Currency Currents

Key News

Key Reports Due (WSJ):

  • 7:00 a.m. Mortgage Applications Refinance Index: Previous: +29.6%.
  • 8:30 a.m. Feb Durable Goods Orders: Expected: -1.6%. Previous: -5.2%.
  • 10:00 a.m. Feb New Home Sales: Expected: -3.6%. Previous: -10.2%.
  • 10:30 a.m. US Energy Dept Oil Inventories For Mar 20

Quotable

A woman drove me to drink and I didn't even have the decency to thank her.

W. C. Fields

FX Trading - Japanese Exports Fall 49.4% in February - Enough said?

Analysts expressed hopes that the Chinese government's 4 trillion yuan ($586 billion) stimulus spending package would eventually ease the downturn, which has hammered Asian economies that are heavily reliant on exports for growth, according to Reuters.

Demand fell across all regions. Exports to Europe dropped a record 54.7 percent, shipments to Asia declined 46.3 percent and goods sent to China slumped 39.7 percent, Bloomberg reported.

Of course there are many holding out hope that Chinese stimulus will still ride to our collective rescue. It is possible, but the probability seems low given the extreme decline in demand across all regions. China has to sell stuff too, don't you know.

And we noticed this very interesting article yesterday which provides some validation to our view that Chinese unrest is building and that prospect likely concerns China's leadership more than stimulus. Below is an excerpt from, Twilight of the Autocrats , written by Joshua Kurlantzick, printed in The American Prospect magazine:

Gansu is one of interior China's most forlorn provinces, one that has gone largely unnoticed by the outside world. When I worked in rural Gansu two years ago, I met few people who had ever left their hometown. In one tiny village, ethnic minority Muslims were eking out a living as farmers in the dusty, arid climate and sleeping in simple stone huts that looked like they'd been built centuries earlier. Most villagers had never met a foreigner before.

Then last fall, Gansu suddenly hit the news. Some 2,000 people rioted in one district, torching cars, smashing up the local Communist Party offices, and attacking policemen with iron rods, chains, and axes in protest of a local government decision that might have forced some of them to resettle.

Gansu isn't the only Chinese province that has erupted in social unrest lately. Taxi drivers have gone on strike in several Chinese cities, people who lost money in illegal fundraising have protested in Beijing, and demonstrators have gathered across the country to demand unpaid back wages. Protest has even spread to the Pearl River Delta, the manufacturing center that abuts Hong Kong, traditionally one of the most prosperous parts of the country. In some years, the Delta's factories have produced 5 percent of all manufactured goods made in the world. But orders for the Delta's products have dried up, and angry factory workers, many owed back pay, have taken to looting warehouses. As these protests turn violent, they could provoke a violent response; Chinese factory owners are increasingly hiring thugs to hit back at demonstrators.

The protests hint at something even bigger than China: The economic downturn has created a profound threat to the autocratic regimes of the world, from China and Russia to Venezuela and the Persian Gulf states. Already, the Russian police have been placed on alert to crack down on demonstrators. Several of Russia's prominent human-rights activists have been killed in recent weeks. Protests, once rare, have spread from eastern Russia to the heart of the Kremlin itself.

Maybe this is why China and Russia are sounding a bit desperate with their calls for the IMF to establish new world currency savior.

Either way, it no looks as though the Asian-block currencies are moving in line with the rapid breakdown in exports, which is a function of Western consumer savings.

Most of the Asian block currencies and you can see from the charts above are getting clobbered on this export massacre. But one key currency, the one who's country just saw a 50% haircut in its exports seems it needs to play a little catch up to the rest of the Asian pack.

The other currencies pictured here are either trading well above or at least testing their 2007 highs. And yet as you can see above, the $-yen pair would need to move about 25% higher from here for that to happen. If an investor can stay with a move like that, he might be able to make a little money along the way.