3.14.2009

Central Banks Maintain Holdings of US Treasury Securities, but For How Long?

Yesterday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao aired his country’s growing concerns about continuing to lend money to the US. Within the context of the US economic stimulus plan and other related US spending initiatives, Mr. Wen is understandably anxious about China’s vast holdings of US Treasury securities:
"President Obama and his new government have adopted a series of measures to deal with the financial crisis. We have expectations as to the effects of these measures. We have lent a huge amount of money to the U.S. Of course we are concerned about the safety of our assets. To be honest, I am definitely a little worried."

While the announcement represented political posturing (to an increasingly restless, domestic Chinese audience), it should nonetheless be heeded as a warning, that the US cannot expect China (and other foreign Central Banks) to fund US budget deficits indefinitely.

Let’s put aside the rhetoric for a moment, and examine the data. This week witnessed strong demand for Treasury securities, which were auctioned by the Treasury Department on consecutive days. Despite historically low yields (see chart), investors continue to snap up Treasury Bonds, mainly for the sake of risk aversion. The newly-revived issuance of 30-year bonds also went off without a hitch, and were more than 2x oversubscribed. Most relevant to this discussion is the fact the foreign Central Banks accounted for as much as 46% of demand!



The most recent Federal Reserve Statistical Release paints a similar picture. While foreign Central Banks and other international institutions reduced their holdings of US government securities slightly from the previous week, the decrease was essentially negligible. Overall, such entities have increased their holdings by at least $440 Billion over the previous year, bringing the total to approximately $3 Trillion (depending on the data source). China’s contribution remains substantial. Of its $2 Trillion in foreign exchange reserves, “Economists say half of that money has been invested in United States Treasury notes and other government-backed debt.”



However, there are a few reasons why I don’t think this trend will continue. First of all, the buildup in foreign Treasury holdings that transpired over the last decade was largely a product of unsustainable global economic imbalances, as net exporters to the US invested their perennial trade surpluses in what they perceived to be the world’s most secure investment. Temporarily putting aside whether Treasuries are actually secure, economic indicators suggest that Central Banks simply do not have the capacity to increase their holdings by much more. China’s trade surplus plummeted to $4.8 Billion last month; one economist projects a surplus of only $155 Billion in 2009, compared to nearly $300 Billion in 2008.



You can also remove from the list Japan- the second-largest holder of US Treasury securities- which is now running a trade deficit. Instead, both countries have publicly announced plans to use some of their forex reserves to fund domestic economic initiatives.

Then there is the equally unsustainable short-term buildup in US Treasuries, which is largely a product of technical factors. As I mentioned above- and which should be clear to all investors- the current theme underlying securities markets is one of risk aversion. In fact, it now appears that a bubble is forming in the bond market, and “any exodus now could spark selling across the board. Foreign debt holders would likely repatriate their funds immediately to reduce the risk of being last to convert.” As soon as markets recover- of which there are already nascent indications- investors will probably reduce their holdings of government bonds, or at least not increase their holdings.

Even the most conservative projections indicate a cumulative budget deficit for the next few years measuring in the the Trillions. Unless the risk-aversion theme obtains for the next decade, it seems unlikely that foreigners can be tapped to fund more than a small portion, leaving the Federal Reserve (with the help of its printing press) to make up the shortfall.
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What is Forex?

If you would go out on a dinner with your friends or family and you mentioned that you were trading on the Forex market most of them wouldn’t know what you were talking about. The worst thing is that most of the Forex traders that join the Forex market don’t know what they are doing. Understanding what Forex is, is the first good step to your success at Forex trading.


The foreign exchange market (Currency, Forex, or FX) is where currency trading takes place. It is where banks and other official institutions facilitate the buying and selling of foreign currencies. Forex transactions typically involve one party purchasing a quantity of one currency in exchange for paying a quantity of another. The foreign exchange market that we see today started evolving during the 1970s when world over countries gradually switched to floating exchange rate from their erstwhile exchange rate regime, which remained fixed as per the Bretton Woods system till 1971.

Today, the Forex market is one of the largest and most liquid financial markets in the world, and includes trading between large banks, central banks, currency speculators, corporations, governments, and other institutions. The average daily volume in the global foreign exchange and related markets is continuously growing. Traditional daily turnover was reported to be over US$3.2 trillion in April 2007 by the Bank for International Settlements. Since then, the market has continued to grow. According to Euromoney's annual Forex Poll, volumes grew a further 41% between 2007 and 2008.

Forex Turnover

Forex Turnover
Main foreign exchange market turnover, 1988 - 2007, measured in billions of USD.
The purpose of Forex market is to facilitate trade and investment. The need for a foreign exchange market arises because of the presence of multifarious international currencies such as US Dollar, Pound Sterling, Yen, etc., and the need for trading in such currencies. Since you aren’t buying anything physical this kind of trading can be confusing. When buying a currency think of it as buying a part in that particular country’s economy because the currency rate reflects the economical situation of the country when compared to others.

Currencies

Currencies
List of most popular currencies on the Forex market

Forex used to be a closed market because only the “big boys” because you needed between 10 and 50 million $ to open an account. But today, with the development of internet, online Forex brokers have the possibility to offer their services to “little” traders. All you need to start is a computer, fast internet connection and information which you can find on this page also.

This enormous market is like the dangerous sea where you can meet lots of sharks and dangerous waters but at the same time it is the only one where two weeks of trading can hypothetically bring you $1,000,000 out of $1,000 of initial investment.

This is certainly hypothetically because a lot of newbie traders deal with their trades as gambling, that surely bring them to having nothing in the end. You should always keep the phrase "be careful!" in your mind. This market would give you its profit possibilities only if you learn the basic things hard and make lots of demo trading.

The statistics is that as much as 95% of traders come to losing their money at Forex, 5% have profit and less than 1% of traders make large fortune at Forex. You shouldn't produce, sell or advertise anything trading at Forex. Your assets are your knowledge, experience and a small amount of cash.

This market is a platform for banks, transnational corporations and individual traders to change the currencies they possess into other ones. This is the spot Forex market. At this market you can trade with up to 1:400 leverage which means that you'll get $400 on your account for each dollar invested. So, you can trade with the $400,000 sum having invested $1,000 onto your account.

Forex is unique among other world markets because in any time of day and night, somewhere in the world, a financial centre is open for business, banks and corporations exchange currency all the time, with a little lower frequency during the weekend.

Why to trade on Forex?

1. There is no commission fee for trading at Forex.
2. There is no intermediary, you can trade directly at Forex.
3. Forex is open 24-hours a day.
4. Nobody can influence the market for a longer period.
5. High liquidity.
6. Free demo accounts, analysis and charts.
7. Small accounts that allow everyone to try out his luck.

Hope this has answered a lot of questions you were asking yourself about Forex and that you can now start trading. Also make sure that you check out other articles on this blog which can help you earn your fortune.

Good luck to everyone!