In previous articles for Seeking Alpha, I've compared the crisis with the Argentinian peso in 2001/2002 with the current situation surrounding the US dollar, and postulated that the US would follow down the Argentinian path.
The current situation in Iceland also fits the bill of a currency crisis (also referred to as an inflationary depression). To illustrate this point, let's compare the factors leading up to the crisis in the Icelandic krona with the conditions of the US macroeconomy:
- Like the US, Iceland de-regulated much of its banking sector in the '90s.
- Like the US, Iceland then proceeded to target low interest rates. This resulted in a large amount of borrowing and spending, which resulted in a credit-based boom.
- In both countries, de-regulation allowed for greater securitization -- meaning the loans that enabled this credit-based boom were re-packaged and sold to debt buyers all over the world. This resulted in a scenario where much of Iceland's wealth was owned by foreigners.
- Like the US, Iceland also experienced the contraction forecasted by the Austrian business cycle theory, which we recently discussed.
- In both countries, this resulted in a deflationary spiral: significant declines in equities markets, bank failures, and contracting GDP.
To learn more about the factors leading up to the Icelandic currency crisis, I recommend this article from CNN.
Now in Iceland, like in Argentina, the true breaking point came when its central bank became insolvent. The result was a complete lack of confidence in Iceland's ability to repay; essentially, Iceland had defaulted. The result has been a run on the Icelandic krona, which has lost half its value in just a few months time.
Or should I say, there has been a partial run on the Icelandic krona -- for the government has put currency controls in place, after raising interest rates. Citizens of Iceland will find it difficult to legally exchange their krona for a foreign currency unless they are travelling.
Proposed solutions include integrating Iceland into the Eurozone, which would help stabilize Iceland, continue international trade, and help ensure that lenders are repaid, argue its proponents.
Icelanders have united in protest against the government, in much the same way Argentinians did after their currency crisis. Thus far in the United States, criticism and dissatisfaction with the government handling of this crisis have risen significantly, though street protests remain at relatively low levels.
The collapse of the Icelandic krona is the biggest event, as it devalues all assets denominated in the krona. A key difference between the US dollar and all other currencies, though, is that the US dollar is the world reserve currency. It will be interesting to see if Iceland enters the Eurozone as a solution to this crisis; if so, it paves the way for the creation of a world currency to be proposed as the solution to a crisis in the US dollar.
Disclosure: I am short the US dollar.