Brazil Slams the West’s Currency War

Mitt Romney is not the only global figure to unleash allegations of currency manipulation. In fact, most of the allegations are aimed at America and the West.

From Reuters:

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff slammed rich nations on Thursday for unleashing a “tsunami” of cheap money that threatened to “cannibalize” poorer countries such as her own, forcing them to act to protect struggling local industries.

Rousseff’s words amounted to some of the highest-profile criticism to date of efforts by the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan and others to spur their economies through low interest rates and cheap loans.

I just want to flag up Henry Kissinger’s words from his recent Foreign Affairs piece:

The current world order was built largely without Chinese participation, and hence China sometimes feels less bound than others by its rules. Where the order does not suit Chinese preferences, Beijing has set up alternative arrangements, such as in the separate currency channels being established with Brazil and Japan and other countries. If the pattern becomes routine and spreads into many spheres of activity, competing world orders could evolve. Absent common goals coupled with agreed rules of restraint, institutionalized rivalry is likely to escalate beyond the calculations and intentions of its advocates. In an era in which unprecedented offensive capabilities and intrusive technologies multiply, the penalties of such a course could be drastic and perhaps irrevocable.

Competing world orders could evolve? No; competing world orders are a reality, and it seems like Latin America — most obviously Argentina and Venezuela, but now also Brazil, and perhaps even Colombia and Mexico — are moving closer toward the emerging ASEAN bloc, and away from the West.

Ironically, the emerging currency war is as much as anything else a side-effect of Bernanke’s admitted preoccupation with fluffing and puffing up U.S. equities.

And it looks like he’s going to be getting a hand.

From Bloomberg:

The Bank of Israel will begin today a pilot program to invest a portion of its foreign currency reserves in U.S. equities.

The investment, which in the initial phase will amount to 2 percent of the $77 billion reserves, or about $1.5 billion, will be made through UBS AG and BlackRock Inc., Bank of Israel spokesman Yossi Saadon said in a telephone interview today. At a later stage, the investment is expected to increase to 10 percent of the reserves.

Zero Hedge prognosticates:

In other words, while the Fed’s charter forbids it from buying US equities outright, it certainly can promise that it will bail out such bosom friends as the Bank of Israel, the Swiss National Bank, and soon everyone else, if and when their investment in Apple should sour.

Luckily, this means that the exponential phase in risk is approaching as everyone will now scramble to frontrun central bank purchases no longer in bonds, but in stocks outright, leading to epic surges in everything risk related, then collapse and force the Fed to print tens of trillions to bail everyone out all over again, rinse repeat. We say luckily, because it means that the long overdue systemic reset is finally approaching.

Developing nations have a legitimate concern: Western central banks will throw liquidity around to no end to save the status quo. And that means that developing nations will themselves feel they have to compete in order to remain competitive. It’s messy.


Italian Gold Heading to China?

James Rickards and Max Keiser suggest one of the logical conclusions of the Italian-debt blowup is that Italian gold will be auctioned off, perhaps to China:

With Italian external debt standing at $2.2 trillion, and Italy’s 2,400 tonne gold holdings worth only $137 billion, gold would have to rise pretty significantly for that option to come into play.

Of course, these figures ram home the idea that gold is significantly undervalued relative to current credit/debt levels. America’s external debt stands at $14.3 trillion, yet its gold reserves are worth just less than $500 billion.

Officially, gold is not money. Officially, levels of debt should have no tie to gold reserves (i.e., the ability to pay in the 6,000-year old store of value).

But with the current malfunction in the global economic system, which soon may have to deal with the consequences of Euro breakdown, or an oil shock, or a new middle eastern war, it is perfectly plausible (or even likely) that the newer fiat monetary systems — all of which are subject to counter-party risk — will crumple, and bring the old currency — gold — back into play.

While a chance of systemic collapse remains, nobody will be keen to see their gold reserves sold off. Nations with less gold than their rivals — particularly China who have recently shown particular interest in converting their FX hoard into gold — will be keen to see the system live on for as long as possible (to cash out into physical assets and gold).

And that is the fundamental contention — the Eurozone wants to keep its gold, but fear the catastrophic impact of Euro-breakdown — and the Chinese want to keep the system going while slowly accumulating gold.

I can see that there is quite a lot of scope for a middle ground. The real question is how much would a Sino-European bailout-for-gold deal cause gold to spike…

Is Venezuela Next?

Last week, Venezuela announced plans to get its gold back on home soil. Today I ask: Is Venezuela biting off more than it can chew? Presenting my must-view chart of the day:

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The Great Gold Squeeze

So what’s next for gold? The weekend is over, and the week is about to begin — and that means gold, equities and debt trading in Asia will shortly be under way. Gold has been in a meteoric move upwards, spurred to even greater heights by Hugo Chavez’s announcement that Venezuela would repatriate its gold holdings from foreign banks — specifically those in London and New York.

From Things That Make You Go Hmmm (an absolute must-read):

Chavez’s move this week could set in motion a chain of events whereby Central banks who store the bulk of their gold overseas in ‘safe’ locations scramble to repossess their country’s true ‘wealth’. If that happens,the most high-stakes game of musical chairs the world hasever seen will have begun.One would imagine that a country’s gold would be storedonshore in their own vaults rather than be entrusted to a foreign power – after all, if tensions were to rise between the two sovereigns, amongst the first casualties would be said gold.

In trading since Chavez’s announcement, gold has shot up further. Of course there are other reasons for gold to rise — fiat debasement, sovereign debt concerns, equity weakness, concerns with overall trading conditions. But — ever since Gordon Brown offloaded Britain’s gold reserves for less than $300 an ounce at the millennium — coinciding with the peak of the fiat bubble — gold has shot up in value over 500%, and finally central banks are shifting holdings back into gold — especially the central banks of developing nations like China, Brazil and Russia, whose gold holdings have shot up 900%:

But the real problem may be that the vast growth in paper gold trading has been built on the backs of a very, very small physical base. Will the paper house of cards come tumbling down if part of the physical base is removed and sent to Venezuela? From Zero Hedge:

What could well be a gamechanger is that according to an update from Bloomberg, Venezuela has gold with, you guessed it, JP Morgan, Barclays, and Bank Of Nova Scotia. As most know, JPM is one of the 5 vault banks. The fun begins if Chavez demands physical delivery of more than 10.6 tons of physical because as today’s CME update of metal depository statistics, JPM only has 338,303 ounces of registered gold in storage. Or roughly 10.6 tons. A modest deposit of this size would cause some serious white hair at JPM as the bank scrambles to find the replacement gold, which has already been pledged about 100 times across the various paper markets.Keep an eye on gold in the illiquid after hour market. The overdue scramble for delivery may be about to begin.

The real question is whether any such scramble would cause more panics, more scrambles — to get out of cash, treasuries and equities and into gold and silver bullion — causing a deeper and harsher crash. Current data suggests that this is unlikely — but the deep worries over sovereign liquidity, fiat debasement, and food and fuel scarcity suggest that a panicked scramble out of cash is not entirely out of the question. Here’s a fantasy re-enactment of one not-entirely-improbable scenario:

$2000 gold ain’t far away: