Category Archives: World Economy

Commodity and Foreign Exchange Trading

Some notes and high points by Steve H. Hanke*

Hanke Commodity and Foreign Exchange Trading

About the Series | The Studies in Applied Economics series is under the general direction of Prof. Steve H. Hanke, Co-Director of The Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise.

Commodity and Foreign Exchange Trading. Some Notes and High Points

My Introduction to Commodity Markets | I grew up in Iowa, where I was introduced to commodity markets at a very early age – livestock and grain markets. Over 65 years ago, I learned how to sell eggs forward (hedging) on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange by assisting my grandfather. He had a large egg candling operation and supplied NYC with eggs. A few years later, at the age of 14 years, I opened my first trading account and started trading soybeans.

An Early and Long-Term Focus on Water Resources | I have had a long association with water resources engineering and management, including responsibility for the water resources portfolio at the White House during the Reagan years. The linked synopsis covers all that.

The Start of a Long-Term Focus on Mineral and Petroleum Economics | I had the good fortune to be a member of the faculty – my first faculty position – at the Colorado School of Mines (1966-1969), where I taught the first mineral economics and petroleum economics courses offered at Mines …

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Commodity and Foreign Exchange Trading

* Steve H. Hanke is a Professor of Applied Economics and Co-Director of the Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Troubled Currencies Project at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., a Senior Advisor at the Renmin University of China’s International Monetary Research Institute in Beijing, a Special Counselor to the Center for Financial Stability in New York, a contributing editor at Central Banking in London, and a contributor at Forbes. Prof. Hanke is also a member of the Charter Council of the Society of Economic Measurement and of Euromoney Country Risk’s Experts Panel.

In the past, Prof. Hanke taught economics at the Colorado School of Mines and at the University of California, Berkeley. He served as a Member of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers in Maryland in 1976-77, as a Senior Economist on President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers in 1981-82, and as a Senior Advisor to the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress in 1984-88. Prof. Hanke served as a State Counselor to both the Republic of Lithuania in 1994-96 and the Republic of Montenegro in 1999-2003. He was also an Advisor to the Presidents of Bulgaria in 1997-2002, Venezuela in 1995-96, and Indonesia in 1998. He played an important role in establishing new currency regimes in Argentina, Estonia, Bulgaria, Bosnia- Herzegovina, Ecuador, Lithuania, and Montenegro. Prof. Hanke has also held senior appointments in the governments of many other countries, including Albania, Kazakhstan, the United Arab Emirates, and Yugoslavia.

Prof. Hanke has been awarded honorary doctorate degrees by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, the Universität Liechtenstein, the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, the Free University of Tbilisi, Istanbul Kültür University, and Varna Free University in recognition of his scholarship on exchange-rate regimes. He is a Distinguished Associate of the International Atlantic Economic Society, a Distinguished Professor at the Universitas Pelita Harapan in Jakarta, Indonesia, a Professor Asociado (the highest honor awarded to international experts of acknowledged competence) at the Universidad del Azuay in Cuenca, Ecuador, a Profesor Visitante at the Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas (the UPC’s highest academic honor), In 1998, he was named one of the twenty-five most influential people in the world by World Trade Magazine.

Foundation in Liechtenstein | Prof. Hanke is a well-known currency and commodity trader. Currently, he is a member of the Supervisory Board of Advanced Metallurgical Group N.V. in Amsterdam, Chairman Emeritus of the Friedberg Mercantile Group, Inc. in Toronto, and is a member of the Board of Directors of Airtm in Mexico City. During the 1990s, he served as President of Toronto Trust Argentina in Buenos Aires, the world’s best-performing emerging market mutual fund in 1995.

Prof. Hanke’s most recent books are Zimbabwe: Hyperinflation to Growth (2008), A Blueprint for a Safe, Sound Georgian Lari (2010), Juntas Monetarias para Paises en Desarollo (2015), Currency Boards for Developing Countries: A Handbook (2015)

Steve Hanke Lecture on “Money, Banking and Markets”

Steve Hanke Lecture on Money, Banking and Markets | Almost exactly 10 years ago, amid the rapidly worsening ‘subprime mortgage crisis’, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., was forced to file for bankruptcy. Shortly thereafter, actually within hours AIG collapsed, triggered a run on most money-market funds, which accelerated a cash crunch and ultimately not only wrecked the economy by abolishing millions of jobs. It also caused catastrophic material, social and moral damage. Ever since, countless biased statements and false explanations dominate the political debates.

Prof. Steve H. Hanke will be talking at Liechtenstein University in Vaduz (Sep. 27) and at the LGT Global Investment Seminar in Zurich (Sep. 28). The ‘first Steve Hanke Lecture on Money, Banking and Markets’ thus was timely titled: “A Postmortem on the Policy Blunders that Caused and Extended the Great Recession”.

Steve H. Hanke (Johns Hopkins University and recently appointed as ‘G. v. Haberler Professor, ECAEF’) ranks among the world’s leading and most influential monetary economists. Backed by persuasive arguments, plain facts and a host of charts he not only proved that in sharp contrast to the official narrative, the US monetary policy since 2002 acted pro-cyclical. These policies triggered the notorious bubbles, let them pop up and lead to the “Great Recession” of 2008/2009.

Among other examples, Hanke also exposed H. Paulson’s role and clearly showed that in spite of his given authority to rescue Lehman Brothers and contrary to the distorted public account, Ben Bernanke (then chair of the FED) in a politically motivated panic reaction failed to act appropriately, and thus unleashed the most terrifying moment for the US economy since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

According to Prof. Hanke, we should be more careful of what we read, take for granted and use for investment planning, as 95% of all published financial and monetary reports on policy matters are either ‘false or irrelevant’. After all, there is nothing more practical than a good theory!

Initiated as a co-operation of the ‘European Center of Austrian Economics Foundation, ECAEF’ and the ‘Liechtenstein Academy, LAF’, the ‘Steve Hanke Lecture on Money, Banking and Markets’ is intended as an annual public lecture series at the Liechtenstein Academy (Schloss Freudenfels Campus) and at the University in Vaduz.

*Steve H. Hanke is an American applied economist at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. He is also a Senior Fellow and Director of the Troubled Currencies Project at the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington, DC, and Co-Director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise in Baltimore.

Could Digital Currencies Make Hayek’s Denationalization of Money Dream Come True?

by Dr. Emanuele Canegrati (Italy)
Fellow Liechtenstein Academy

Could Digital Currencies Make Hayek’s Denationalization of Money Dream Come True? And can a basket of cryptocurrencies be the new world monetary basis? Perhaps it is too early to answer these questions, as the cryptocurrencies and the blockchain revolution is only at its very beginning and digital moneys such as Bitcoin or Litecoin are still considered by many famous economists and investors only as a big financial bubble ready to burst. But, left aside all the speculation-related issues, that certainly surround the current digital currencies market, one may be brave and answer in a positive way. In his best-seller book “The Denationalization of Money” (1976) Friedrich Hayek expressed his thoughts about the role of currencies, by advocating the establishment of competitively issued private moneys, against the public money issued by central banks. Those central banks that still have the decisional monopoly power on money today.

could digital currencies make hayeks denationalization of money dream come true
Could digital currencies make Hayek’s denationalization of money dream come true?

In 1978 Hayek published also a revised and enlarged edition of the book entitled “Denationalization of Money: The Argument Refined”, where he proposed a monetary system where, rather than entertaining an unmanageable number of currencies, markets would converge on one or only a limited number of monetary standards. According to Hayek’s idea, private business should be given the opportunity to issue their own private currencies, which, thanks to the free market mechanisms, would compete for acceptance. The acceptance of a currency is given by its reaching the stability in value, as competition tends to favor currencies with the greatest stability, since currency devaluation hurts creditors, while a revaluation hurts debtors. Therefore, stability emerges as a “spontaneous order” of the market, rather than through a political decision made by central bankers, through the “monetary policies”, for whatever they mean. Hence, customer-citizens would choose the monies which they expected to offer a mutually acceptable intersection between depreciation and appreciation. Hayek maintained also that institutions may find through experimentation that a basket of commodities forms the ideal monetary base. Institutions would issue and regulate their currency primarily through loan-making, and secondarily through currency buying and selling activities. It is postulated that the financial press would report daily information on whether institutions are managing their currencies within a previously-defined tolerance.

If we analyze now the market of cryptocurrencies, we can easily observe the presence of many elements characterizing the Hayekean monetary world. First of all, private issuing. Digital currencies are completely issued trough a private mechanism, linked to the computerized mining process, which is somehow comparable with the more classic gold mining. And, yes, Bitcoin has often been assimilated to gold. Of course, there is a huge difference between the precious metal and a digital currency, as the first is a metal, with specific features such as brilliance, durability, beauty and preservability over time, which of course a digital currency does not possess. Nevertheless, cryptocurrencies could have a common feature with gold, which makes them candidates for being the base of a monetary system: scaresness. According to Bitcoin creators, the most famous digital currency of the world should be issued in the limited quantity of 21 million. Not a bitcoin more. Once the total quantity would be achieved, the skyrocketing price should stabilize or change according to the demand/supply law. Gold, as well, is limited, although nobody can quantify its precise quantity. We only know that this quantity is finite.

The ability of digital currencies to be used as a medium of exchange, in finite quantities and in a decentralized issuance could make them suitable for being the base of a libertarian monetary system. Of course, they are not perfect monies, as one may argue that they can be stolen by hakers from savers’ digital wallets, their limit may be raised by miners’ decisions and so on. We are just at the very beginning of what could be a monetary revolution. Only time will demonstrate if these new currencies will be adopted as the new world monetary standard or they will disappear as fast as they has been introduced. And, yet, after having seen the disasters committed by central bankers through their “ultra-expansionary” monetary policies (read, print fiat money as much as you can) these new instruments deserve a chance.

China’s Coming Debt Crisis

by Henrique Schneider* for

The problem of debt in China is not the bursting of a bubble. It is much worse. As the Middle Kingdom approaches the worldwide record of accumulated debt, productivity losses are becoming increasingly apparent. That is very bad news. Every economy relies of a certain amount of debt. That is an empirical fact. But China’s total debt—the sum of government, corporate and household borrowings—has soared since 2008, and is now almost 300 percent of the country’ gross domestic product GDP. This is far higher than any other emerging market and higher than stablished economies.  Total debt in Japan, the poster child for indebtedness, is 229 percent of GDP, the United States 104.17 percent.

China’s Coming Debt Crisis: Accumulated debt reaches a world record as productivity falls
China’s Coming Debt Crisis: Accumulated debt reaches a world record as productivity falls

In the year 2008, the Chinese government used a massive fiscal injection to insulate its economy against the worldwide crisis. Since then, at least three further stimulus-programs were put in place. Because of China’s policy architecture, these fiscal actions were always in synch with debt expansion.

As government paid for new roads in the provinces, it made provinces build additional public works and banks lend to provinces in order to facilitate these investments. As state-owned enterprises (SOEs) were expected to expand globally, banks were equally expected to render financial help. All these expectations – which still have an overly mandatory component – inflated the debt of all economic agents in the country.

The numbers speak for themselves. While total Chinese debt amounted less than RMB20 trillion in 2002, it passed the RMB160 trillion mark in 2016. By 2009, private household debt was around RMB6 trillion; in 2016 it reached RMB20 trillion. In the same seven years, private corporate debt climbed from RMB9 trillion to RMB30 trillion and government debt went from RMB15 trillion to RMB40 trillion. What about the SOEs? Their debt soared from RMB32 trillion to RMB76 trillion.

Through the relativity prism, all other sectors had much higher debt-growth than the SOEs, which just doubled their stock. But, in absolute terms, it is the SOEs that hold alone almost the half of all debt. And doubling an already high amount of loans and credit from 2009 to 2016 is impressive as such. To further put this into perspective. In the same time-frame, the debt-to-assets ratio of private enterprises decreased from 56 percent to 52 percent. In the SOEs, it spiked from 57 percent to 63 percent.

To complete this picture: The productivity of debt is plunging. In the year of 2008, for each renminbi in credit, an SEO could turn 0.7 RMB in productive work. Today, it is barely 0.25. Also, the overall productivity of labor is stagnating. In some sectors and in the lowest brackets of income, it is even falling.

Many economic scenarios about China are concerned with the bursting of the debt bubble. Since more than half of China’s debt is owned by SOEs and private property developers, as the economy slows and housing prices fall, many of these loans will prove unpayable. Banks report that bad loans are just 1 percent of their assets and their auditors insist that the banks are not lying, but investors price banks’ shares as if the true level is closer to 10 percent. With the failing of SEOs and property as collateral, many provinces will not be able to sustain their debt. The whole system implodes, so goes this version.

This picture, however, might be getting some things wrong. If companies and provinces fail, the Chinese command-and-control economy will have little trouble in saving and bailing-out institutions as well as rolling-over debt. If that does not work, it can redistribute this debt with a massive supertax on the citizens. These two instruments – which are also becoming increasingly acceptable to so-called western economies – should be enough to stop any bursting. But they are not enough to address the problem of productivity-loss. And this problem is not a future scenario. It is already real.

Economies relying on debt and artificially low interest-rates tend to report aggregate growth while stagnating or even shrinking on a microeconomic level. But without the microeconomic growth of labor and capital productivity, there is no wage growth, no expansion of the private capital base which invests in the future and no establishment of a solid middle class. In an emerging economy, as China is, this could even lead to a middle-income trap. If a crisis hits or a bubble bursts – two events that are possible but not probable for China in the next couple of years – without productivity growth to compensate, asset values deflate and the effects of debt become even more pressing. This is the real bad news behind the actual debt situation in China.

Read the original article at China’s Coming Dept Crisis

*Henrique Schneider is chief economist of the Swiss Federation of Small and Medium Enterprises.