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Why The Strengthening Dollar Is A Sign Of The Next Global Crisis

It causes the weaker parts of the system to fail faster
Wednesday, November 12, 2014, 11:21 AM
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Executive Summary

  • Understanding the two different ways money flows into the US dollar
  • How currency crises elsewhere can send the dollar skyrocketing
  • Why yen, yuan and euro printing are not the same as dollar printing
  • How these accelerating money flows are creating the next global crisis

If you have not yet read The Consequences of a Strengthening US Dollar available free to all readers, please click here to read it first.

In Part 1, we surveyed the key dynamic that is playing out across the globe: the problems revealed by the Global Financial Meltdown of 2008-2009 were not addressed; they were in effect shifted into the foreign exchange (FX) market. Now the risk bubble is in the FX market.

The complexity of the feedbacks into the FX market is nothing short of mind-boggling, and rather than attempt a comprehensive survey, I’m highlighting the dynamics that hold the greatest risks of triggering instability, not just in finance but in geopolitics, trade and commodities.

Two Kinds of Dollar Flows

Let’s start by differentiating between the two kinds of money flows into the dollar:

  1. Money converted from periphery currencies into dollars to pay back loans denominated in dollars
     
  2. Money flowing out of periphery economies and into dollar-denominated assets such as stocks, bonds, real estate and dollar-denominated bank accounts.

Broadly speaking, both of these capital flows are “risk-off,” but they have different effects.

In the first case, money borrowed on the cheap in dollars and invested in high-yield periphery bonds earned a tidy profit as the dollar weakened. The trader picked up a double profit: the arbitrage on the interest rates (borrow at .25% and earn 4+%) and the FX profit from the rise of the periphery currency and the decline of the dollar.

This currency-arbitrage profit reverses when the dollar starts rising, and it quickly wipes out the entire interest-rate profit as it leaps higher.

The carry trade is “risk-on” because money is being borrowed to speculate in interest-rate arbitrage. Deleveraging this trade is “risk-off” because the only way to stem the potential losses as the dollar strengthens is to...

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