Sunday, November 2, 2008

US Down, China Up

Very interesting essay by former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Paul Craig Roberts on Unlike most of the stuff I see written about the financial meltdown, this is actually accessible (probably a sign that Roberts actually knows what he's talking about, as opposed to most reporters at The New York Times and other "Great American News Organizations".
World Tires of Rule by Dollar
Paul Craig Roberts

What explains the paradox of the dollar’s sharp rise in value against other currencies (except the Japanese yen) despite disproportionate US exposure to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression?

The answer does not lie in improved fundamentals for the US economy or better prospects for the dollar to retain its reserve currency role.

The rise in the dollar’s exchange value is due to two factors.

One factor is the traditional flight to the reserve currency that results from panic. People are simply doing what they have always done. Pam Martens predicted correctly that panic demand for US Treasury bills would boost the US dollar.

The other factor is the unwinding of the carry trade. The carry trade originated in extremely low Japanese interest rates. Investors and speculators borrowed Japanese yen at an interest rate of one-half of one percent, converted the yen to other currencies, and purchased debt instruments from other countries that pay much higher interest rates. In effect, they were getting practically free funds from Japan to lend to others paying higher interest.

The financial crisis has reversed this process. The toxic American derivatives were marketed worldwide by Wall Street. They have endangered the balance sheets and solvency of financial institutions throughout the world, including national governments, such as Iceland and Hungary. Banks and governments that invested in the troubled American financial instruments found their own debt instruments in jeopardy.

Those who used yen loans to purchase, for example, debt instruments from European banks or Icelandic bonds, faced potentially catastrophic losses. Investors and speculators sold their higher-yielding financial instruments in a scramble for dollars and yen in order to pay off their Japanese loans. This drove up the values of the yen and the US dollar, the reserve currency that can be used to repay debts, and drove down the values of other currencies.

The dollar’s rise is temporary, and its prospects are bleak. . . .


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