Short of sitting on the sidelines, investors can't escape the global currency wars - a "race to the bottom" shootout that has countries debasing their currencies to boost overseas sales.
But here's the only thing you need to know: As the central banks of the world slug it out in the global currency markets, individual investors who understand the currency-war strategy can reap some extraordinary gains.
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.
In a move designed to jolt its economy back to life and protect its export industries from an international currency war, the Bank of Japan (BOJ) said yesterday (Tuesday) that it would expand its balance sheet and lower its benchmark interest rate to "virtually zero."
The bank cut the overnight call rate target to a range of 0.00% to 0.1%, the lowest level since 2006. It last cut the target rate to 0.1% from 0.3% in December 2008.
Policymakers also will establish a $60 billion (5 trillion yen) fund to buy government bonds and other assets, inflating the balance sheet at a time when U.S. and U.K. central bankers are contemplating doing the same.
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.
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...
Chinese state oil company China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (Sinopec) (NYSE ADR: SNP) said Friday that it would invest $7.1 billion in the Brazilian unit of Spain's Repsol YPF S.A. (NYSE ADR: REP) to form one of the largest private energy companies in Latin America.
The investment is the second-largest overseas purchase by a Chinese company and drives the market capitalization of Repsol's Brazilian arm up to $17.8 billion. Analysts estimated the company's value at $10.7 billion earlier this year. Sinopec's investment gives it a 40% stake in Repsol's Brazil business, and access to the highly valued Brazilian offshore sub-salt oil fields.
The move highlights South America's importance to China as the Asian powerhouse goes on a spending spree to meet its fast-growing energy demand.
Batten down the hatches. Brazil, the media-darling of the world financial press and the poster child for emerging-markets investing, is heading directly into the eye of the storm.
Until now, Brazil has provided investors with a thoroughly rewarding run. Investors who followed Money Morning's October 2008 call to buy the iShares MSCI Brazil Index (NYSE: EWZ) have notched a 160% return.
But with this BRIC country now clearly running into trouble, it's time to trim any holdings you may have.
Petroleo Brasileiro SA (NYSE ADR: PBR), the Brazilian national oil company better known as Petrobras, announced Wednesday that it had agreed to issue $42.5 billion in new stock to the Brazilian government to obtain the rights to five billion barrels of oil in offshore fields.
Petrobras will pay an average of $8.51 a barrel for the oil after almost two weeks of negotiations with the government, according to a regulatory filing. More than half the oil will come from the Franco field in the offshore Santos Basin, the company said.
Even though the company paid what is seen by many analysts as a premium for the rights, the deal is the linchpin for the Latin American oil giant's long-term financing plans.
Inflation hawks have been warning since 2008 that the spurt of U.S. money creation that began at the end of that year would spark a surge in consumer-price inflation.
And yet the consumer price index (CPI) statistics remain quiet - not giving ammunition to the deflationary camp, but making "inflationists" look silly, as well. Now, however, it is becoming obvious that inflation will soon arrive. But this time it is sneaking in through the back door - courtesy of our emerging-market trading partners.
Fortunately, there are some very clear steps that investors can take to protect themselves from this expected inflationary surge.
Investors who need proof need only consider recent events. Iron ore prices are at record levels, and the annual-price-setting arrangement has broken down. Venezuela President Hugo Chávez has signed "dark side" agreements with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for Russian companies to develop Venezuela's oil-and-mineral resources. China may have invested $1 trillion or so in U.S. Treasuries, but the Asian giant's only truly successful investment so far has been the 17% stake it took in Canadian-resources player Teck Resources Ltd. (NYSE: TCK).
Welcome to the commodities new world order. These events serve notice that - as we put the global financial crisis behind us - the commodity "haves" will set the agenda ... while the commodity "have nots" will fall farther and farther behind.
Is Brazil one of the best emerging markets? Should it be in your portfolio? Martin Hutchinson breaks down the pros and cons of investing in the Brazilian economy. And, he's not as bullish as you might think. Find out the best ways to play Brazil in this report.
President Barack Obama's efforts to pressure China to let the yuan appreciate gained momentum Thursday when the central bank presidents of Brazil and India both spoke out against China's exchange rate policy. Speaking ahead of a Group of 20 (G20) meeting scheduled for this weekend in Washington, the Indian and Brazilian central bank heads surprised […]
U.S. stocks carved out one of their patented half-percent advances last week -- a little sloppy, to be sure, yet not bad at all considering their very overbought condition.
The stars of the global capital show this month, though, have been markets in China and Europe, as they shook off their multi-month torpor to score big wins. With a scorching 6% advance in the past two weeks, ishares FTSEXinhua China 25 Index(NYSE: FXI) nosed up to log a +5.5% gain for the year after being negative for three months. And the ishares S&P Europe 350 Index(NYSE: IEV) rose 1%, putting it at flat for the year after malingering below zero.
When investing in the emerging markets, you need to cast your net beyond the obvious candidates. Granted, China, Brazil and India have emerged to become very attractive investment stories (I don't trust Russia, the fourth and final "BRIC" economy).
But everyone else has heard of them, too, which is why their markets have been bid up very high in the past year. Their prospects remain excellent, but you're paying a lot for them.
From time to time, however, a country that has been off investors' radar screens has a few good years, and begins to creep onto them. In such countries, risk may be high, but values at least remain reasonable.