Dollar Bad, Euro Worse

I am very confident in the fall of the euro, despite the obvious and fatal problems with the dollar. Remember that currencies, because they are fiat by nature, are political things. While it is the fundamentals that drive them, one of the overarching problems in our market is the absence of reliable fundamental data. It is hard to deny the fact that governments manipulate what is released.

But some things are for sure and provide “reasonable markers” to see what a currency is doing. One of my “favorites,” although I hate to call it that, is the “civil unrest factor.”

Across the Eurozone riots and outbreaks of violence have been touched off by escalating economic problems and disagreements between members and neighbors. People involved in civil unrest are a multifold problem. First, they have too much time on their hands because they are not working. Jobless citizens, especially in a heavily socialist culture, are a continual drag on the system. Second, it costs money to keep repressing social upheaval — presenting another drag on the system. Additionally, the passions and fears of men being what they are, such activities tend to draw in more normally productive folks as the snowball gains speed and volume.

Here in the United States, we are not facing such difficulties (yet). This means a more reasonable system of work and distribution of goods and labor. All in all, this is good for a culture, the body politic and the economy. As a result, it also breeds greater confidence in the currency. And when all is said and done, investment money will go where there is a reasonable likelihood of return, even if the return may be lower.

Specifically, there are several exotic currencies that have offered high rates of return for speculative investors and traders, like the Brazilian real and the Indian rupee, just to name two. But it is difficult to place large sums of money there simply for the sake of the wild swings in value. A high interest rate is no good if the principle of the investment is destroyed by currency depreciation.

This is what has been good up to this point in the recession/depression for the U.S. dollar. And if this continues to unfold over the next year or two in similar fashion, this would still produce U.S. dollar strength compared to the euro simply by the “fear factor.”

Additionally, as I have tried to show, the situation in Europe is actually more severe than in the United States. I believe in the end that will make them copy, at least percentage wise, the same devaluing practices that have happened here. Should that occur, it would once again be advantage-USD.

If, in addition to those previous considerations, one or more of the countries leaves the Eurozone, I think the fear and disturbance that would produce again favors the U.S. dollar.

Longer term, I have to wonder if the euro has what it takes to survive this crisis. I have no doubt that the United States will emerge out the other side with all 50 states still members of the Union. I don’t know that such can be said for the European Union.

At the end of the Mel Gibson movie, The Patriot, there is a shot of Lord Cornwallis overlooking the field of battle as the colonists finish the rout of the British at Yorktown. He says, “How could it have come to this? Everything will change. Everything HAS changed.”

When I look at the dollar, I feel the same way. What we have done may be past the point of no return, the point of repair or recovery. The next generation may well find that the U.S. dollar has gone the way of all fiat currencies before her. What will replace it? I can’t say. But in the present environment, more shocks to the system will ultimately favor the dollar… at least for the time being, because it is supported by stability. And in unstable times — stability draws the highest premium.

Now let’s end with a look at my favorite currency, the Australian dollar.

Aussie Firm Despite Chinese Unrest

The Aussie dollar chart looks remarkably like the euro — going back to the beginning of June. All things considered, that’s rather remarkable given the relative strength of the Aussie economy compared to the Eurozone. Nevertheless, fundamentals will eventually rule the day, and though we may have to wait it out a bit, we look for the Aussie to rebound in the future.

One of the difficult parts of the equation at this point is the widely reported and detrimental riots in China’s western Urumqi (pronuonced U-rum-CHEE) province. Ethnic fighting between Muslims and Chinese citizens has threatened to overpower the police force.

As you know, Australia’s success going forward is inextricably tied to China. So worries about riots in one part of the country can certainly be detrimental in other parts as well. Even though the violence in other provinces may not be ethnically related, once a group of people feel they have been wronged and have the sheer numbers to overpower a military or police crackdown, all heck can break loose.

Remember, there is significant fear of unrest all over China as the depression sets in. The people were just getting their first dose of “la dolce vida,” only to have it stripped away. And gone are the days when they trusted their government to provide for them. Now it is beginning to look more like the enemy than a loving “big brother.”

For now, though, the Aussie dollar hasn’t been impacted by the fray. It has been well supported at the 78.25 level. A strong close below 78 on the daily chart would invalidate that forecast, and likely lead to more downside. We’ll just keep our eyes open.

Bill Jenkins

July 20, 2009

The Daily Reckoning