Home > China, Europe, Pax Americana, Politics, World Economy > Currency Trade: War or Peace?

Currency Trade: War or Peace?


Now that Japan has joined the currency devaluation game, it leaves the Euro twisting in the winds of currency storms.

The yen, trading at about 87 per dollar, has shed about 11 percent since mid-November when Shinzo Abe, who became Japan's new prime minister following elections last month, promised a more aggressive monetary policy.  |  Graphic source & courtesy - cnbc.com

The yen, trading at about 87 per dollar, has shed about 11 percent since mid-November when Shinzo Abe, who became Japan’s new prime minister following elections last month, promised a more aggressive monetary policy. | Graphic source & courtesy – cnbc.com

Given a choice between a Japanese car and Chinese, almost any car buyer in the world will opt for a Japanese brand.

If price difference is small.

But as we know the price difference between Japanese and Chinese cars (and other products also) is rather big.

How the Yen has become expensive. From nearly 290 yen:1 USD to 80 yen:1 USD  |  Graphic credit - wsj.net

How the Yen has become expensive. From nearly 290 yen:1 USD to 80 yen:1 USD | Graphic credit – wsj.net

The big reason for this price difference?

The Japan Case

Though not the only reason, the high cost of the Japanese Yen after the Plaza Accord (September 22, 1985) has painted the Japanese economy into a corner.

Japan on Thursday reported a record annual trade deficit in 2012, the second straight year in the red for an exporting nation that has long built its wealth on its vast trading surpluses.

The annual trade gap of 6.93 trillion yen (about $78 billion) was brought about by surging fuel imports and a continued slide in machinery shipments and other mainstay exports. The deficit underscores the challenges Prime Minister Shinzo Abe faces as he tries to lift the world’s third-largest economy out of years of stagnation.

The deficit also brings to the forefront the risks that accompany Mr. Abe’s bid to revive the economy through government spending, which will add to Japan’s public debt, already more than twice the size of its economy. For years, export surpluses helped Japan finance that enormous debt without having to turn to foreign investors.

But that delicate balance is now unraveling. The global economic crisis set off a fall in Japanese exports, and also caused the yen to strengthen, weighing on the country’s competitiveness and recovery. The prolonged shuttering of the country’s nuclear reactors in the wake of the Fukushima crisis has led to a spike in Japan’s imports of oil and gas. A bitter territorial spat with China has hurt exports to Japan’s biggest trading partner.

The provisional data released by the Finance Ministry on Thursday showed exports continued to fall in December at a faster pace than forecast by economists, despite a weakening of the yen that should have come as a boon to exporters.

According to the data, Japan’s annual trade deficit jumped by 170 percent from the 2.56 trillion yen shortfall it recorded in 2011 to 6.93 trillion yen. Energy imports, mainly from the Middle East, surged, machinery and car exports fell across the board. By region, Japan’s exports to China tumbled by 10.8 percent, leaving Japan with a trade deficit of 3.52 trillion yen (about $40 billion) with its rising neighbor. Exports to the struggling European Union also fell by 15 percent.

Trade with the United States was brisk, however, with exports climbing 11.7 percent and imports by 2.5 percent for a 5.1 trillion yen (about $58 billion) surplus. Japanese automakers did particularly well in the United States last year, rebounding from production cuts brought about by Japan’s 2011 tsunami.

via Japan Reports a $78 Billion Trade Deficit for 2012 – NYTimes.com.

BoJ's asset-purchase program has trailed other big central banks  |  Graphic source & courtesy - economist.com

BoJ’s asset-purchase program has trailed other big central banks | Graphic source & courtesy – economist.com

The expensive Yen has increased the price of Japanese exports. Decreasing export-growth due to an expensive Yen, has led to a 20-year economic stagnation-deflation situation in Japan – now referred to as Japan’s Lost Decades (失われた10年 Ushinawareta Jūnen).

Could Japan’s actions to depreciate the Yen have been unilateral?

Highly unlikely.

Japan is the latest country to say enough is enough. Having seen its currency appreciate dramatically in recent years, prime minister Shinzo Abe’s new government is taking steps to alter the country’s exchange-rate dynamic – and is succeeding. In just over two months, the yen has weakened by more than 10% against the dollar and close to 20% against the euro.

via Currency war could cause lasting damage to world economy | Business | guardian.co.uk.

Japan’s new government has vowed to revive the economy and expectations for aggressive monetary easing are running high. This sets the scene for the yen to weaken to the 100-mark versus the dollar.

The yen, trading at about 87 per dollar, has shed about 11 percent since mid-November when Shinzo Abe became Japan’s new prime minister last month, promised a more aggressive monetary policy.

Keen to tackle the deflation that has dogged Japan’s economy for years, “The yen has fallen quickly and once it gets going, it gets going. What kind of number (in dollar/yen) do you need to fight deflation? I think we need to see dollar/yen at 110, 20 to say you’re on top of the deflation problem,” Jerram added.

Inflation in Japan fell 0.2 percent in November from a year earlier, after a 0.4 percent decline in October. A weak currency, brought about by aggressive monetary easing would help boost inflation, analysts say.

Japan’s current account surplus fell 29.4 percent in October from a year earlier to 376.9 billion yen ($4.58 billion) on a fall in exports.

They say another reason to expect further yen weakness this year is a brighter outlook for the global economy, which means there is more incentive for Japanese investors to put their money overseas.

“Everything is in place for a move in dollar/yen to 100, the only constraint being resistance from other major central banks to anyone else adopting a weak currency,” Societe Generale said.

via Picture This: The dollar at 100 Yen.

The Chinese Knot

A cheaper Japanese Yen affects China the most.

Any major currency appreciation, devaluation in the last 60-years has happened under the (what 2ndlook calls) USCAP system.

So, the noises being made of currency wars by Germany is probably to quieten other claims for currency depreciation – like Korea, Euro zone, Taiwan, Asian Tigers, et al.

Decreasing exports, incomes coupled with high production capacities has put Japan on the path of deflationary spiral.  |  Graphic credits embedded.

Decreasing exports, incomes coupled with high production capacities has put Japan on the path of deflationary spiral. | Graphic credits embedded.

China seeks to replace the former Soviet Russia as the challenger to Pax Americana. This challenge by China to Pax Americana is based on manufacturing prowess and huge foreign currency reserves.

China’s Yuan has already appreciated to a 20-year high. In the current global scenario, China’s currency situation puts it in a weak situation. China’s economic engines will seize, if the Japanese Yen were to depreciate to ¥110-120.

EU’s Sports Complex

The interesting point is how EU manages its trade deficit. Without blaming China-Yuan.

EU-zone countries like Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, are on the verge of a sovereign default. Euro-zone is upto its gills in debt. The Euro is being called names. And EU is not snivelling about the Yuan and China?

Very un-European!

USA, EU Trade Balance with Oil Producers (Graphic source and courtesy - www.eurotrib.com). Click for larger image.

USA, EU Trade Balance with Oil Producers (Graphic source and courtesy – http://www.eurotrib.com). Click for larger image.

Usually…

Europe is at the forefront seeing dangers, damage, affronts, threats, effects, fall-outs et al.

The whole she-bang!

But in case of China and Yuan, Europe is not doing much of crying about the ‘undervalued’ Yuan. The Euro revaluation from USD 1.6 four years ago to USD 1.25 now is a recent affair.

So, not of much consequence. The Yuan undervaluation has been on the US agenda for a few years now – with varying intensities. Euro-trade balance with China is slightly in China’s favour. All in all, good management by the Euro-zone, it appears.

Which in the current scenario is the one-bright-spot on the Euro-horizon!

In today’s world, no significant group of countries is looking for currency strength. Some resist appreciation actively and openly; others do so in a less visible manner. Only the eurozone seems to accept being on the receiving end of other countries’ actions.

via Currency war could cause lasting damage to world economy | Business | guardian.co.uk.

The German Footprint

Behind the Euro-zone is the Germanic template.

In the last twenty years, Germany has absorbed East Germany, without a hiccup. During the same period Japan entered into a deep stagnation-deflation phase – but not Germany. While the world succumbed to Chinese manufacturing onslaught, the German industrial complex kept humming – steadily. While the US economy stumbled from bankruptcy of the auto-industry to the dotcom bust and is now deep into the housing crisis, the German economy remained stable.

All this without seeking competitive currency devaluation.

countries nowadays, including systemically important ones, are already actively weakening their currencies. Yet, because an exchange rate is a relative price, all currencies cannot weaken simultaneously. How the world resolves this basic inconsistency over the next few years will have a major impact on prospects for growth, employment, income distribution, and the functioning of the global economy.

via Currency war could cause lasting damage to world economy | Business | guardian.co.uk.

Wars Before The War

WWII was preceded by 15-years (1921-1936) of currency devaluations. Will history repeat? Will the US take a break after ending the Afghan War in 2014 to start WWIII?


  1. ajamk
    February 1, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Pakistan gets to decide whether WW3 takes place or no. :D

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