It’s hard to think of a more controversial — and crucial — subject right now than the dollar carry trade. If indeed, Ben Bernanke’s cheap money is becoming the world’s lead funding currency for all manner of risky bets, then we may be in the greatest bubble the world has ever seen.
If cheap money is only a modest force in the rise of global asset values, and if much of the rise is due to improved fundamentals (which is indisputable, when compared to March), then the recovery may be sustainable.
The connection between Fed liquidity and rising markets has been discussed for a while, but Nouriel Roubini has been the flag bearer for this idea, ever since he wrote an FT piece on the subject last month.
Over at Roubini.com (formerly RGE Monitor; it’s been rebranded) Heiko Hesse sites IMF research showing that rising correlations between various assets and the dollar are what tell the whole story.
The results indicate that an index for the U.S. dollar has seen an increased negative co-movement with major asset price classes in recent months (here the MSCI Emerging Market index, the EMBI+ bond spread, S&P 500 as well as oil prices). For example, the negative co-movement between the U.S. dollar and oil prices is almost at its highest since the beginning of 2006 with -0.5. Jen (2009) recently provided a number of reasons why the correlation between the dollar and crude oil prices has been so negative.
While the increased co-movement of the U.S. dollar with a range of risky assets does not provide any evidence for the dollar carry trade per se, the fact that the correlations have almost reached the highest magnitude since the beginning of the sample period in 2006 for all the asset classes in figure 2 does suggest that a dollar depreciation has gone hand in hand with a sharp appreciation of higher-yielding emerging market asset classes. This is consistent with a story whereby the unwinding of safe-haven flows has significantly led to the rebound of risky asset classes, and the U.S. dollar, bolstered by U.S. quantitative easing and low interest rates, could have increasingly served as a funding currency. In practice, it is very difficult to document the extent and strength of the dollar carry trade given data limitations so more research is surely needed in order to obtain a better understanding of these recent developments.
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