Besides cutting interest rate, central banks taking part in such a war can also implement negative interest rates and embark on even more quantitative easing. The former simply means that you will lose money by saving it in a bank account and the latter is the policy under which trillions of dollars were already printed.
The reason anyone in their right minds would want to start a currency war is to spur growth by punishing people and companies for saving money. The idea is that if people will know they are losing money over time they will just go shopping as soon as they can, and companies will choose to invest in adding new factories or hiring more workers instead of hoarding cash. Cynics might also say that it helps politicians fake economic growth by having the price of assets such as stocks and real estate skyrocket in comparison to the local currency while they claim there is no inflation in the market.
At the same time, having a weaker currency does make the country appear more competitive in the global market as its goods and services are cheaper in international terms. However, when other countries are messing with their exchange rate to support local industry by making it appear cheaper, like China most notably, many countries just call it unfair currency manipulation.
While it is not hard to see who will lose in such a situation, it is much more difficult to guess who will “win” in such a war. There are supporting factors for different viewpoints, but some of the smart money is betting on the American dollar to shed most value.
“If there is a winner in this ‘cold currency war,’ it’s going to be the U.S. in the sense that the dollar is more likely to weaken than strengthen from here,” Joachim Fels, global economic advisor at investment management giant Pimco, told CNBC on Monday. “Clearly, we are getting back into the situation where everybody would like to see a weaker currency. Nobody, no central bank, really wants a stronger currency and that’s why it’s a cold currency war,” he added.
It is far more costly for the Federal Reserve to cut deeper if the economy actually does, in the future, turn down! Very inexpensive, in fact productive, to move now. The Fed raised & tightened far too much & too fast. In other words, they missed it (Big!). Don’t miss it again!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2019
One major reason for the U.S. to be the likely winner in this fiscal race to the bottom is the strong public pressure President Trump is putting on the Federal Reserve to comply with thinking on the matter. This is in contrast with the established tradition of letting central bankers work independently from national government control, or at least to appear to be so.
“With almost no inflation, our Country is needlessly being forced to pay a MUCH higher interest rate than other countries only because of a very misguided Federal Reserve. In addition, Quantitative Tightening is continuing, making it harder for our Country to compete,” the president exclaimed in a recent series of tweets. “As good as we have done, it could have been soooo much better. Interest rate costs should have been much lower, & GDP & our Country’s wealth accumulation much higher. Such a waste of time & money.”
Ordinary people around the world have very little power to affect how any of this plays out. Central bankers are not elected by or even accountable to the general public. Political parties, even those that mainly focus on advancing specific economic policies and ideologies, rarely touch upon the matter of the strength of the local fiat in their campaigning. In that respect, President Trump is at least more transparent than most, as he shared his opinions about the strength of the dollar versus other other currencies long before taking office.
Therefore, the only course of action most people have to deal with a currency war is simply to diversity into assets that are less likely to suffer collateral damage. This may mean that we will experience a drive of new investors into cryptocurrency who see it as a hedge against their fiat losing value.
What do you think about the world’s most powerful nations getting ready for waging a currency war? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock.
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