A Weakening Dollar is giving Boeing a Trade Advantage over Airbus

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 23rd, 2013

Week in Review

Before you can buy from a foreign country you have to exchange your currency fist.  For example, if you’re in China and want to buy some aircraft from Boeing or Airbus, you have to exchange you currency first.  Exchange Chinese yuan for U.S. dollars.  Or exchange Chinese yuan for euros.

Now if both Boeing and Airbus have a plane that meets all of their needs leaving price as the only consideration, they have two things to consider.  Price, obviously.  And the current exchange rate.  For if the U.S. dollar is weaker compared to the euro they will get more dollars than euros when exchanging their currency.  Giving the Americans a trade advantage.  Because if the dollar is weaker than the euro the Chinese yuan will buy more from Boeing than it will from Airbus.  A situation that actually exists now.  And it concerns Airbus (see Airbus CEO Concerned Over Euro/USD Exchange Rate Affecting Exports by David Pearson posted 6/20/2013 on 4-traders).

Airbus Chief Executive Fabrice Bregier Thursday said he remains concerned about the strength of the euro against the U.S. dollar which could limit the European plane-maker’s export-reliant growth despite strong demand for passenger jets particularly from Asia.

The CEO has previously expressed concern that the euro’s rise against the dollar could force the company to seek extra cost cuts or savings.

The aircraft market is a world market.  An aircraft manufacturer’s export sales will be greater than their domestic sales.  So a weak currency benefits them.  Which is why governments like to weaken their currencies.  Especially if they depend on robust export sales.  But the down side to that is that a weaker currency will raise prices everywhere else.  So, yes, exports will grow.  But people will lose purchasing power.  As their money won’t buy as much as it once did.

Because the Chinese yuan will buy more from Boeing than it will from Airbus they have to somehow lower the price of their planes to offset that advantage Boeing has. Which means they will have to find costs they can cut.  Find savings elsewhere.  Or watch Boeing sell more planes.

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A Weak Currency may Boost Exports but it will Raise all Prices Businesses and Consumers Pay

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 24th, 2013

Week in Review

China created a booming economy thanks to a healthy export market.  In part because of their cheap labor.  An in part by keeping their currency weak.  For when you buy goods from China you first have to exchange your currency for theirs.  If your currency is stronger than theirs is you will get a lot more of theirs in exchange for yours.  Allowing you to buy a lot more Chinese goods with your stronger currency.  This is why China likes to have a weak currency.  And takes actions to keep it artificially weak.  Something her trading partners don’t like.  For their weaker currency tends to make the net flow of goods in international trade with China flowing from China to everyone else.  Thus giving China a healthy export market.  At the expense of everyone else’s export market.

But China is a developing economy.  Things change when you become an advanced economy.  Because you don’t have impoverished masses filling your factories manufacturing goods for export.  You have a thriving middle class.  With a high standard of living.  With good jobs giving them disposable income.  And few of them work in the export economy.  So despite all the talk about unfair trade practices of China most people in an advanced economy don’t worry that much about trade deficits.  For they’re buying a lot of imported goods.  From smartphones to coffee beans.  And a weak currency makes these items more expensive.

So there are two sides to the value of your currency.  If you have impoverished masses filling factories to build export goods a weak currency is good.  It lets the state sell more of those export goods.  In an export-dominated economy.  And provides a lot of low-paid factory jobs.  If you have a thriving middle class a strong currency is good.  For it lets the people buy a lot of stuff.  Creating a lot of better paying non-factory jobs.  In a non-export-dominated economy.  Basically the difference between free market capitalism.  And mercantilism (see Is the World on the Brink of a Currency War? by Michael Sivy posted 2/21/2013 on Time).

Currency wars – and trade wars generally – have their origins in a 17th and 18th century economic theory known as mercantilism. The idea was that a country’s wealth comes from selling more than it buys. A colonial empire could achieve this positive balance of trade by acquiring cheap raw materials from its colonies and then ensuring that it exported more finished goods than it imported. This was usually accomplished with tariffs that made imports very expensive.

Such an approach couldn’t work in the modern world. Countries don’t get cheap raw materials from colonies anymore. They have to buy them – especially oil – on the open market. So while currency devaluation makes exports cheaper for foreign buyers, it also makes essential imports more expensive. For Europe in particular, which imports so much of its energy, devaluation isn’t necessarily a plus…

The Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing – buying bonds to swell the money supply – is aimed principally at stimulating domestic demand. European advocates of a cheaper euro currency, meanwhile, are hoping to make national debt easier to finance, not trying to pump up exports. In fact, the continent’s greatest exporter, Germany, is the country least amenable to currency devaluation…

So forget all the talk of a currency war. What’s going on has nothing to do with trade and everything to do with debt and growth and inflation. If the global economy is in danger of reliving the past, it will not be a repeat of the 1930s. Rather, it will be a repeat of the 1970s, when the Federal Reserve expanded the money supply to offset the economic slowdown caused by the oil crisis – and ended up encouraging double-digit inflation.

The double-digit inflation of the Seventies really devalued the currency.  Raised prices.  Greatly limiting the amount of stuff people could buy.  Even though printing money then didn’t work these nations believe it will work now.  Because it will make their exports cheaper for foreigners to buy.  Despite making everything more expensive inside their own country.

But there is another reason they love to print money.  It lets them spend more.  And it makes old debt easier to pay off.  We call it monetizing the debt.  For example, if a nation has a GDP of $1 million and a debt of $500,000 that debt is huge.  It’s 50% of GDP.  But if we turn on the printing presses and devalue the currency to one tenth of its original value that GDP is now $10 million ($1 million divided by 1/10).  Making that outstanding debt only 5% of GDP.  And a whole lot easier to repay.  But what is one person’s debt is another person’s retirement savings.  So not only does inflation increase prices it destroys our retirement savings.  And all this just so we can boost the small sliver of our economy we call exports.

If this is so bad on so many levels why do governments print money then?  For one simple reason.  To get people to vote for them.  Because all the people see is the free stuff the politicians are giving them.  The damage it causes comes later.  And they can always blame that on Republicans.  Who refuse to raise tax rates on rich people to make them pay their fair share.

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Raising the Debt Ceiling may be Worse than Default

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 30th, 2011

Despite U.S. Debt Crisis, U.S. still the World’s Safe Asset of Choice

As Congress debates over the debt ceiling…blah blah blah…Armageddon.  Funny thing is, the U.S. debt problem is not that bad.  When compared to the debt problem in Europe (see Err, over here by Schumpeter posted 7/29/2011 on The Economist).

AS THE August 2nd deadline for a resolution of America’s debt-ceiling row approaches, other news is being drowned out. America’s debt debacle provokes rubber-necking fascination but the euro crisis is still the bigger threat to financial stability.

The chances (admittedly diminishing with time) are that America will get its house in order and avoid default; and that a ratings downgrade will happen but not threaten the pre-eminence of Treasuries as the world’s safe asset of choice. In contrast, the euro area’s crisis is already in full swing and policymakers, as this week’s issue of The Economist makes plain, have not found a way to stop it.

Things are worse in the European Union.  Especially the Eurozone.  And though Armageddon is at hand in the U.S., we’re still the “world’s safe asset of choice.”  So the end of the world as we know it may not be at hand.  But the out of control government spending and debt is fast approaching European levels.  So if we don’t cut our spending and reduce our deficits, we will follow lockstep behind Europe into fiscal ruin.  And then, of course, Armageddon.  

Partisan Democrats decry Republican Partisanship

So this Republican partisanship needs to end.  They need to be bipartisan.  Like the Democrats.  That is, when they’re not being partisan themselves (see For Reid, Durbin, and Obama, a (very) partisan record on debt ceiling by Byron York posted 7/30/2011 on The Washington Examiner).

A look at Reid’s record, however, shows that in the last decade his own voting on the issue of the debt ceiling is not only partisan but perfectly partisan. According to “The Debt Limit: History and Recent Increases,” a January 2010 report by the Congressional Research Service, the Senate has passed ten increases to the debt limit since 2000.  Reid never voted to increase the debt ceiling when Republicans were in control of the Senate, and he always voted to increase the debt ceiling when Democrats were in control…

At look at Durbin’s record shows that he, too, has voted along absolutely partisan lines.  In the last decade, Durbin never voted to increase the debt ceiling when Republicans were in control and always voted to increase the debt ceiling when Democrats were in control.  As for Obama, there were four votes to raise the debt ceiling when he was in the Senate.  He missed two of them, voted no once when Republicans were in charge, and voted yes once when Democrats were in charge.

So the Democrats have a history of being just as partisan as the Republicans.  Even now, as they decry the Republican’s partisanship, they refuse to compromise at all on what they’ve always wanted.  More taxes.  And more borrowing.  So they can spend a lot more.

Democrats open to Compromise, as long as it’s the Republicans doing the Compromising

And they’ve drawn a line in the sand.  No meaningful cuts without new taxes (see Senate Kills Debt Bill, Bipartisan Talks on Hold by Steven T. Dennis posted 7/29/2011 on Roll Call).

“We’ve got a closet full of triggers,” he said. But, he added, “I came to the conclusion that we are negotiating with ourselves. The Republicans will not agree to any triggers that have any revenues in it.”

And Reid noted that Democrats have drawn a line in the sand against any cuts to entitlement programs without revenue.

The Republicans refuse to raise taxes because America is still wallowing in the Great Recession.  Democrats refuse to drop their request to raise taxes.  And flat out refuse to cut entitlements.  Like Social Security.  Medicare.  And the new Obamacare.  Because, though fiscally responsible, it’s not politically expedient.  Which is going to become a BIG problem soon.

Repeal Obamacare and all our Current Troubles go Away

Health care spending will take the U.S. to European levels of spending and debt (see CMS Projections Confirm Runaway Health Care Spending by Kathryn Nix posted 7/29/2011 on The Foundry).

As the economy recovers and the major provisions of Obamacare kick in, national health spending is projected to grow at quite a clip—increasing, on average, 5.8 percent each year. By 2020, the nation will spend $4.54 trillion on health care, or close to 20 percent of GDP. (For the sake of comparison: In 2010, federal tax revenue totaled 14.9 percent of GDP, and all federal spending combined amounted to 23.8 percent of GDP.)

Of course, every cloud has a silver lining.  An S&P report calls for real spending cuts of $4 trillion or more over 10 years to avoid the credit downgrade.  And look at this.  Obamacare will cost $4.54 trillion over some 10 years.  Imagine that.  Save the AAA bond rating.  Leave Social Security and Medicare intact.  And all you have to do is cut one program that no one is receiving any benefits from yet.  Repeal Obamacare.  And all our current troubles go away.

Or you can Devalue the Currency

Of course, that’s one way of solving the current crisis.  There appears to be another.  One that is a bit more destructive (see Answers to the 7 big “what-ifs” of debt default by Lauren Young posted 7/30/2011 on Reuters).

Traders say Asian central banks, among the world’s biggest dollar holders, have been steady buyers of alternatives to the dollar such as the Singapore dollar and other Asian currencies as well as the Canadian, Australian and New Zealand dollars. “Foreigners are at the vanguard of the drop in the dollar,” says Dan Dorrow, head of research at Faros Trading, a currency broker/dealer in Stamford, Connecticut. “I don’t think anyone expects a catastrophic U.S. default. But a downgrade will make them more aggressive in moving away from the dollar…”

The bottom line? It will be more expensive to travel overseas, drink French wine or buy Japanese cars.

A little trade war anyone?  A weak currency is like a tariff.  It makes imports so expensive that we stop buying them.  And buy American instead.  Thus increasing U.S. GDP.  And there is a corollary to this.  Can you guess what that is?  Here’s a hint.  It does something to our exports.  And our vacation market.

Fixing our Economy by Destroying other Economies

A weak currency not only makes your imports more expensive, it also makes your exports less expensive.  Which helps your export market.  And encourages people to vacation in your country because those stronger, foreign currencies can buy so much more (see U.S. Economy: Growth Trails Forecasts as Consumers Retrench by Shobhana Chandra posted 7/29/2011 on Bloomberg).

The improvement in the difference between imports and exports added another 0.6 point [of U.S. GDP].

Overseas sales will remain a backstop for factories. Dow Chemical Co. (DOW), the largest U.S. chemical maker, said demand is “strong” in markets abroad.

“We captured strong growth in Latin America, and the emerging geographies more broadly, while North America experienced moderate growth,” Andrew Liveris, chief executive officer, said on a July 27 conference call with analysts.

So perhaps this is the grand plan.  Increase spending to unsustainable levels.  Incur record debt.  This spending and debt triggers a downgrade of U.S. sovereign debt.  Which devalues the U.S. dollar.  Which places a de facto tariff on imports.  And provides a subsidy for our exports.  And it makes the U.S. a vacation destination.  Until our trading partners retaliate for fixing our economy by destroying their economies.  Like everyone is saying the Chinese are doing by keeping their own currency weak.

Repealing Obamacare would Please the Credit Rating Agencies

So the only bright spot in the U.S. economy is other economies.  Where they’re experiencing growth.  And can easily afford U.S. goods.  Which is about the only market buying them these days.  But for the world’s largest economy (for now) to rely solely on exports can be a bit risky.  Especially if it triggers a trade war.  Which, incidentally, helped trigger the Great Depression.

No, it would probably be more prudent to keep that AAA rating by cutting spending.  Before we spend ourselves to European ruin.  That’s the key to everything.  In particular cutting the fastest growing government expenditure.  Health care.  Which makes repealing Obamacare made to order.  No one is benefitting from it yet.  So no one will even notice this cut.  Other than the credit rating agencies.  Who will stand up and applaud this action. 

For just raising the debt ceiling doesn’t solve the real problem.  In fact, raising the debt ceiling without the $4 trillion in spending cuts will just push us closer to European ruin.

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The Costs of European Socialism Bankrupting the EU?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 6th, 2010

European Socialism – Voting yourself the Treasury

The Left loves European Socialism.  They want it here.  They’ve been trying to get here.  All the while the Europeans are trying to move away from it there.

Socialism doesn’t work.  Once people learn they can vote themselves the treasury, they do.  It’s been the death knell of all democracies.  As those state benefits get bigger, they entice more people.  They say, “Work?  But why?”  Because many can live comfortably without working, many do.  And they sign up for those generous state benefits.

The problem is that there is no ‘secret stash’ of government money.  Everything they spend they take from us.  Those who work.  So taxes go up.  Working people get less.  And the government-dependent grows and becomes an important voting demographic.  And they vote.  They vote themselves the treasury.  And why not?  It’s not their money.  Not yet, at least.

The EU, the Euro and the ECB cannot Fix the Fundamental Flaw of Socialism

Eventually, the number of working people decrease.  And the number of those not working increase.  More and more people receive benefits.  And fewer and fewer people pay taxes to fund those benefits.  So they keep raising the taxes on those who work.  To pay those who don’t.  But they can only raise them so far.  Because people simply won’t work for free so their neighbor can live a better life.

And how is that European Socialism working?  Much like the people collecting those generous benefits.  It ain’t working either.  To compete against the economic power of the United States, they’re trying to become like the United States.  They created the European Union (EU).  A European Central Bank (ECB).  And a common currency (the Euro).  Because they thought bigger was better.  Because the United States is a big economic zone.

But the Europeans have a problem.  They’re still social democracies.  And the trends continued after the union and the Euro.  More people collecting benefits.  Fewer people paying taxes.  Some of these countries are going through debt crisis.  And as these countries implode in their financial crises, the affects are felt throughout the European Union (see Euro’s Worst to Come as Trichet Fails to Calm Crisis, Top Forecasters Say by Anchalee Worrachate posted 12/5/2010 on Bloomberg). 

The 16-nation currency’s [the Euro] first weekly gain against the dollar since Nov. 5 may prove short-lived amid mounting concern that more nations will need rescues. European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet delayed the end of emergency stimulus measures last week and stepped up government-debt purchases as “acute” market tensions drove yields on Spanish and Italian bonds to the highest levels relative to German bunds since the euro started in 1999.

“We’re going to get a continuation of the problems that Ireland, Portugal, Spain and others are suffering,” said Callum Henderson, Standard Chartered’s global head of foreign-exchange research in Singapore. “The fundamental issue is these are countries that have relatively large debts, large budget deficits, large current-account deficits, they don’t have their own currency and they can’t cut interest rates. The only way they can get out of this is to have significant recessions.”

Once upon a time Europe was ablaze in war. The growth of nationalism brought nations into conflict with each other over land, food and resources.  They redrew their borders in blood.  Nations did not give up their national sovereignty without a fight.  Which makes the European Union that much remarkable.  What they fought to the death to prevent they now give up voluntarily.  Of course, when your nation is on the brink of bankruptcy, what have you got to lose?  Having someone else bail you out of your financial mess?

Can the Euro and the ECB Survive European Socialism?

A weak currency helps a nation to export goods.  The more they export the more economic activity they have.  And the more jobs.  And the more people to tax.  So a weak currency can be a good thing.

But a weak currency also carries some baggage.  If a nation is ‘printing money’ to pay for excessive state benefits, that will not only make the currency weak, it will also increase prices; it’ll take more of those weak dollars (or Euros, or Pounds, or Yen, etc.) to buy things.  Even government benefits.  This is counterproductive.  People have less purchasing power.  And the government has to tax, borrow or print more because they, too, have less purchasing power.

The United States debased its currency.  Which helped the Euro gain some strength.

Just a month ago the euro reached $1.4282, the strongest level since January, as traders sold the dollar on speculation the Federal Reserve would debase the greenback by printing more cash to purchase $600 billion of Treasuries in so-called quantitative easing.

But the Euro wasn’t getting stronger.  The dollar was just getting weaker.  Both currencies are losing value.  And with more member nations in the EU getting weaker, the stronger ones may bail to save themselves.

Taylor [chairman of FX Concepts LLC, the world’s biggest currency hedge fund] predicted some nations may leave the common currency. Stronger members “have to say ‘enough, you guys, get out of the euro,’” he said. “The risk that Spain and Italy will get into trouble is going to cause the euro to get quite weak.”

Spain and Italy follows Ireland.  Which followed France.  Which followed Greece.  Nations are struggling under the weight of their debts.  Is there a limit to how much the ECB can help?

The ECB will keep offering banks as much cash as they want through the first quarter over periods of as long as three months at a fixed interest rate, Trichet said. That marks a shift from last month, when he said that the ECB could start limiting access to its funds.

Time will tell.  The trends are going the wrong way, though.  And there are more countries that can fail.  And they don’t have their own currencies.  So they need the ECB.  And the ECB needs to save them.  To save European Socialism.  Much like the Soviet Union tried to save Soviet communism.  Which, of course, they didn’t.

The problem with the Soviet Union was Soviet communism.  And the problem with the EC is European Socialism.  Great big governmental bureaucracies fail.  Always have.  And always will.

The Europeans know what they need to do, though.  And they are doing it.  Cutting their spending.  Despite the rioting and the burning of some of their cities.  Even with all of that, they are NOT increasing their spending.  Or trying to reduce their deficits by increasing taxes.

As the euro region’s most-indebted nations cut spending to bring their deficits under control, a weaker euro will be needed to cushion their economies, said Ian Stannard, a senior currency strategist in London at BNP Paribas SA, the fifth most accurate forecaster.

Of course, they want a weaker Euro for their exports.  So the EU can sell their export products cheaper than the domestic products of the import countries.  Which those import countries will not welcome with open arms.  Because they’re trying to grow their economies, too.  But that’s a whole other story (if you’re interested you can read about how international trade wars brought about the Great Depression).

It’s European

Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, we’re having our own financial problems.  Large debts, large budget deficits, large current-account deficits.  Just like the Europeans.  Only difference is that the Obama administration is trying increase taxes and spending to fix our problems.  The Left calls this economic stimulus.  Rational people just call it stupid.

The political Left likes all things European.  In fact, they want to be European.  So I say let’s be European.  Let’s cut our spending like the Europeans.  I mean, if the Europeans don’t want to be like us (tax and spend), perhaps we should be like them (cut spending).  After all, if it’s European, even the Left should find it the fashionable thing to do.

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