Rosenberg: The U.S. dollar could be next

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While Tim Geithner is out in the Middle East making the obligatory rounds, professing support for a strong U.S. dollar, investment strategists are wondering aloud whether a weak U.S. dollar is really what the U.S. government wants.  David Rosenberg put out the following note over at Gluskin, Sheff.

It is the second anniversary of the credit crunch and after all of the fiscal and monetary policy initiatives, the best we get are 組reen shoots’ and now that story is getting stale. Go back two years and you will see that the funds rate was 5.25%. Today it is zero. The fiscal deficit was 2.0% of GDP two years ago. Today it is 13%. Mortgage rates were 6.5%. Today they are 4.7%. Homeowner affordability with all the government measures is 70% stronger today than it was then too. The Fed’s balance sheet then was $850 billion. Today it is bloated at $2 trillion. The government has tried just about everything. Or has it? What if we were to tell you that the one policy tool that is unchanged since the summer of 2007 is… the U.S. dollar? It is exactly the same level now, on any trade-weighted measure, as it was back then. The greenback is struggling at the 50-day moving average, and this could well be the next policy shoe to drop.

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We have seen huge fiscal and monetary stimulus.  We have seen the Fed buy up toxic assets and bloat its balance sheet to unprecedented levels.  There have even been mammoth changes in the affordability of homes, largely due to lower mortgage rates (and declining values). In short, everything has been done in the last two years to spur growth in America – that is everything except devaluing the greenback.

With unemployment still rising and Congress’s biannual election season coming up in no time, it would be quite tempting to orchestrate a devaluation in order to get a short-term boost.

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As we said above, the U.S. government has practically exhausted all of its policy options … except for one; the U.S. dollar. It is the only policy tool that has not budged one iota since the crisis erupted two years ago. As we mull this over, we recall all too well this great book that a client referred us to a few years back and it was Robert Rubin’s autobiography – “In An Uncertain World”. What we learned (as did the client and whoever else has read it) was obvious — the United States will always do what is in its best interest. Full stop.

More from Rosenberg on this can be found here.

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