What’s Behind the Big Moves in Currencies?

By Jan 21, 2009, 1:39 PM Author's Blog  

There has been a lot of volatility in the foreign exchange market this morning, driving currencies to historic levels:

  • GBP/USD – 26 Year Low
  • USD/JPY – 13 Year Low
  • NZD/USD – 6 Year Low
  • EUR/JPY – 6 Year Low
  • CAD/JPY – 13 Year Low
  • GBP/JPY – Record Low
  • NZD/JPY – 8 Year Low

The most significant moves have been in the British pound, which fell to a 26 year low against the US dollar and in USD/JPY, which fell to the lowest level in 13 years. Comments from former Fed Chairman Volcker triggered a wave of risk aversion that led to a technical break in the currency market. He said “we are in serious recession, with no end clearly in sight.” Although there is no question that the US economy is in trouble, by saying that there is no end in sight hurts more than it helps especially since it comes from the chairman of Obama’s newly formed Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Saying that he does not an end to the recession is not good advice. Treasury Secretary Nominee Geithner expects an Obama economic stimulus plan to be released in the next few weeks but unfortunately Volcker’s comments overshadowed the prospect of a stimulus plan. Yesterday’s sharp sell-off made investors nervous but Volcker’s comments pushed them over the edge.

We are continuing to see flight to safety into the US dollar and Japanese Yen. Investors are looking to hide in the lowest yieldind currencies.

We also had comments from ECB President Trichet and SNB President Hildebrand. Trichet defended the ECB’s monetary policy and said they haven’t decided if 2 percent is the lowest level for rates.

Intervention by Swiss National Bank?

The Swiss franc collapsed after SNB Hildebrand said that the central banks is considering selling francs to halt the currency’s gains. With interest rates already at 0.5 percent, they have no room to ease monetary policy. Therefore they may have to resort to fixed rate currency intervention.

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