G20 meeting aims to stifle currency war; focus now on size of QE2

Tom Tong25/Oct/2010Currency Updates

Forex markets spent the week in a holding pattern, awaiting further clarification in regards to QE2 and the possibility of a G20 agreement which will may put to rest fears of a “currency war” of competitive devaluations worldwide. No significant new information emerged last week on either issue. As to QE2, a slate of Fed speakers reiterated what is already known. There is a large majority of FOMC voting members who are ready to start another round of Large Scale Asset Purchases (LSAP) as early as the next Fed meeting in early November. However, neither the size nor the execution details of such a program have yet been decided on. Market consensus is drifting towards an assumption that it will be roughly $100 billion per month for a total of $500-700 billion; however, this is little more than a guess at this point.

The meeting of G20 finance ministers was held over the weekend. While the US did not succeed yet in getting a commitment to explicit current account targets, it could be argued that the expectations were so low that the existence of a joint statement on FX rates may well be enough to exceed them. The numerical current account targets the US seeks will now be discussed at the upcoming full G20 meeting.

Perhaps a significant and underappreciated development was US Secretary of the Treasury statements made last week on the dollar. He made a clear distinction between emerging market currencies, against which he deems the dollar to be clearly undervalued, and other G10 currencies, particularly the euro and the Japanese yen. Against the latter, he apparently thinks that rates are now roughly in alignment, and sees no need for the dollar to sink any further. These statements support our short-term and medium-term bullish stance on the greenback vs. the euro and the yen. In addition to the apparently shifting stance of US authorities and the need for devaluation against these currencies, the frightening level of consensus that the only way for the dollar is down (without discriminating among currencies), and the fact that a considerable amount of QE2 has already been priced in by fixed income, FX and asset markets, leads us to think that it will not be easy for the dollar to break new lows against other G10 currencies, except possibly the dollar bloc, commodity-dependent currencies.

As pointed out earlier, major currency trading last week was generally subdued, without large move or serious volatility. The trade-weighted dollar actually bounced back slightly, and the strong level of correlation among non-dollar currencies held up.


The main exception to the above was sterling. The Bank of England minutes, somewhat surprisingly, revealed that Andrew Posen had voted to restart quantitative easing right away at the last meeting. Further negative news for GBP was the confirmation that the new government intends to pursue its draconian budget cuts, the most aggressive outside the euro peripheral economies. The combination of tight fiscal policy and loose monetary policy is usually very bearish for a currency. Therefore, we are very bearish sterling, particularly against the USD.


Written by Tom Tong

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