We Have Never Seen Global Trade Collapse This Dramatically Outside Of A Major Recession

Globe Interconnected - Public DomainIf you have been watching for the next major global economic downturn, you can now stop waiting, because it has officially arrived.  Never before in history has global trade collapsed this dramatically outside of a major worldwide recession.  And this makes perfect sense – when global economic activity is increasing there is more demand for goods and services around the world, and when global economic activity is decreasing there is less demand for goods and services around the world.  So far this year, global trade is down about 8.4 percent, and over the past 30 days the Baltic Dry Index has been absolutely plummeting.  A month ago it was sitting at a reading of 809, but now it has fallen all the way to 628.  However, it is when you look at the trade numbers for specific countries that the numbers become particularly startling.

Just within the last few days, new trade numbers have come out of China.  China accounts for approximately one-fifth of all global factory exports, and for many years Chinese export growth has helped fuel the overall global economy.

But now Chinese exports are falling.  In October, Chinese exports were down 6.9 percent compared to a year ago.  That follows a decline of 3.7 percent in September.

The numbers for Chinese imports are even worse.  Chinese imports in October were down 18.8 percent compared to a year ago after falling 20.4 percent in September.  China’s growing middle class was supposed to help lead a global economic recovery, but that simply is not happening.

The following chart from Zero Hedge shows just how dramatic these latest numbers are compared to what we are accustomed to witnessing.  As you can see, the only time Chinese trade numbers have been this bad for this long was during the major global recession of 2008 and 2009…

Chinese Imports Chinese Exports

Other numbers confirm the magnitude of the economic slowdown in China.  I have mentioned the ongoing plunge of the China Containerized Freight Index previously, but now it has just hit a brand new record low

The weakness in China’s economy and its exports to the rest of the world are showing up in the weekly China Containerized Freight Index (CCFI): On Friday, it dropped to the worst level ever.

The index, operated by the Shanghai Shipping Exchange, tracks how much it costs, based on contractual and spot-market rates, to ship containers from China to 14 major destinations around the world. Unlike a lot of official data from China, the index is an unvarnished reflection of a relentless reality.

It has been cascading lower since February and has since dropped 31%. At 742 currently, it’s down 26% from its inception in 1998 when it was set at 1,000.

Here are some more deeply disturbing global trade numbers that come from my previous article entitled “18 Numbers That Scream That A Crippling Global Recession Has Arrived“…

Demand for Chinese steel is down 8.9 percent compared to a year ago.

China’s rail freight volume is down 10.1 percent compared to last year.

In October, South Korean exports were down 15.8 percent from a year ago.

According to the Dutch government index, a year ago global trade in primary commodities was sitting at a reading of 150 but now it has fallen all the way down to 114.  What this means is that less commodities are being traded around the world, and that is a very clear sign that global economic activity is really slowing down.

Additionally, German export orders were down about 18 percent in September, and U.S. exports are down about 10 percent for the year so far.

Clearly something very big is happening, and it is affecting the entire planet.  The CEO of the largest shipping company in the world believes that the explanation for what is taking place is fairly simple

In fact, according to Maersk CEO, Nils Smedegaard Andersen, the reason why companies that are reliant on global trade, such as his, are flailing is simple: global growth is substantially worse than the official numbers and forecasts. To wit: “The world’s economy is growing at a slower pace than the International Monetary Fund and other large forecasters are predicting.

Quoted by Bloomberg, Andersen says that “we believe that global growth is slowing down,” he said in a phone interview. “Trade is currently significantly weaker than it normally would be under the growth forecasts we see.

Global financial markets can run, but they can’t hide from these horrifying trade numbers forever.

One of the big things that is contributing to this new global economic slowdown is the unwinding of the U.S. dollar carry trade.  A recent piece from Phoenix Capital Research explained the U.S. dollar carry trade pretty well…

When the Fed cut interest rates to zero in 2008, it flooded the system with US Dollars. The US Dollar is the reserve currency of the world. NO matter what country you’re in (with few exceptions) you can borrow in US Dollars.

And if you can borrow in US Dollars at 0.25%… and put that money into anything yielding more… you could make a killing.

A hedge fund in Hong Kong could borrow $100 million, pay just $250,000 in interest and plow that money into Brazilian Reals which yielded 11%… locking in a $9.75 million return.

This was the strictly financial side of things. On the economics side, Governments both sovereign and local borrowed in US Dollars around the globe to fund various infrastructure and municipal projects.

Simply put, the US Government was practically giving money away and the world took notice, borrowing Dollars at a record pace. Today, the global carry trade (meaning money borrowed in US Dollars and invested in other assets) stands at over $9 TRILLION (larger than the economy of France and Brazil combined).

But now the U.S. dollar carry trade is starting to unwind because the U.S. dollar has been doing very well lately.  As the U.S. dollar has surged against other global currencies in 2015, this has put a tremendous amount of stress on emerging markets around the world.  All of a sudden oil, other commodities and stock markets in nations such as Brazil began to crash.  Meanwhile, those that had taken out loans denominated in U.S. dollars were finding that it was taking far more of their own local currencies to service and repay those loans.  This financial crunch in emerging markets is going to take years to fully play out, and it is going to take a tremendous toll on global markets.

Of course we have seen this happen before.  A surging dollar helped cause the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s, the Asian financial crisis of the 1990s and the major global recession of 2008 and 2009.

If you thought that the financial shaking that happened in late August was bad, the truth is that it was nothing compared to what is now heading our way.

So buckle your seat belts boys and girls, because we are definitely in for a bumpy ride.

Global Trade Is Collapsing As The Worldwide Economic Recession Deepens

Dominoes Falling - Public DomainWhen the global economy is doing well, the amount of stuff that is imported and exported around the world goes up, and when the global economy is in recession, the amount of stuff that is imported and exported around the world goes down.  It is just basic economics.  Governments around the world have become very adept at manipulating other measures of economic activity such as GDP, but the trade numbers are more difficult to fudge.  Today, China accounts for more global trade than anyone else on the entire planet, and we have just learned that Chinese exports and Chinese imports are both collapsing right now.  But this is just part of a larger trend.  As I discussed the other day, British banking giant HSBC has reported that total global trade is down 8.4 percent so far in 2015, and global GDP expressed in U.S. dollars is down 3.4 percent.  The only other times global trade has plummeted this much has been during other global recessions, and it appears that this new downturn is only just beginning.

For many years, China has been leading the revolution in global trade.  But now we are witnessing something that is almost unprecedented.  Chinese exports are falling, and Chinese imports are absolutely imploding

Growth of exports from China has been dropping relentlessly, for years. Now this “growth” has actually turned negative. In September, exports were down 3.7% from a year earlier, the “inevitable fallout from China’s unsustainable and poorly executed credit splurge,” as Thomson Reuters’ Alpha Now puts it. Most of these exports are manufactured goods that are shipped by container to the rest of the world.

And imports into China – a mix of bulk and containerized freight – have been plunging: down 20.4% in September from a year earlier, after at a 13.8% drop in August.

This week it was announced that Chinese GDP growth had fallen to the lowest level since the last recession, and that makes sense.  Global economic activity is really slowing down, and this is deeply affecting China.

So what about the United States?

Well, based on the amount of stuff that is being shipped around in our country it appears that our economy is really slowing down too.  The following comes from Wolf Richter, and I shared some of it in a previous article, but I think that it bears repeating…

September is in the early phase of the make-or-break holiday shipping season. Shipments usually increase from August to September. They did this year too. The number of shipments in September inched up 1.7% from August, according to the Cass Freight Index.

But the index was down 1.5% from an already lousy September last year, when shipments had fallen from the prior month, instead of rising. And so, in terms of the number of shipments, it was the worst September since 2010.

It has been crummy all year: With the exception of January and February, the shipping volume has been lower year-over-year every month!

The index is broad. It tracks data from shippers, no matter what carrier they choose, whether truck, rail, or air, and includes carriers like FedEx and UPS.

What major retailers such as Wal-Mart are reporting also confirms that we are in a major economic slowdown.  Wal-Mart recently announced that its earnings would fall by as much as 12 percent during the next fiscal year, and that caused Wal-Mart stock to drop by the most in 27 years.

And of course this is going to have a huge ripple effect.  There are thousands of other companies that do business with Wal-Mart, and Reuters is reporting that they are starting to get squeezed…

Suppliers of everything from groceries to sports equipment are already being squeezed for price cuts and cost sharing by Wal-Mart Stores. Now they are bracing for the pressure to ratchet up even more after a shock earnings warning from the retailer last week.

The discount store behemoth has always had a reputation for demanding lower prices from vendors but Reuters has learned from interviews with suppliers and consultants, as well as reviewing some contracts, that even by its standards Wal-Mart has been turning up the heat on them this year.

“The ground is shaking here,” said Cameron Smith, head of Cameron Smith & Associates, a major recruiting firm for suppliers located close to Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. “Suppliers are going to have to help Wal-Mart get back on track.”

Similar things are going on at some of the other biggest companies in America as well.

For instance, things have gotten so bad for McDonald’s that one franchise owner recently stated that the restaurant chain is “facing its final days”

“McDonald’s announced in April that it would be closing 700 ‘underperforming’ locations, but because of the company’s sheer size — it has 14,300 locations in the United States alone — this was not necessarily a reduction in the size of the company, especially because it continues to open locations around the world. It still has more than double the locations of Burger King, its closest competitor.”

However, for the franchisees, the picture looks much worse than simply 700 stores closing down.

“We are in the throes of a deep depression, and nothing is changing,” a franchise owner wrote in response to a financial survey by Nomura Group. “Probably 30% of operators are insolvent.” One owner went as far as to speculate that McDonald’s is literally “facing its final days.”

Why would things be so bad at Wal-Mart and McDonald’s if the economy was “recovering”?

Come on now – let’s use some common sense here.

All of the numbers are screaming at us that we have entered a major economic downturn and that it is accelerating.

CNBC is reporting that the number of job openings in the U.S. is falling and that the number of layoffs is rising

Job openings fell 5.3 percent in August, while a 2.6 percent rise in layoffs and discharges offset a 0.3 percent gain in hires. Finally, the amount of quits — or what Convergex calls its “take this job and shove it” indicator because it shows the percentage of workers who left positions voluntarily — fell to 56.6 percent from 57.1 percent, indicating less confidence in mobility.

And as I discussed the other day, Challenger Gray is reporting that we are seeing layoffs at major firms at a level that we have not witnessed since 2009.

We already have 102.6 million working age Americans that do not have a job right now.  As this emerging worldwide recession deepens, a lot more Americans are going to lose their jobs.  That is going to cause the poverty and suffering in this country to spike even more, if you can imagine that.

Just consider what authorities discovered on the streets of Philadelphia just this week

Support is flooding in for a homeless Philadelphia family whose two-year-old son was found wandering alone in a park in the middle of the night.

Angelique Roland, 27, and Michael Jones, 24, were sleeping with their children behind cardboard boxes underneath the Fairmount Park Welcome Center in Love Park when the toddler slipped away.

The boy was found just before midnight and handed over to a nearby Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority police officer, who took him to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

He was wearing a green, long sleeve shirt, black running pants and had a diaper on, but did not have shoes or socks.

Could you imagine sleeping on the streets and not even being able to provide your two-year-old child with shoes and socks?

These numbers that I write about every day are not a game.  They affect all of us on a very personal level.

Just like in 2008 and 2009, millions of Americans that are living a very comfortable middle class lifestyle today will soon lose their jobs and will end up out in the streets.

In fact, there will be people that will read this article that this will happen to.

So no, none of us should be excited that the global economy is collapsing.  There is already so much pain all around us, and what is to come is beyond what most of us would even dare to imagine.

The Almighty Dollar Is In Peril As The Global ‘De-Dollarization’ Trend Accelerates

50 Dollars - Public DomainAs the Obama administration continues to alienate almost everyone else around the entire planet, an increasing number of prominent international voices are starting to question why the U.S. dollar should be so overwhelmingly dominant in global trade.  In previous articles, I have discussed Russia’s “de-dollarization strategy” and the fact that Gazprom is now asking their large customers to start paying in currencies other than the dollar.  But this is not just a story about Russia any longer.  As you will read about below, China and South Korea have just signed a major agreement to facilitate trade with one another using their own national currencies, and even prominent French officials are now talking about the need to use the dollar less and the euro more.  John Williams of shadowstats.com recently said that things have never “been more negative” for the U.S. dollar, and he was right on the mark.  The power of the almighty dollar has allowed all of us living in the United States to enjoy an extremely high standard of living for decades, but as that power now fades it is going to have profound implications for the U.S. economy.  In future years the value of the dollar will go down substantially, all of the imported goods filling our stores will become much more expensive, and it is going to cost the federal government a lot more to borrow money.  Unfortunately, with the stock market hitting all-time record highs and with the mainstream media endlessly touting an “economic recovery”, most Americans are not paying any attention to these things.

French oil giant Total is one of the largest energy companies in the entire world.  On Saturday, Total’s CEO made an absolutely stunning statement.  According to Reuters, he told reporters that there “is no reason to pay for oil in dollars”…

“Doing without the (U.S.) dollar, that wouldn’t be realistic, but it would be good if the euro was used more,” he told reporters.

There is no reason to pay for oil in dollars,” he said. He said the fact that oil prices are quoted in dollars per barrel did not mean that payments actually had to be made in that currency.

If Gazprom’s CEO had made such a statement, it would not have really surprised anyone.  But this came from a high profile French CEO.  A decade ago, it would have been unthinkable for him to say such a thing.  Wars have been started over less.  Virtually all oil and natural gas around the planet has been bought and sold for U.S. dollars since the 1970s, and this is an arrangement that the U.S. government has traditionally guarded very zealously.  But now that Russia has broken the petrodollar monopoly, the fear of questioning the almighty dollar appears to be dissipating.

And at this point even French government officials are not afraid to publicly discuss moving away from the U.S. dollar.  Just check out what French finance minister Michel Sapin said to the press this weekend

French finance minister Michel Sapin says “now is the right time to bolster the use of the euro” adding, more ominously for the dollar, “we sell ourselves aircraft in dollars. Is that really necessary? I don’t think so.” Careful to avoid upsetting his ‘allies’ across the pond, Sapin followed up with the slam-dunk diplomacy, “This is not a fight against dollar imperialism,” except, of course – that’s exactly what it is… just as it was over 40 years ago when the French challenged Nixon.

So why are the French suddenly so upset?

Could it be the fact that we just slapped the largest bank in France with a nearly 9 billion dollar fine?

The remarks come a week after Paris-based bank BNP Paribas (BNP) SA was slapped with a $8.97 billion fine by U.S. authorities for transactions carried out in dollars in countries facing American sanctions. The fine spurred debate in France about the right of the U.S. in extending its regulatory reach beyond its borders.

This is yet another example of how the Obama administration is alienating friends all over the globe.

In fact, there doesn’t seem to be anyone that the Obama administration is afraid of crossing.  Just a couple of days ago, the German press exploded in outrage when Germany arrested a U.S. spy.  Why we feel the need to spy on our friends is something that I will never figure out.

And of course our relations with Russia are probably the worst that they have been since the end of the Cold War at this point.  And as the Russians now rapidly move away from the U.S. dollar, they seem intent on bringing the rest of “the BRICS” with them.  The following is a short excerpt from a recent Voice of Russia article entitled “BRICS morphing into anti-dollar alliance“…

However, in her discussion with Vladimir Putin, the head of the Russian central bank unveiled an elegant technical solution for this problem and left a clear hint regarding the members of the anti-dollar alliance that is being created by the efforts of Moscow and Beijing:

“We’ve done a lot of work on the ruble-yuan swap deal in order to facilitate trade financing. I have a meeting next week in Beijing,” she said casually and then dropped the bomb: We are discussing with China and our BRICS parters the establishment of a system of multilateral swaps that will allow to transfer resources to one or another country, if needed. A part of the currency reserves can be directed to [the new system].” (source of the quote: Prime news agency)

It seems that the Kremlin chose the all-in-one approach for establishing its anti-dollar alliance. Currency swaps between the BRICS central banks will facilitate trade financing while completely bypassing the dollar. At the same time, the new system will also act as a de facto replacement of the IMF, because it will allow the members of the alliance to direct resources to finance the weaker countries. As an important bonus, derived from this “quasi-IMF” system, the BRICS will use a part (most likely the “dollar part”) of their currency reserves to support it, thus drastically reducing the amount of dollar-based instruments bought by some of the biggest foreign creditors of the US.

Of course the key economic player in the BRICS alliance is China.

So will China actually go along with a “de-dollarization” strategy?

Well, the truth is that China has been making moves to become more independent of the dollar for a long time, and it has just been announced that China and South Korea have signed an agreement which will mean more direct trade between the two nations using their own national currencies

China’s central bank has authorized the Bank of Communications, the country’s fifth largest lender, to undertake yuan clearing business in the South Korean capital, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) said in a statement.

The announcement came as Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up a state visit to South Korea on Friday. China is seeking to make the yuan – also known as the renminbi – used more internationally in keeping with the country’s status as the world’s second biggest economy behind the United States.

Unfortunately, most Americans don’t care about any of this at all.

They don’t understand that more U.S. dollars are actually used outside the United States than are used inside the United States.  Because most of the rest of the world uses U.S. dollars to trade with one another, this has created a tremendous amount of artificial demand for our currency.  In other words, the value of the U.S. dollar is much higher than it otherwise would be, and this has enabled us to import trillions of dollars of products at ridiculously low prices.  The standard of living that we enjoy today is highly dependent on this arrangement continuing.

And our ability to fund the federal government and our state and local governments is heavily dependent on the rest of the planet loaning our dollars back to us for next to nothing.  If we actually had to pay realistic market rates to borrow money, the finances of the federal government would have already collapsed long ago.

So it is absolutely imperative for our own economic well-being that this “de-dollarization” trend not accelerate any further.  The rest of the world could actually severely hurt us by deciding to stop using the almighty dollar, and the more that the Obama administration antagonizes both our friends and our foes around the globe the more likely that is to happen.

We live in very perilous times, and the almighty dollar is more vulnerable now than it has been in decades.

If it starts collapsing, it will take down the entire U.S. financial system with it.

Let us hope that we still have a bit more time before that happens, because once the U.S. dollar collapses it will be exceedingly painful for all of us.

9 Signs That China Is Making A Move Against The U.S. Dollar

The U.S. DollarOn the global financial stage, China is playing chess while the U.S. is playing checkers, and the Chinese are now accelerating their long-term plan to dethrone the U.S. dollar.  You see, the truth is that China does not plan to allow the U.S. financial system to dominate the world indefinitely.  Right now, China is the number one exporter on the globe and China will have the largest economy on the planet at some point in the coming years.  The Chinese would like to see global currency usage reflect this shift in global economic power.  At the moment, most global trade is conducted in U.S. dollars and more than 60 percent of all global foreign exchange reserves are held in U.S. dollars.  This gives the United States an enormous built-in advantage, but thanks to decades of incredibly bad decisions this advantage is starting to erode.  And due to the recent political instability in Washington D.C., the Chinese sense vulnerability.  China has begun to publicly mock the level of U.S. debt, Chinese officials have publicly threatened to stop buying any more U.S. debt, the Chinese have started to aggressively make currency swap agreements with other major global powers, and China has been accumulating unprecedented amounts of gold.  All of these moves are setting up the moment in the future when China will completely pull the rug out from under the U.S. dollar.

Today, the U.S. financial system is the core of the global financial system.  Because nearly everybody uses the U.S. dollar to buy oil and to trade with one another, this creates a tremendous demand for U.S. dollars around the planet.  So other nations are generally very happy to take our dollars in exchange for oil, cheap plastic gadgets and other things that U.S. consumers “need”.

Major exporting nations accumulate huge piles of our dollars, but instead of just letting all of that money sit there, they often invest large portions of their currency reserves into U.S. Treasury bonds which can easily be liquidated if needed.

So if the U.S. financial system is the core of the global financial system, then U.S. debt is “the core of the core” as some people put it.  U.S. Treasury bonds fuel the print, borrow, spend cycle that the global economy depends upon.

That is why a U.S. debt default would be such a big deal.  A default would cause interest rates to skyrocket and the entire global economic system to go haywire.

Unfortunately for us, the U.S. debt spiral cannot go on indefinitely.  Our debt is growing far, far more rapidly than our GDP is, and therefore our debt is completely and totally unsustainable.

The Chinese understand what is going on, and when the dust settles they plan to be the last ones standing.  In the aftermath of a U.S. collapse, China anticipates having the largest economy on the planet, more gold than anyone else, and a respected international currency that the rest of the globe will be able to use to conduct international trade.

And China is not just going to sit back and wait for all of this to happen.  In fact, they are already doing lots of things to get the ball moving.  The following are 9 signs that China is making a move against the U.S. dollar…

#1 Chinese credit rating agency Dagong has downgraded U.S. debt from A to A- and has indicated that further downgrades are possible.

#2 China has just entered into a very large currency swap agreement with the eurozone that is considered a huge step toward establishing the yuan as a major world currency.  This agreement will result in a lot less U.S. dollars being used in trade between China and Europe…

The swap deal will allow more trade and investment between the regions to be conducted in euros and yuan, without having to convert into another currency such as the U.S. dollar first, said Kathleen Brooks, a research director at FOREX.com.

“It’s a way of promoting European and Chinese trade, but not doing it with the U.S. dollar,” said Brooks. “It’s a bit like cutting out the middleman, all of a sudden there’s potentially no U.S. dollar risk.”

#3 Back in June, China signed a major currency swap agreement with the United Kingdom.  This was another very important step toward internationalizing the yuan.

#4 China currently owns about 1.3 trillion dollars of U.S. debt, and this enormous exposure to U.S. debt is starting to become a major political issue within China.

#5 Mei Xinyu, Commerce Minister adviser to the Chinese government, warned this week that if the U.S. government ever does default that China may decide to completely stop buying U.S. Treasury bonds.

#6 According to Yahoo News, China has already been looking for ways to diversify away from the U.S. dollar…

There have been media reports this week that China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange, the body that handles the country’s $3.66 trillion of foreign exchange reserve, is looking to diversify into real estate investments in Europe.

#7 Xinhua, the official news agency of China, called for a “de-Americanized world” this week, and also made the following statement about the political turmoil in Washington: “The cyclical stagnation in Washington for a viable bipartisan solution over a federal budget and an approval for raising debt ceiling has again left many nations’ tremendous dollar assets in jeopardy and the international community highly agonized.”

#8 Xinhua also said the following about the U.S. debt deal on Thursday: “[P]oliticians in Washington have done nothing substantial but postponing once again the final bankruptcy of global confidence in the U.S. financial system”.  The commentary in the government-run publication also declared that the debt deal “was no more than prolonging the fuse of the U.S. debt bomb one inch longer.”

#9 China is the largest producer of gold in the world, and it has also been importing an absolutely massive amount of gold from other nations.  But instead of slowing down, the Chinese appear to be accelerating their gold buying.  In fact, money manager Stephen Leeb says that his sources are telling him that China plans to buy another 5,000 tons of gold.  There are many that are convinced that China eventually plans to back the yuan with gold and try to make it the number one alternative to the U.S. dollar.

So exactly what would happen if the Chinese announced someday that they were going to back their currency with gold and would no longer be using the U.S. dollar in international trade?

It would change the face of the global economy almost overnight.  In a previous article, I described some of the things that we could expect to see happen…

If China does decide to back the yuan with gold and no longer use the U.S. dollar in international trade, it will have devastating effects on the U.S. economy.  Demand for the U.S. dollar and U.S. debt would drop like a rock, and prices on the things that we buy every day would soar.  At that point you could forget about cheap gasoline or cheap Chinese imports.  Our entire way of life depends on the U.S. dollar being the primary reserve currency of the world and being able to import things very inexpensively.  If the rest of the world (led by China) starts to reject the U.S. dollar, it would result in a massive tsunami of currency coming back to our shores and a very painful adjustment in our standard of living.  Today, most U.S. currency is actually used outside of the United States.  If someday that changes and we are no longer able to export our inflation that is going to mean big trouble for us.

The fact that we get to print up giant mountains of money and virtually everyone around the world uses it has been a huge boon for the U.S. economy.

When that changes, the word “catastrophic” is not going to be nearly strong enough to describe what is going to happen.

According to a Rasmussen Reports survey that was released this week, only 13 percent of all Americans believe that the country is on the right track.  But the truth is that these are the good times.  The American people haven’t seen anything yet.

Someday people will look back and desperately wish that they could go back to the “good old days” of 2012 and 2013.  This is about as good as things are going to get, and it is only downhill from here.

Does China Plan To Back The Yuan With Gold And Make It The Primary Global Reserve Currency?

Chinese Renminbi Yuan - Photo by MiLu24What in the world is China up to?  Why are the Chinese hoarding so much gold?  Does China plan to back the yuan with gold and turn it into a global reserve currency?  Could it be possible that China actually intends for the yuan to eventually replace the U.S. dollar as the primary reserve currency of the planet?  Most people in the western world assume that China just wants a “seat at the table” and is content to let the United States run the show.  But that isn’t the case at all.  The truth is that China doesn’t just want to compete with the United States.  Rather, China actually plans to replace the United States as the dominant economic power on the planet.  In fact, China already accounts for more global trade than the United States does.  So what would happen one day if China announced that it was backing the yuan with gold and that it would no longer be using the U.S. dollar in international trade?  It would cause a financial shift so cataclysmic that it is hard to even imagine.  Most of those that write about the “death of the U.S. dollar” usually fail to point out that China is holding a lot of the cards as far as the fate of the dollar is concerned.  China owns about a trillion dollars of our debt, China is the second largest economy on the planet, and nobody uses the dollar in international trade more than China does except for the United States.  Up until now, China has had to use the U.S. dollar in international trade because there has not been an attractive alternative.  But a gold-backed yuan would change all of that very rapidly.

And without a doubt, the Chinese government has already been very busy promoting the use of the yuan in international trade.  In a recent note, John McCormick of RBS Group stated the following…

Financial crises in the US and Europe mean the world needs a new, more stable global reserve currency, and trade in RMB is growing rapidly. In the FX market, for example, our figures show that volumes are now worth around USD 5-6 billion daily – double what they were a year ago.

A number of factors suggest that the Chinese authorities want to make RMB internationalisation happen by 2015.

For China, having a global reserve currency is not just about economics.  It is also about power.

McCormick ended his recent note this way…

China’s new leadership faces a number of problems. The country’s economy is slowing and, although we would expect the rate of GDP growth to pick up a little, it is unlikely to be a steep rebound.

But promoting RMB as a global reserve currency, with all the economic benefits that will bring in addition to exerting more political influence on the global stage, clearly remains high on their agenda.

Similar sentiments were echoed in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal

Beijing is undertaking a long, gradual campaign to establish the yuan as a more market-oriented, international currency. China’s State Council, or cabinet, said in a statement this month that the country would draft a plan to allow the yuan to become fully convertible. Meanwhile, the People’s Bank of China is guiding the currency higher and set the median point of its permitted daily trading band last week at the strongest level ever.

We don’t hear much about these sorts of things in the western media, but the convertibility of the Chinese yuan is a very big deal.  Up until recently, the yuan was only directly convertible into dollars and yen.  But now that is rapidly changing.  So far this year, the Chinese government has entered into currency convertibility agreements with Australia and New Zealand.

So instead of having to change yuan into U.S. dollars to trade with Australia and New Zealand, now China can cut U.S. dollars completely out of the process.

But right now there is nothing that really gives the Chinese yuan a significant competitive edge over the U.S. dollar.  If Chinese authorities truly want the yuan to end up replacing the U.S. dollar as the primary reserve currency of the planet, they need to do something that will make the rest of the world want to use it.

And they could do that by backing the yuan with gold.  In fact, there are persistent rumors that China has been busily preparing for that.

For example, the Economic Policy Journal recently pointed out that Dr. Pippa Malmgren, the President and founder of Principalis Asset Management who once worked in the White House as an adviser to President Bush, is claiming that China has plans to turn the yuan into “a hard, gold-backed currency” that will have a distinct competitive edge over the rapidly depreciating paper currencies that the rest of the globe is currently using…

The most interesting piece of the puzzle is that the Chinese have emerged as the biggest buyers of gold, mainly off-market. They want the yuan to emerge as a hard, gold-backed currency in a world where everyone else has chosen to inflate and devalue.

The recent bilateral currency deals with Australia, France, Russia and Singapore, and many others, reflect this desire to displace the USD as the world’s reserve currency.

It may be an interesting and long race between the Chinese reaching for convertibility and the Western central banks straining credibility.

Other analysts are also fully convinced that the goal of the Chinese is a gold-backed yuan.  The following is what money manager Stephen Leeb told King World News recently

Countries have been battling each other in order to cheapen their currencies. The problem with a cheaper currency is that commodities cost more. So China has decided to opt for a higher currency.

The move in the yuan overnight was one of the most significant upticks I have seen. Like I said, the yuan moved to an all-time high. The yuan has advanced roughly 5% against the US dollar in just nine months. China also imported over 200 tons of gold for the most recent month. That is an extraordinary number. At that rate that’s over 2,400 tons of gold per year on an annualized basis.

This simply speeds up the point at which China will be the largest gold holder in the world. China saw gold come down and they didn’t just buy on the dip, instead they bought as much as the market would give them. And, again, you see the yuan going up so that is making the price of gold even cheaper for the Chinese.

It’s only a matter of time before the Chinese back the yuan with gold. This will push the yuan front and center as a key element in terms of being part of the world’s reserve currency basket. China gets the message. They are doing whatever it takes to establish their dominance in the world, particularly in the commodity arena. Their currency is flying and they are importing as much gold as they possibly can.

And without a doubt, China has been hoarding massive amounts of gold.  Everyone agrees on that.  But what nobody knows is exactly how much gold China currently has stockpiled, because China is not telling anybody.

One recent estimate put China’s gold reserves at more than 7,000 tons of gold, but it could potentially be far higher than that.  When China does finally tell the rest of us how much gold they have, they will probably be just a move or two away from checkmate.

What we do know is that China is importing absolutely enormous amounts of gold right now even though China is also the number one gold producer on the planet.

According to Reuters, more than 223 tons of gold was imported into China from Hong Kong in March.  That smashed the previous record of 114 tons in December.

Overall, Chinese imports of gold from Hong Kong tripled in 2012, and the final number for 2013 is going to absolutely smash what we saw in 2012.

Obviously something is happening.

China is massively hoarding gold at the same time that it is trying to substantially raise the international influence of the yuan.

It doesn’t take a genius to see where all of this is headed.

If China does decide to back the yuan with gold and no longer use the U.S. dollar in international trade, it will have devastating effects on the U.S. economy.  Demand for the U.S. dollar and U.S. debt would drop like a rock, and prices on the things that we buy every day would soar.  At that point you could forget about cheap gasoline or cheap Chinese imports.  Our entire way of life depends on the U.S. dollar being the primary reserve currency of the world and being able to import things very inexpensively.  If the rest of the world (led by China) starts to reject the U.S. dollar, it would result in a massive tsunami of currency coming back to our shores and a very painful adjustment in our standard of living.  Today, most U.S. currency is actually used outside of the United States.  If someday that changes and we are no longer able to export our inflation that is going to mean big trouble for us.

So keep an eye on China, and look out for any news about the yuan.

It won’t happen next week or next month, but eventually we could see China back the yuan with gold.

When that happens, it is going to be a complete and utter financial disaster for the United States.

 

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