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The Cybersecurity Play That Doubled Once – Will Double Again

Not long ago, a relative of mine was the victim of identity theft. And I have to tell you that I really felt for the entire family.

The thief ran up nearly $20,000 in charges, opened new accounts and tried to open others.

And I can tell you that the frustrations over the losses (most of which ended up being covered) were dwarfed by the helplessness that came whenever new charges showed up – and the worry that was spawned by never finding out how the whole mess started.

As we watch the headlines about data breaches and cybercrime – and watch as the violations move closer and closer to home – those worries only escalate.

  • U.S. Dollar

  • Safe-Haven Currencies: If You Want to Flee the U.S. Dollar, Here Are Four Places to Hide As a young British banker in the inflation-ridden 1970s, I got used to carrying large amounts of German deutsche marks, Swiss francs and Japanese yen in my wallet - to have some security against the lousy performance of the British pound sterling.

    While paying for a pizza in London with this foreign cash was difficult, having those "safe-haven" currencies in hand helped me sleep at night.

    We've reached that point again. In light of the escalating debt-ceiling debacle that's unfolded in Washington, the potential for a U.S. credit-rating downgrade no matter the outcome, and the likelihood that a long stretch of dollar-killing stagflation is headed our way, it's time to take refuge in today's safe-haven currencies.

    And I'm going to show you the safest of those safe havens.

    The Battle-Damaged Greenback

    I know that many of you are extremely worried about what will happen if Standard & Poor's downgrades U.S. Treasury debt from its top-tier AAA credit rating.

    But I'm telling you that there's a much bigger cause for concern. While I concede that having our federal debt lose its top-tier credit rating wouldn't be good, the bigger cause for concern is what happens to us if the U.S. dollar stops being regarded as AAA - meaning it's no longer good for settlement of all international transactions.

    If that happens, you have to ask yourself two questions:

    • What would be the impact on the U.S. and world economies?
    • And, even more importantly, what would investors like us need to do?
    The answer to the first question is clear: The fallout will be worse than you imagine. And that means that, even now, you need to be searching for refuge in the very best of the world's safe-haven currencies.

    With the Aug. 2 deadline for raising the debt ceiling approaching fast, the U.S. dollar took another beating and fell against safe-haven currencies yesterday (Monday), after Washington failed to reach agreement on the nation's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. The Swiss franc actually reached an all-time high against the dollar, which has slipped 25% against that currency in just the last 12 months.

    What a lot of folks don't realize is that the fate of the U.S. dollar is closely tied to that of U.S. Treasury bonds. If U.S. inflation takes off to serious levels - as I'm almost certain it will - both Treasuries (except Treasury Inflation Protected Securities, or TIPS, which are inflation-protected) and the dollar will tank simultaneously.

    After all, the United States has been running balance-of-payments deficits of $500 billion or more for almost a decade now - much longer than the country has been running $500 billion budget deficits.

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  • U.S. Dollar Forecast: Seven Ways to Profit in 2011 – Despite the Greenback's Expected Struggles The U.S. dollar faces a long list of challenges in the New Year.

    The U.S. greenback could strengthen in 2011-but only against the European euro and other currencies with heavy exposure to the European debt crisis, including the British pound sterling. Against virtually every other currency, however, the U.S. dollar is likely to be the loser.

    In short, the outlook for the dollar in the New Year depends almost entirely on which currencies you're comparing it with.

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  • Three Ways to Profit as China Dumps Japanese Debt As a veteran trader, I have a tendency to look past the day's top headlines. That's why a recent Bloomberg News story - which stated that China sold a net total of 769.2 billion yen ($9.24 billion) worth of Japanese debt in September - really caught my eye.

    By itself, this story probably wouldn't be a big deal. But this development is the start of an important new trend in the global currency markets. And the following three factors tell me that we should be taking a close look at why China has decided to dump Japanese debt. For instance:

    • Given that the same thing happened in August, September marked the second straight month Beijing has sold more Japanese securities than it purchased.
    • This marks the reversal of a seventh-month stretch of China being a net purchaser of Japanese debt.
    • The two months of sales nearly wiped out the net surplus of 2.32 trillion yen ($27.86 billion) that China had amassed as a result of seven months of buying Japanese debt.
    • Finally, the 2.02 trillion yen ($24.26 billion) worth of Japanese debt that China sold in August was China's single-largest monthly sale of Japan government bonds since 1995, when these statistics first started being recorded.
    While there are other conceivable explanations, my take is that China is definitely unloading its yen-denominated holdings, and shifting its investments elsewhere as part of a much bigger reallocation strategy. As investors, this is a trend that we need to track - and to react to.

    Let me explain....

    To understand how to profit from this currency-market development, please read on...

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  • Singapore Moves to Restructure Asia's Stock Exchange Model With Australia Merger Singapore Exchange Ltd. (SGX) announced yesterday (Monday) it agreed to buy Australia's main stock exchange, ASX Ltd., for $8.3 billion. The deal came about because both countries seek strength against growing Asian market competition, and Singapore strives to be a more sophisticated global financial center.

    In a cash and stock deal, Singapore's stock market operator is offering A$48 (U.S. $47.11) for each ASX share, consisting of A$22 in cash and 3.743 SGX shares per ASX share. The offer is at a 37% premium to what ASX shares traded on Friday.

    "The combination of ASX and SGX, offering innovative new products and services to the market, will allow customers to maximize future opportunities, where Asia Pacific takes center stage globally as the source for capital, wealth creation and trading opportunities," SGX Chief Executive Officer Magnus Bocker said in a joint statement.

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  • Money Morning Mailbag: China Needs to Boost Domestic Demand to Continue Economic Recovery China released data this week showing its economy grew 9.6% in the third quarter from a year earlier, slower than years past but still significantly ahead of other countries that are struggling to stabilize their economies.

    A slight dip in growth is what China wanted. Its gross domestic product (GDP) has grown on average more than 10% annually since 2006. The country's central bank lifted rates this week by 0.25 percentage points for the first time since 2007 to further cool the risk of overheating.

    While working to maintain a healthy level of growth, China now has to contend with other countries devaluing their currencies to compete against a cheap yuan that is fueling an export-driven recovery. However, the whole world can't depend on exports – somewhere along the line there must be growth in demand.

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  • Look to Emerging Markets as the Federal Reserve Diminishes the Dollar The main thrust of the past two months has been the renewed collapse of the U.S. dollar.

    The dollar has been on a one-way elevator ride to the ground floor since August, when U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke first warned that quantitative easing was on the horizon.

    Most recently, the minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee's (FOMC) last meeting telegraphed further monetary stimulus.

    ''In light of the considerable uncertainty about the current trajectory for the economy, some members saw merit in accumulating further information before reaching a decision about providing additional monetary stimulus," the minutes read. "In addition, members wanted to consider further the most effective framework for calibrating and communicating any additional steps to provide such stimulus. Several members noted that unless the pace of economic recovery strengthened or underlying inflation moved back toward a level consistent with the Committee's mandate, they would consider it appropriate to take action soon."

    Concerns about inflation being too low almost guarantees additional quantitative easing unless the recovery gets a big shot in the arm before the next meeting in early November.

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  • Federal Reserve Policy Pushes the Dollar Ever Closer to Collapse Much of the content of the latest U.S. Federal Reserve statement, released on Sept. 21, echoes the central bank's previous post-credit-crunch pronouncements: There is still too much slack in the economy, interest rates are still going to be near-zero for an "extended period," and the Fed will continue to use payments from its Treasury purchases to buy yet more Treasuries.

    But this recent statement uses a new turn of phrase that should have Americans very upset. The Fed says "measures of underlying inflation are currently at levels somewhat below those the Committee judges most consistent, over the longer run, with its mandate." Though the wording treads lightly, it should not be taken lightly. It may signal the final push toward dollar collapse.

    The Fed's dual mandate, since an amendment in 1977, has been to promote "price stability" and "maximum employment." While often discussed as if both goals are complementary facets of one mandate, they tend to have been at odds during every recession since the Great Depression.

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  • Currency War: China Stands Firm on Yuan as Global Criticism Escalates Germany and Japan are joining the U.S. in pressuring Beijing to let the yuan appreciate to prevent an international currency war from spiraling out of control. Still, China remains firm that a gradual rate change is all it will allow.

    German Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle warned yesterday (Wednesday) that a trade war could erupt if China didn't float its currency for a more fair value. As the China-U.S. currency tensions have heated up, other countries are saying China's unfair trade advantage is threatening export-driven recoveries around the globe.

    "We have to take care that the currency war doesn't become a trade war," Bruederle told German business paper Handelsblatt. "China bears a lot of responsibility for ensuring that it doesn't come to an escalation."

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  • You Heard it Here First: China's Plan to Dethrone the Dollar Continues to Unfold The U.S. dollar is on the way out as the world's top reserve currency. And as Money Morning Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald predicted more than a year and a half ago, the yuan could be set to replace it.

    The greenback has served as the world's benchmark reserve currency since the mid-20th century, but soaring deficits and the U.S. Federal Reserve's loose monetary policy have drained the dollar's value. Meanwhile, emerging markets - many of which are vibrant manufacturing hubs, net creditors, and have rich caches of commodities - are more fiscally sound than the United States, which has a $1.3 trillion budget deficit.

    "If you look at the fundamentals of a lot of these emerging markets, they are considerably better than developed markets," Kenneth Akintewe, a Singapore-based investment manager at Aberdeen Asset Management PLC told Bloomberg in an Oct. 11 interview. "Who wants to be holding U.S. dollars at this stage?"

    China, which leads the world with more than $2 trillion in currency reserves held mostly in U.S. Treasuries, is chief among the countries seeking respite from the dollar's decline. Beijing has long bemoaned the depreciation of the dollar, stating outright that it should be replaced as the world's main reserve currency.

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  • The Dollar's Unavoidable Day of Reckoning is Here… The government is printing money 24/7 to paper over the bad debts of the housing crisis and Wall Street bailouts. We're about to enter a cycle of hyper-inflation that will devalue every dollar you own... but there is a way to profit! Find out how in this free report. Read More...
  • Money Morning Mailbag: Japan's Rising Yen Struggle Signals Need for Industrial Shift The yen strengthened as much as 82.75 per dollar Wednesday, fueled by speculation that the U.S. Federal Reserve would buy more government bonds after a drop in U.S. payrolls.

    The yen's rise came after the Bank of Japan tried yet again this week to devalue its currency. On Tuesday the Bank of Japan lowered the benchmark interest rate to "virtually zero," and announced a $60 billion (5 trillion yen) plan to buy government bonds - similar to the 'quantitative easing' policy employed by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

    "With today's decision, the Bank of Japan paved the path for the next step," Junko Nishioka, chief economist at RBS Securities Japan Ltd. in Tokyo told Bloomberg News on Tuesday. "What will be critical will be how foreign-exchange rates move as a result," along with the impact of any additional easing by the Federal Reserve, she said.

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  • Controversial House China Tariff Bill Will Take America Down the Wrong Road The U.S. House of Representatives this week overwhelmingly passed a bill that would enable the Obama administration to impose punitive tariffs on almost all Chinese imports into the United States - a controversial move that's intended to punish China for refusing to revalue its currency.

    The House China tariff bill faces opposition in the Senate and from the Obama administration and isn't expected to become law. Let's hope that reluctance continues to hold: This bill is little more than a political con job and is quite possibly the stupidest thing that Washington could do right now.

    Not only will this touch off a war the United States literally cannot afford to fight, but it's going to hamstring millions of already cash tight Americans by raising the cost of living dramatically while further eviscerating our already fragile gross domestic product (GDP).

    Let me show you why...

    To understand the hidden costs of the China tariff bill, please read on...

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  • U.S.-China Tension Evident in Futile House Currency Bill The U.S. House of Representatives today (Wednesday) will vote on legislation that would let the U.S. government take punitive actions against countries that undervalue their currencies.

    The bill isn't likely to have any tangible impact on U.S. policy, but it's yet another manifestation of the growing friction between the world's two greatest economic powers.

    The Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act (HR 2378) is the apparent result of increasingly harsh rhetoric towards China's currency policy, which U.S. lawmakers say keeps the yuan undervalued. It is a relatively toothless measure that will likely have no effect on U.S. policy, but instead serve as a rallying cry for Congressional lawmakers looking to win votes ahead of November's midterm elections, and perhaps, U.S. officials heading to a Group of 20 (G20) summit the very same month.

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  • Exchange-Rate Risk: The Unseen Enemy of U.S. Investors When specialty-chemicals-maker H.B. Fuller Co. (NYSE: FUL) announced its third-quarter results earlier this month - with earnings and revenue coming in well below expectations - company shareholders suffered an 8% haircut in a single day.

    Rising raw material costs appeared to be the headline reason for turbulence at the company. But there was another culprit - a frequent flier in cases of earnings shortfalls, but one that often remains unseen and misunderstood.

    I'm talking about exchange-rate risk.

    U.S. investors don't realize it yet, but the level of exposure to exchange-rate fluctuations facing big American companies - as well as those based overseas - is steadily increasing. So what happened to H.B. Fuller - and its shareholders - is going to occur with increasing frequency. And in many cases, the fallout will be much more severe.

    To better understand the rising exchange-rate risks facing U.S. investors, please read on... Read More...
  • 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... Read More...