's what happened…

The Federal Reserve on Tuesday announced that instead of allowing proceeds from maturing mortgage bonds to disappear from its balance sheet, the central bank would take the "modest" step of using them to invest in new Treasuries.

In plain English, that means that the Fed is reinvesting into U.S. Treasuries the money it would otherwise bank from maturing mortgages.

Its goal is very simple: to keep long term interest rates from rising.

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The Case for the Yuan: Why China's Currency Isn't the Problem Policymakers Make it Out to Be

By allowing the yuan to appreciate, China at least temporarily placated foreign trade partners that had expressed concern about the currency's value. However, the decision has done little to quell criticism from many U.S. policymakers and trade groups who are angry that the Obama administration refuses to brand China a "currency manipulator."

Still, while the yuan does need to appreciate, critics in the United States should remember that the dollar too is flawed, and that the uneven relationship between the two currencies has often worked to America's advantage.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has thrice declined to tag China as a currency manipulator in his biannual report to Congress. Geithner even delayed the release of the most recent report to give China more time to adjust its policy. That move paid off in June when just days ahead of the Group of 20 (G20) leaders' summit in Toronto, Beijing announced that it would allow the yuan to appreciate against the dollar. Since then, the currency has risen about 1% against the greenback.

Geithner, who made two visits to China in the spring for closed-door talks with top officials on the issue, called the policy shift a "significant step" in his report, but said the yuan remains "undervalued."

What matters now is "how far and how fast the renminbi [or yuan] appreciates," Geithner said, adding that the United States "will closely and regularly monitor the appreciation" of the currency.

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Dollar Bulls Retreating From Bets Against Euro

The biggest surge in the value of the U.S. dollar since 2005 appears to be waning, as traders retreat from bets against the euro and other currencies.

Futures traders at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange are in the process of unwinding record bets that the dollar will rally against other currencies.

The number of contracts hedge funds and other large speculators hold betting on a rise in the dollar versus other currencies declined by 70% to 49,335 in the week ended June 22 from a June 8 peak of 163,085, according to an analysis of Commodity Futures Trading Commission data conducted by Bloomberg News.

With concern that Europe's fiscal crisis will cause a nation to default easing, the Dollar Index – which measures the currency against the euro, yen, pound, Canadian dollar, Swiss franc and Swedish krona – is down 3.5% since June 7.

Money Morning Chief Financial Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald thinks there may be an opportunity to cash in on the dollar's recent weakness in view of the increasing flows of capital into Asian markets.

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