The euro countries are sitting like clay pigeons while the Great Currency War unfolds. This is a war to position each country’s currency value as low as possible against each other for competitive advantage.
China currently seems to be winning the battles by taking advantage of the many options available in fiat currencies. One significant advantage is exploiting their self positioned peg against other currencies.
Options for the USA are more limited as the dollar IS the international trade currency. The dollar sets the international bar so it cannot battle a single currency like the Chinese (RMB). Whatever monetary policy is for the dollar – it effects the world equally. If the dollar offers money cheaply – the world gets money cheaply.
The beauty of a fiat currency is that there are few rules for a currency as powerful as the dollar. As an example- if the debt is monetized (simply issue dollars to the holders of the debt), the whole world would pay for America’s overspending. Would the dollar revalue? – this is a Great Currency War and all currencies are fiat – we can only speculate.
The euro was born in 1999. Many countries in Europe share the euro as a common currency – even though each have significantly different government fiscal approaches. It requires consensus to adjust to what is happening internally within the euro countries, or globally. There is no consensus, so the currency is just floating around the internal and global economic currents.
For a short period this was the largest currency in the world (as denominated in dollars). Now many pundits speculate the end of the euro is near.
The euro by design is a “good times” currency – it requires members to budget with the ability for deficit spending limited. This limitation severely restricts monetary flexibility in bad times. This limitation was put in place to protect the position of the largest or strongest member – Germany.
Most believe the primary purpose of a currency is a storehouse of value. I believe the primary purpose for a currency is an economic tool. If you want to store value – buy an asset, buy gold or other commodities.
The primary purpose of a currency is for trade of physical things or services. Currency or money is worthless until it is used. [I am ignoring borrowing and lending to allow this article to get to a conclusion.]
The primary value of a currency lies in its economic value – and a much lesser degree in its ability to store value. Having said that, a currency which revalues quickly has lost its economic value – there is a loose relationship between a currency’s economic value and its storage of value.
Each euro country is effectively using the rules of a backed currency for a fiat currency. They cannot re-peg (devalue) their currency. The individual countries cannot expand their money supply. In essence, the euro countries have given up economic control of their country for a stable currency.
Still, the euro is a fiat currency – and fiat options exist IF the main currency backer Germany agrees. To date, Germany is resistant to modern monetary theory.
This is not a wise move in a world of fiat currencies where some major fiat currencies are exploiting options available.
The time for the weaker members – specifically the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain) to get out of the euro was in 2007. Today with deteriorating economies and rising debt – any currency the PIIGS would issue would be worthless. The basic concept of a fiat currency is that the user in the currency must have faith in the paper.
So the PIIGS have only have two options: 1) do nothing while praying to some deity for help; or 2) default on their debt. I see no viable door #3.
The euro itself is functioning as a backed currency in a fiat world. The currency is operating primarily as a storehouse of value – and doing little to benefit the economies. The euro is the odd man in a fiat world.
The Europeans have set up a Maginot Line in the Great Currency Wars. As a result, the euro is inflexible in meeting the changing strategies of the fiat world.
Fixed fortifications did not work in World War II – and are likely to meet the same fate in the Great Currency Wars. Instead of the weaker members plights improving to those of the stronger members, the results may be the erosion of the stronger members.
It is interesting to speculate it might be the stronger members who leave the euro to optimize their economies.
So the Great Economic War continues with outcomes uncertain.
Economic News this Week:
Econintersect economic forecast for December 2010 estimated level or slightly negative economic growth. This week the Weekly Leading Index (WLI) from ECRI improved from a revised -1.4% to -0.1% implying the business conditions six months from now will be roughly the same as today.
Initial unemployment claims this week continued to decline, and are below levels where jobs growth is possible.
No data released this week was inconsistent with Econintersect’s November forecast of slow growth. The table below itemizes the major events and analysis this week (click here for interactive table).
Bankruptcy Filed this Week: RHI Entertainment, InSight Health Services Holdings, Molecular Insight Pharmaceuticals, The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.