Difference Between the Dollar and the Yen

We remind readers that we are on vacation this week; don’t expect any serious reckoning.

The Dow fell 180 points on Monday. On Tuesday, it dropped 130 more.

Yesterday came more evidence that credit is still getting crunched. CDO defaults are increasing; CDO values are in “free fall,” says the Financial Times.

Lehman Bros. is expected to announce a $4 billion write-down.

Single family housing permits are at a 26-year low; homebuilding is at a 17-year low. Naturally, suppliers – such as Home Depot – are reporting lower profits.

What is needed in the United States, says an article in the International Herald Tribune , is a “long period of frugality.” No doubt about that. Thanks largely to reckless and dishonest credit cues from the Greenspan Fed, more people made more financial mistakes than at any time in history. It will take years of scrimping and saving to correct them. We don’t have to tell you what that means; less spending = less GDP growth = recession. A long, slow recession a la Japan.

Many investors are now betting that the whole world economy will fall into a soft, Japan-like nap. They’re buying the dollar…and U.S. Treasury bonds…as a protection. But we caution Markets and Money readers that there are big differences between the United States and Japan…between the dollar and the yen…and between today’s globalized economy of 2008 and Japan, Inc. of 1990. In a nutshell, Japan could drop into a cushy bed of savings and sleep for a decade or two. When the United States gets knocked down, on the other hand, Americans fall onto the cold concrete of debt. Rather than live off the credits they built up over the past 20 years, they’ll have to service the debt they incurred.

The U.S. is still running a trade deficit of about $2 billion per day. In order to continue financing that shortfall, it has to guarantee the rest of the world that its dollar will be at least as solid in the future as it has been in the past. But in a severe downturn, the pressure to let the dollar slip will increase.

All through the ’90s, the Japanese maintained a positive trade balance…and a strong yen, with falling consumer prices. Japan tried to stimulate the economy by running huge fiscal deficits and lending money at zero interest. The economy did not recover; but it didn’t collapse either.

But when the feds become desperate to revive the U.S. economy – if it comes to that – the results could be calamitous. More on that as the story unfolds…

Bill Bonner
for Markets and Money

Bill Bonner

Bill Bonner

Since founding Agora Inc. in 1979, Bill Bonner has found success and garnered camaraderie in numerous communities and industries. A man of many talents, his entrepreneurial savvy, unique writings, philanthropic undertakings, and preservationist activities have all been recognized and awarded by some of America’s most respected authorities. Along with Addison Wiggin, his friend and colleague, Bill has written two New York Times best-selling books, Financial Reckoning Day and Empire of Debt. Both works have been critically acclaimed internationally. With political journalist Lila Rajiva, he wrote his third New York Times best-selling book, Mobs, Messiahs and Markets, which offers concrete advice on how to avoid the public spectacle of modern finance. Since 1999, Bill has been a daily contributor and the driving force behind Markets and Money.
Bill Bonner

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The Iranian Oil Bourse and the threat to the petrodollar Is this happening now? I got this from here Slouching Towards Petroeurostan By Pepe Escobar It was a discreet, almost hush hush affair, but after almost three years of stalling and endless delays, it finally happened. Now more than ever, it may also signal a true geoeconomic earthquake – way beyond a potentially shattering blow to US dollar hegemony. This Sunday,( 20.02.2008 12:32 ) the Iranian Oil Bourse – the first-ever oil, gas and petrochemical exchange in the Islamic Republic, and the first within OPEC – was launched by… Read more »
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