Reuters blog archive
from Global Investing:
Brazil's finance minister Guido Mantega, one of the most shrill critics of Western money-printing, has decided to repeal the so-called IOF tax, he imposed almost three years ago as a measure to fend off hot money flows.
Well, circumstances alter cases, Mantega might say. And the world is a very different place today compared to 2010. Back then, the Fed was cranking up its printing presses and the currency war (in Mantega's words) was raging; today the U.S. central bank is indicating it may start tapering off the stimulus it has been delivering. Nor is investors enthusiasm for emerging markets what it used to be. Brazil's currency, the real, is plumbing four-year lows against the dollar and local bond yields have risen 30 basis points since the start of May. Brazil's balance of payments situation meanwhile, is deteriorating, which means it needs all the foreign capital it can get, hot money or otherwise. And currency weakness spells inflation -- bad news for Brazil's government which faces voters next year.
The IOF did work -- Brazil's local debt markets received just over $10 billion last year, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch calculates -- a third of 2010 levels, and much of the cash that was already invested, preferred to stay put (given the IOF is paid upon exiting the country).
So will Mantega's latest gambit work? So far, the real's reaction has been muted and some analysts even reckon on short-term losses as funds that were staying in to avoid paying the 6 percent levy, are now free to leave.
With the rhetoric getting more heated, the three-year market fixation on bond yields could well be supplanted by currencies in the months ahead.
This week, everything points towards the first meeting this year of G20 finance ministers and central bankers in Moscow on Friday and Saturday. We’ve already got a clear steer from sources that even though France wants the strong euro on the agenda there will be little pressure put on Japan and others whose policies are pushing their currencies lower. Having urged Tokyo to reflate its economy last year, its G20 peers can hardly complain now that it has. That is not to say there won’t be lots of words on the issue though.
Italy comes to the market with a five- and 10-year bond auction today and, continuing the early year theme, yields are expected to fall with demand healthy. It could raise up to 6.5 billion euros. A sale of six-month paper on Tuesday was snapped up at a yield of just 0.73 percent. Not only is the bond market unfazed by next month’s Italian elections, which could yet produce a chaotic aftermath, neither is it bothered by the scandal enveloping the world’s oldest bank, Monte dei Paschi, which is deepening by the day.
Even before this week (it also sold nearly 7 billion euros of debt on Monday), Italy had already shifted 10 percent of its annual funding needs. Clearly it, and Spain, is off to a flying start which removes a lot of potential market pressure.
from Nicholas Wapshott:
Are we about to be sucked into a currency war? As the world economy continues to splutter, countries are looking for ways to break out of the mire. One way of gaining popularity is to promote growth through making exports cheap. The key to an export-led recovery is to devalue a national currency, thereby lowering the prices of exports. By allowing its currency price to slide, a nation can launch a surreptitious trade war against its commercial rivals. Western nations have for years accused China of taking an unfair trade advantage by keeping its currency, and therefore export prices, artificially low. By allowing their currencies to devalue, Western countries are fighting back.
There are indications that the early skirmishes of a currency war have begun. This is a dangerous business. If countries undercut their competitors’ prices by devaluing their currencies, the stability of the world economy is put at risk. A full-fledged currency war invites deflation, a ruinous downward spiral of prices that in turn invites a worldwide recession. The cause of the conflict lies in the failure of the chosen measure to offset a Great Recession since 2008: wave after wave of "quantitative easing" (QE) by central banks to beat stagnant growth. QE was intended to funnel cheap money into national economies to boost economic activity and increase aggregate demand, thereby creating growth and jobs. But persistent QE has had an important unintended consequence. It has removed a key measure by which traders judge sovereign interest, or the ability of a country to pay its way.
from Global Investing:
(corrects name of hedge fund in para 3 to Symphony Financial Partners)
Any doubt about the importance of a weaker yen in thawing the frozen Japanese economy will have been dispelled by the Nikkei's surge to 32-month highs this week. Since early December, when it became clear an incoming Shinzo Abe administration would do its best to weaken the yen, the equity index has surged as the yen has fallen.
Those moves are giving sleepless nights to Japan's neighbours who are watching their own currencies appreciate versus the yen. South Korean companies, in particular, from auto to electronics manufacturers, must be especially worried. They had a fine time in recent years as the yen's strength since 2008 allowed them to gain market share overseas. But since mid-2012, the won has appreciated 22 percent versus the yen. In this period, MSCI Korea has lagged the performance of MSCI Japan by 20 percent. Check out the following graphic from my colleague Vincent Flasseur (@ReutersFlasseur)
from Global Investing:
With the U.S. Fed having cranked up its printing presses, there seems little to stop emerging central banks from extending their own rate cut campaigns this week.
The most interesting meeting promises to be in the Czech Republic. We saw some extraordinary verbal intervention last week from Governor Miroslav Singer, implying not only a rate cut but also recourse to "unconventional" monetary loosening tools. Of the 21 analysts polled by Reuters, 18 are expecting a rate cut on Thursday to a record low 0.25 percent. Indeed, in a world of currency wars, a rate cut could be just what the recession-mired Czech economy needs. But Singer's deputy, Moimir Hampl, has muddled the waters by refuting the need for any unusual policies or even rate cuts. Expect a heated debate (forward markets are siding with Singer and pricing a rate cut).
from Financial Regulatory Forum:
(This article was in IFR Asia magazine, a Thomson Reuters publication, on Oct 16)
By Prakash Chakravarti and Umesh Desai
HONG KONG - Thailand's move last week to reintroduce withholding tax on government bond holdings comes as policymakers across the region take steps to restrain capital inflows after a sustained rally in Asian currencies. However, there are doubts if these measures will do enough to deter investors in search of yield, and market participants are calling for tax cuts - not hikes.
from Financial Regulatory Forum:
By Neil Chatterjee and Aditya Suharmoko
JAKARTA, Oct 5 (Reuters) - It's taken a year, but Indonesia's central bank has finally won over markets into accepting its dovish policy outlook. Still, it doesn't feel like a success.
Instead, the policy that is designed to reduce the allure of Indonesian assets to yield-hungry investors is attracting capital into the country's debt markets and increasing the risk that authorities will take steps to control the tide.
Early September skirmishes turned this week into full-scale “currency wars”, to use Brazil’s terminology. Dramatic language, but not unwarranted. The markets have taken Fed signals of preparation for further money printing as an effective attempt at a dollar devaluation, allowing the country export its deflationary pressures overseas via capital outflows to higher-yielding developing countries.
The major developing nations, for all the arguments favouring currency revaluations of 20-25% over the next couple of years, are not going to stand idly by and watch that happen overnight. But their attempts to offset the impact of soaring local currencies and attendant asset bubbles merely floods local economies with cash at a time when fighting inflation -- not deflation -- is their priority. Brazil has raised the red flag, but the likes of Turkey and Taiwan are also registering fears about the impact of another bout of US monetary pump priming. Meantime, the gloves are off in the US-China yuan row; possible trade measures are being invoked in DC; and there is little chance of cooler heads prevailing this side of the US mid-term elections. This story will run.