This note was originally published
at 8am on April 08, 2011.
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“The best way to destroy the capitalist system is to debauch the currency.”
-John Maynard Keynes
What’s worse right now, American fiscal or monetary policy? Sadly, that’s a tough call. As the world embraces the idea of a US Government Shutdown this morning (yes, many of us would like to see these people stop what they are doing), even John Maynard Keynes is rolling over in his grave. The US Dollar Index is trading down at fresh YTD lows of $75.14.
Let’s take a look at both sides of what drives a country to “debauch the currency” (looking at Europe vs USA, straight up) and the immediate-to-long-term risk management implications for your portfolios:
1. Monetary Policy
As anyone who has traded a currency market in the last 40 years knows, currencies trade not only on the direction of a country’s monetary policy (hawkish or dovish), but relative to other countries with competing policy views.
For the 1st time in 40 years, the Europeans raised interest rates before Americans did yesterday. Notwithstanding the colossal failure of common sense associated with The Bernank opting to starve the American common man with inflation and a zero percent return on his savings account, it’s important to recall that Trichet’s rate hike didn’t come from the zero bound. He was already at 1% and he moved to 1.25%. That’s bullish for Euros versus Dollars.
In justifying the interest rate hike, the ex-Finance Minister of France told the world, “You know from our own doctrine that we always do what is necessary to deliver price stability.” In the immediate-term, even for the left-leaning Frenchman, that is pseudo-true. Relative to The Bernank, it’s very true. With the USD down for 11 of the last 15 weeks, Bernanke is perpetuating the highest PRICE VOLATILITY that commodity markets have ever seen.
2. Fiscal Policy
On a relative basis versus Europe, particularly relative to the United Kingdom, the United States of America isn’t even in the area code of where capital market winds have blown European politicians. Since many European markets can’t mark-their-bonds-to-model like Geithner and Bernanke have attempted to mark US Treasuries, austerity measures have either been imposed by popular vote (UK) or by market vote (Portugal). Both votes count.
Many Americans have found rhetorical resolve in calling Europeans “pigs”, and that might feel all good and fine if you’re an American living large on a banking fee or a Washington retainer, but that doesn’t change the reality of what the rest of the world rightly started calling Boehner and Reid this week – donkeys.
While the “audacity” of President Obama’s “hope” is clearly not an investment process that global currency markets are long of (to the contrary, the largest short position in US Dollars, ever, implies the world is betting against the 112th Congress in size), an earthshaking culture shock to the Big Government Spending model is the only thing Americans can hope for.
3. Long Dollar, Short Euro, Short Commodities?
That would be the most contrarian (and least profitable) call you could have made in the first 3 months of 2011. And that’s exactly why you should be asking yourself if The People can govern the government as the US Constitution asks them to. Betting against professional politicians of a centrally planned state is easy – betting against the common sense of the sometimes Forgotten Man (Amity Schlaes) in America is a losers’ long-term bet.
I think my defense partner, Daryl Jones, asked the most contrarian question on US Fiscal Policy yesterday that you can ask yourself right now, “Could The Ryan Budget Be The Most Economically Bullish Legislation of Our Lifetimes?” (send us an email if you’d like a copy, firstname.lastname@example.org)
This isn’t a partisan point. Remember, I am Canadian – and I edit Big Alberta’s work. If a Democrat or a talking monkey were to put a legitimate spending cut bill on the floor we’d be asking the same question. I really don’t care what it takes, or who sponsors it – arresting the Debauchery of the US Dollar has become a national security issue for America’s standard of living.
You don’t have to take my word for it on what happens when you burn your currency at the stake. History is littered with examples. This is not the best long-term path to prosperity. If you are a raging Republican or a dogmatic Democrat who has supported Big Government Intervention for the last decade, all you need to do is take the Keynesian Kingdom call on this from John Maynard Keynes himself – “The best way to destroy the capitalist system is to debauch the currency.”
If you’re really long The Inflation this morning (LONG: oil, gold, etc; SHORT: dollars, US Treasuries, etc), this idea of combining fiscal and monetary conservatism should scare the hell out of you. When you consider that The Bernank has not only perpetuated unprecedented Price Volatility AND the largest NET-LONG position that the hedge fund industry has EVER had in commodities – you should be afraid, very afraid. I am.
But we are all big boys and girls managing risk out here on the Global Macro gridiron, so suck it up, take a deep breath, and pray. Because, at a new all-time record high price for Gold this morning of $1470/oz and $111.56/barrel oil, there’s a new bubble in town – the bubble of America’s Last Entitlement. Cheap money and donkey politicians won’t last forever.
My immediate-term support and resistance lines for oil are now $107.16 and $111.59, respectively. My immediate-term support and resistance lines for the SP500 are 1312 and 1343, respectively.
Best of luck out there today and have a great weekend,
Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer