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U.S. Debt-Ceiling Fight Looms, UN Demands New Global Currency, China Trade War

I’m not hearing much about this story in the news yet but I suspect the debt-ceiling will become center stage in the weeks ahead. At risk is the fate of the US$ trend. In the unlikely event that congress somehow puts its proverbial foot down and refuses to increase the debt ceiling then no doubt this would stem the slide of the greenback. However, I suspect the third paragraph holds the tastiest morsel of information. In order to avoid looking weak on fiscal responsibility right before an election Congress will pass all that is required now to increase the debt ceiling and in turn add to the US$ weakness. Stay tuned, this could get interesting….

Treasury gets ready for debt-ceiling fight – WSJ
WSJ reports the Obama administration, concerned about the possibility of a big political fight over the national debt, is looking at how it can continue funding the government in the event that Congress hinders its ability to borrow money.

Treasury Department officials are examining tools employed by previous administrations, including disinvesting government retirement funds and suspending interest payments to federal accounts, according to people familiar with the matter. They are also looking at what to do in the unlikely event of a govt shutdown.

At issue is the debt ceiling, a dollar limit controlled by Congress that dictates how much the U.S. can borrow. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told the Senate in a letter last month that the $12.1 trillion ceiling could be hit as early as mid-October, and said it needs to be increased so the U.S. can continue funding operations and making debt payments. Mr. Geithner didn’t indicate the increase he was seeking. With the U.S. borrowing about $30 billion a week, some economists say the Treasury will need an increase of as much as $1.5 trillion if it wants to avoid another request before the 2010 midterm elections. The U.S. could default on its debt if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling, but it is a remote scenario.

…Meanwhile, as the players in the US rearrange the chairs, the rest of the world wants to rewrite the playbook…

UN wants new global currency to replace dollar – Daily Telegraph Daily Telegraph reports the dollar should be replaced with a global currency, the United Nations has said, proposing the biggest overhaul of the world’s monetary system since the Second World War.

In a radical report, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has said the system of currencies and capital rules which binds the world economy is not working properly, and was largely responsible for the financial and economic crises. It added that the present system, under which the dollar acts as the world’s reserve currency , should be subject to a wholesale reconsideration. Although a number of countries, including China and Russia, have suggested replacing the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, the UNCTAD report is the first time a major multinational institution has posited such a suggestion.

In essence, the report calls for a new Bretton Woods-style system of managed international exchange rates, meaning central banks would be forced to intervene and either support or push down their currencies depending on how the rest of the world economy is behaving. The proposals would also imply that surplus nations such as China and Germany should stimulate their economies further in order to cut their own imbalances, rather than, as in the present system, deficit nations such as the UK and US having to take the main burden of readjustment

I’d like to take a moment and pose a question before you read the next story.

Here is the set up: Let’s say your name is Otto and you are the president of a country with a huge deficit and a currency going the way of the wampum. And, let us further assume that the trading partner holding the biggest amount of said debt and wampum is, oh I don’t know… China.

Now the question: Should you start a trade war with China at a time when your country is most vulnerable? Would that be smart? Would it be diplomatic? Or, in the immortal words of Jaime Lee Curtis, would it be STUPID? (Extra credit to those who can name the movie)

China strikes back on trade – WSJ
The Wall Street Journal reports China indicated Sunday it would restrict U.S. imports of chicken and auto products after Washington’s move to slap punitive sanctions on Chinese tire imports, raising tensions in a trade dispute ahead of two planned meetings between the countries’ leaders.

Citing a jump in Chinese imports, the Obama administration said Friday it would impose stiff tariffs on Chinese-made tires for the next three years, invoking a section of trade law that China agreed to as a condition for its joining the WTO in 2001. The move essentially would cut off the source of nearly 17% of all tires sold in the U.S. last year and hit cost-conscious consumers particularly hard, as retailers will have to find alternative sources for the lower-end tires that make up much of what China sends to the U.S.

Beijing responded quickly. Sunday, its Ministry of Commerce said it was starting antidumping procedures against U.S. exporters into China of chicken and auto products. It said it had received complaints from local producers that the U.S. products were being dumped in China at below-market prices. The ministry denied that the move, which could lead to sanctions, was protectionist. “China has consistently opposed trade protectionism, and the country’s actions since the financial crisis have reflected this stance,” the ministry said on its Web site. “China is willing to continue to act in accordance with countries around the world to push forward the world’s economic recovery.”

The announcement didn’t specify the timing or the exact kinds of goods involved. An official with the U.S. Trade Representative’s office Sunday defended the trade decision and warned that Washington would be “inquiring closely” over the next several days as to the basis for China’s response.

About Bret Rosenthal

Interpreting the news that moves markets. Principal of RCM, LLC, and founding partner of the Fortune's Favor Family of Funds
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