Global Investing

Carry currencies to tempt central banks

Central bankers as carry traders? Why not.

As we wrote here yesterday, FX reserves at global central banks may be starting to rise again. That’s a consequence of a pick up in portfolio investment flows in recent weeks and is likely to continue after the U.S. Fed’s announcement of its QE3 money-printing programme.

According to analysts at ING, the Fed’s decision to restart its printing presses will first of all increase liquidity (some of which will find its way into central bank coffers). Second, it also tends to depress volatility and lower volatility encourages the carry trade. Over the next 12 months these  two themes will combine as global reserve managers twin their efforts to keep their money safe and still try to make a return, ING predicts, dubbing it a positive carry story.

The first problem is that yields are abysmal on traditional reserve currencies. That means any reserve managers keen to boost returns will try to diversify from the  dollar, euro, sterling and yen that constitute 90 percent of global reserves. Back in the spring of 2009 when the Fed scaled up QE1, its move depressed the dollar and drove reserve managers towards the euro, which was the most liquid alternative at the time. ING writes:

This time, however, we are not looking for the same kind of euro pick-up that we saw in 2009. FX reserve managers typically invest in securities rated AA or higher. Even if they extend durations out to the 5-year area of sovereign curves, an average of AA/AAA Eurozone yields only pays 0.75% – exactly the same as Treasuries.5-year UK gilts are not much better at 0.9 % while Japan pays a measly 0.2% on 5-year bonds.

Instead ING analysts reckon FX reserve managers will go for currencies such as the Australian and Canadian dollars. Thanks to slightly better yields, and large, liquid bond markets,  a carry basket invested in the Australian, Canadian, Norwegian and Swedish currencies and funded out of the dollar, euro, sterling and yen will have an annualised carry pick up of 1.6%, the analysts say. That sounds pretty modest but according to ING, FX outperformance can deliver returns of over 10% on this basket. They write:

from MacroScope:

Argentina set for wheat windfall

Not everyone is upset about the 50 percent surge in wheat prices over the past month.

Wheat's rise to 2-year highs was caused first by heavy rains in Canada and now by a Russian export ban that was triggered by its worst drought in decades. There are floods in Pakistan, another major wheat grower. But while the wheat market shenanigans are triggering much hand-wringing across developing nations, Argentina, one of the world's top seven wheat exporters, may be set for a windfall.

Farmers there are increasing wheat plantings, the Buenos Aires Grains Exchange says. The South American country is expected to export around 8 million tonnes of wheat in the 2010-2011 year. With wheat futures on the Chicago Board of Trade at around $8 a bushel, a very simple calculation shows export revenues are going to very significant.

from MacroScope:

Canada dresses up for bears

For all the designer drinks and gourmet foods - from raw oysters to sushi, and the sea of men in expensive suits and bejeweled women in elegant gowns, the setting seemed fit only for celebration.

But dressed as they were to the nines, investors attending "A Night with the Bears" at Toronto's upscale Elgin Theatre, were eager to hear the worst, on the edges of plush seats amid predictions of market doom from some of the continent's savviest
financial minds.

"I only wish we'd sold tickets," said a smiling Eric Sprott, arguably Canada's best known hedge fund manager and chairman at Sprott Asset Management Inc, as he looked out at the 1,500 or so crowd.