There has been no let up in the bullish tone to markets over recent weeks. Optimism is dominating. Meanwhile, commodity prices continue to remain firmly supported, with the CRB commodities index up around 30% from its early March low. Bank funding has improved sharply, with indicators such as the Libor-OIS spread moving to its lowest spread since the beginning of February 2008 whilst the Ted spread is now close to where it was all the way back in August 2007.
Conversely, there is not much sign of a let up in pressure on the dollar despite assurances from US Treasury Secretary Geithner during his visit to China. Much of the move in the dollar continues to be driven by improvements in risk appetite but worries about the sustainability of foreign buying of US assets have increased too.
Russia’s proposal to create a new supranational currency has dealt the dollar another blow but it was notable that India, China and South Korea were reported to express confidence in the dollar, stating that there is no alternative to the dollar as a reserve currency. Such comments highlight that despite political motivation to move away from the dollar it is no easy process.
The comments from India, China and South Korea, three of the world’s biggest reserve holders reflect the growing concerns from official accounts about 1) dollar weakness getting out of control and 2) US bond yields pushing higher. Even though foreign central banks will continue to diversify the last thing they want to do is to destroy the value of their massive amounts of US asset holdings so don’t expect a quick move out of dollars from central banks despite the rhetoric from Russia and others.
Russia has said that a debate about the dominance of the USD will take place when BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries meet on June 16. Although the rhetoric from Russia may add to dollar worries the reality is that it is highly unlikely that any form of concrete plan will be easily developed to shift away from the dollar. Political motivations aside, even Russian President Medvedev admits it’s an “idea for the future”.