Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Is it time for the USD to show some muscle?

The US dollar has been kicked, spit on, and left for dead in 2009. Gold bugs, fiscal conservatives, and doomsayers all have abandoned the US currency in anticipation of economic meltdown due to the massive amount of debt spending to slow the crisis.

But have USD critics gotten ahead of themselves?

* Oil has overshot against the USD

Since March, USD has fallen less than 20% vs the Euro, but oil futures have increased 40% in anticipation of a collapse in the purchasing power of the USD. Yet that has not happened...

...and as time ticks by, the disparity between the increasing inventory of oil in the market and the demand on the exchanges becomes more and more peculiar.

* Even weaker currencies have gained 30% vs USD

Emerging market currencies such as the Colombian Peso, Brazilian Real, and Turkish Lira all have gained over 25% vs the USD in a just six months. Although their futures are bright, there are still significant political risk to emerging countries that is now disregarded in the purchase price.

* Lots of deflation on the horizon

The market has been bearish on the USD since March. But considering the wind down of stimulus in the next few months (Treasury purchases, MBS purchases, Cash for Clunkers) and also housing programs (HAMP, Housing Tax Credit), the deflation of reduced economic activity should be significantly bullish for the USD.

* USD is reaching historical support levels

Emerging economies need the USD propped up to maintain exports and keep the flow of hard currency into their country. This historical chart underscores the importance of the US economy to the world.

* Traders have moved to a net long position on the USD

In fact, it has been noted recently that traders have switched to a net bullish dollar position.(1)

* USD reversal could cause market mayhem

Many journalists remark on how the investment banks borrow from the Fed for free and invest in other currencies to obtain a spread. This is called a carry trade and it has helped banks such as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan book billions during this year. Roubini thinks an uptick in the US dollar will lead to a massive carry trade unwind.

“Everybody’s playing the same game and this game is becoming dangerous.”

The dollar has dropped 12 percent in the past year against a basket of six major currencies as the Federal Reserve, led by Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, cut interest rates to near zero in an effort to lift the U.S. economy out of its worst recession since the 1930s. Roubini said the dollar will eventually “bottom out” as the Fed raises borrowing costs and withdraws stimulus measures including purchases of government debt. That may force investors to reverse carry trades and “rush to the exit,” he said.

“The risk is that we are planting the seeds of the next financial crisis,” said Roubini, chairman of New York-based research and advisory service Roubini Global Economics. “This asset bubble is totally inconsistent with a weaker recovery of economic and financial fundamentals.”(2)

The author of this blog thinks it is time for the USD to correct, but that it is too risky to play for a major spike in the USD. In the case there were unforeseen banking issues in Europe or in a significant emerging market, a run to the USD could be damaging to US banks who are leveraging USD.

The author recommends buying SCO under $13 and exiting above $15.5

(1) Forbes.com, "Stronger Buck Threatens Stocks And Commodities", Ryan Campbell, Nov 3, 2009

(2) Bloomberg.com, "Roubini Says Carry Trades Fueling ‘Huge’ Asset Bubble", Michael Patterson, Oct 27, 2009


Lockstep said...

Purchased SCO at $13. The USD cash futures index has continued a steady decent to the 74 level. There are news reports that bullish USD option trades are increasing. It can't go down forever, but you can get killed betting against it.

I actually think that oil is showing that it is not a wealth store right now. Demand is down, supplies are high, even though the USD is low and going lower. Oil has not kept pace with other commodities recently and certainly is behaving more weak than gold.

I plan to stick with this position and see what comes of it.

Lockstep said...

Exited position at $15.5 on Tuesday, Feb 9. I think I was too conservative with the position. The USD is driving higher and shows no sign of stoping.


Excellent charts real nice.