Pushed by angry U.S. legislators anxious to brand China as a "currency manipulator," the U.S. Treasury secretary tried to strong-arm China into revaluing the yuan - all because of an assumption that the Asian giant wasn't allowing its currency to appreciate.
Unfortunately for Geithner, those efforts were stymied by a flood of data that actually demonstrates that China's currency has significantly appreciated against the already-wheezing greenback.
The Obama administration's assertion that China is artificially keeping the yuan undervalued to gain a global competitive advantage isn't just misguided: It actually demonstrates that Washington lacks even a basic understanding of global economics. Given that the same U.S. leaders who have been pushing to hang this manipulator label on China and impose sanctions are the same ones who tried to end the financial crisis by creating a river of debt that will haunt us for years, I can't say that I'm surprised.
As the U.S. argument goes, pegging its currency to the dollar gives China a distinct advantage when it comes to less-expensive manufacturing and a strong export market. The implication is that somehow this is negatively impacting our economy, or - in a variation of the same logic - holding back our recovery. Washington points to the massive trade deficits we regularly run with that country as evidence of China's currency-market wrongdoing.
In reality, China's pegged currency has done two things. First, it's allowed the United States to keep its inflation rate at a much lower (and more-manageable) level than it should have been in view of the $14 trillion in debt that this country has taken on.
And, second, it's allowed China to fuel its own stimulus package while at the same time assuming a meaningful role in the ongoing global recovery.
The unexpected meeting was arranged on-the-fly after Geithner's scheduled trip to India, and may be a sign that both countries are seeking to defuse the currency issue ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao's trip to Washington next week.
The move follows the Treasury Department's decision last weekend to delay a decision on whether to label China a "currency manipulator."
"[China is] becoming more open to the world, and with that, you're going to see the [yuan] take on a broader role internationally," Geithner said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Mumbai as he finished preparations for the previously unscheduled visit to China. "That's a healthy, necessary adjustment."
We've all heard the criticisms that some of the geological surveys are as much as 30 years old, and the arguments that the ecological impact of drilling off the U.S. East Coast isn't worth the accessible oil, which some critics estimate could play out in as little as six months at current demand levels.
But even after more than a day of debate over the motivations for - and possible results from - President Obama's apparent energy policy about-face, one thing is very clear: This announcement has nothing to do with oil.
It's all about the U.S. dollar.
To find out why President Barack Obama really lifted the moratorium on oil drilling, please read on...
But not right now.
While I recognize that gold is one of the few "commodity" markets that people are really passionate about, the purpose of this article is not to take sides either with the gold bugs or those who reject the argument that gold is "forever." Rather, I want to discuss my interpretation of the market's cycle.
After spot gold made an all-time high against the dollar at $1,226.37 on Dec. 2, gold has been in "retreat" mode. For the past several months, gold has been in a broad trading range, seemingly unable to move one way or another. This process has created frustration among bulls and bears alike.
Here is the dirty little secret about the gold market: It can be a horrible investment and here's why...
A report from Yi Gang, China's director of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE), today (Tuesday) shrugged off calls for currency appreciation. Yi said China's foreign-exchange reserves - which are the largest in the world at $2.4 trillion - are safe and stable, and the country will strengthen its supervision of speculative cash inflows.
Speculation that China's currency, the yuan, is soon to rise has increased investment, but such speculation is not particularly welcome. "Underground money shops" disguise funds as foreign direct investments and trade accounts in an attempt to profit from the increasing spread on interest and exchange rates, according to Yi.
As you can see in the chart below, the plummeting British pound sterling has dropped even more than the beleaguered euro in the past month and a half, while the good old U.S. dollar has been as good as gold. (That last bit was a bit of currency irony; the dollar has actually been much better than gold, which has flat-lined in the past six weeks.)
Bernanke yesterday (Wednesday) faced the House Financial Services Committee to instill public confidence in the Fed's ability to exercise a smooth exit strategy and quell continued fears of a tightening monetary policy.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) "continues to anticipate that economic conditions -- including low rates of resource utilization, subdued inflation trends, and stable inflation expectations -- are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the Federal Funds rate for an extended period," he said.
Here's how to protect - and grow - your money, even as the debt bomb explodes...
Let's take a few moments to consider the top candidates:
- A Friendly Fed: The current U.S. Federal Reserve under Chairman Ben S. Bernanke is the most accommodative in history and is likely to keep short-term interest rates at or near zero for the remainder of this year. Occasionally there will be rumblings of an increase - as there was in The Wall Street Journal last Monday, but they are likely just smoke screens.
Experts refer to this eventuality as Bernanke's "exit strategy" - a financial euphemism for the interest-rate increases that are certain to come ... at some point.
That's just it - those experts can't tell you when that exit strategy will begin. I can't tell you that, either (Sorry, loaned my crystal ball to Miss Cleo for her new infomercial).
But what I can give you that the pundits can't is a "Road Map to Higher Interest Rates," which spells out the specific events that should precede the most-heavily anticipated U.S. central bank interest-rate increase in history. Follow it and you should be perfectly positioned to profit when the time comes.
(Remember, a few months ago, I introduced Senior Secured Floating Interest Rate Bonds, or SSFRs, an investment that you'll want to own when interest rates rise.)
So, without further ado...