18 December 2008

Dollar No Longer Haven After Fed Moves Rate Near Zero

Dec. 17 (Bloomberg) -- The world’s biggest currency-trading firms say the dollar’s appeal as a haven amid the financial crisis all but evaporated.

The U.S. currency slid to a 13-year low against the yen today and had its biggest one-day decline versus the euro after the Federal Reserve reduced its target interest rate yesterday to a range of zero to 0.25 percent, the lowest among the world’s biggest economies. CMC Markets said today the currency’s prospects appear “ominous.” State Street Global markets said the dollar’s outlook has been “undermined.”

“The dollar has been under heavy downward pressure,” said Robert Minikin, a senior currency strategist in London at Standard Chartered Bank Plc. “This move is very well-justified and has a long way to run.” Standard Chartered is preparing to cut its dollar forecasts, Minikin said.

Yesterday’s rate cut brings the Fed’s target to below the Bank of Japan’s for the first time since January 1993. U.S. policy makers repeated plans to buy agency debt and mortgage- backed securities and said they will study buying Treasuries, a policy known as quantitative easing.

The dollar fell to 87.14 yen, the lowest since July 1995, before trading at 87.84 yen as of 11:46 a.m. in New York, from 89.05 yesterday. It depreciated to $1.4331 from $1.4002 and traded at $1.4437, the weakest since Sept. 30.

‘Ominous’ Outlook

The dollar is likely to decline “longer term,” analysts including New York-based Ashraf Laidi at CMC Markets wrote in a report. “Prospects ahead appear particularly ominous for the world’s reserve currency once global economic stability starts to build up.”

The Fed’s debt purchases will cause the dollar to weaken to $1.4860 per euro, analysts led by Robert Sinche, New York-based head of global currency strategy at Bank of America Corp., wrote in a report yesterday. The Fed reduced the scarcity of dollars and investors slowed the deleveraging process, which drove the currency to a 2 1/2-year high against the euro in October, Sinche said.

“Those temporary supports for the dollar appear to have eroded,” Sinche wrote. “Aggressive quantitative easing by the Fed should add to U.S. dollar supply globally and undermine the value of the dollar.”

State Street Global Markets, a unit of the world’s largest money manager for institutions, said the Fed’s move is “perilous” for the dollar as investors accumulated an “extreme” long position on the currency, or bets it will climb.

Record Low Yields

“This implies a significant potential for a dollar unwind if the real money community attempts to chase price,” Hong Kong-based strategist Dwyfor Evans wrote today in a report. The shift toward quantitative easing “has undermined the U.S. dollar significantly over recent weeks.”

The dollar declined 11 percent against the euro and 8 percent against the yen this month as yields on two-, five-, 10- and 30-year Treasuries fell to record lows, encouraging investors to look outside the U.S. for higher returns.

“The dollar is going to struggle while it has low yields,” said Roddy MacPherson, the Edinburgh-based head of currency strategy at Scottish Widows Investment Partnership Ltd., which manages the equivalent of $152 billion. “We’re looking to add to our short dollar position if U.S. yields continue downward.”

UBS Stays Bullish

MacPherson said he moved toward a short dollar position, or a bet it will depreciate, against the euro in the past four days. The currency may end next year at $1.40 per euro, he said.

For UBS AG, the world’s second-largest foreign-exchange trader, demand for cash amid the freeze in bank lending will support the currency. The Libor-OIS spread, a gauge of cash scarcity favored by former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, was at 140 basis points today, or about 14 times its average in the five years before the credit crisis began.

“There is still a premium on liquidity, which will be supportive to the dollar even in the current environment,” said Geoff Kendrick, a senior strategist in London at UBS.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said investors can profit from the dollar’s decline by selling the currency for its Canadian counterpart.

The U.S. currency’s drop is becoming “broader-based,” Jens Nordvig, a New York-based strategist for the U.S. securities firm, wrote today. “Temporary dollar demand from deleveraging and funding flows has come to an end. The prospect of aggressive quantitative easing is starting to have a significant negative impact on the dollar.”


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