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INBU 4200 INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT Speculative Attacks on Currencies
Purpose of These Slides n n (1) To demonstrate how markets attack foreign currencies. q Why an attack occurs and the conditions necessary for success. n Success measured by the country abandoning its peg (a peg is where the government is managing its currency in a very tight range to another currency, or basket of currencies). (2) To give you examples of currency attacks and the consequences of those attacks. q United Kingdom pound attack in 1992. q Asian currency attack in 1997.
Market Forcing Countries to Abandon Peg An Attack on a Currency n Attacks on currencies can occur for a variety of reasons, but essentially they all relate to: q n Why might a currency be perceived as overvalued? q q q n Where the market believes that the existing (i. e. , pegged) rate overstates (or understates) the currency’s “true” (intrinsic) value. Inappropriate domestic monetary and fiscal policies. Weakness in the country’s external (trade) position. Weakness in the country’s key financial sector (banking). Why might a currency be perceived as undervalued? q Underlying strength in the economy of the country which is not reflected in the pegged exchange rate.
Attacking a “Overvalued” Pegged Currenc n Attacks on an Overvalued Currency: q Currency is sold short on foreign exchange markets: n Short selling: Speculators borrow “overvalued” currency, sell it on foreign exchange markets, and intend to buy it back later when currency weakens. q Short selling puts downward pressure on the overvalued currency.
Attacking a “Undervalued” Pegged Curren n Attacks on an Undervalued Currency: q Currency is bought on foreign exchange markets. n Speculators buy “undervalued” currency, and intend to sell it later when currency strengthens. q Buying the currency puts upward pressure on the undervalued currency.
Assumptions Before Attack will Proceed n Before attacking a currency, speculators must also be confident that the government of the country’s who’s currency is under attack: q (1) Lacks the will to defend its currency. n q Not willing to adjust interest rates (perhaps for political reasons) (2) Lacks the resources to defend its currency. n Does not have sufficient foreign exchange to support its currency. q Would need dollars or other hard currency if their currency is being sold.
Case Study: British Pound (1992) Attack n Britain joined the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) in October 1990. q n ERM was designed to promote exchange rate stability within Europe. Under the ERM, European currencies were “pegged” to one another at agreed upon rates. q The British pound was locked into the German Mark at a central rate of about DM 2. 9/£ q Generally feeling at the time was that this rate overvalued the pound against the mark.
Dominance of Germany in the ERM n While the ERM included many European countries, Germany was the leading player. q n Therefore, the German mark was the dominant currency in this arrangement. In addition, German monetary policy had to be followed by the other members in order for the other member states to keep their currencies aligned with the German mark. q This was especially true with regard to German interest rates.
Cartoon Representing German Dominance
Series of Events Leading Up to the Attack the Pound n n While the markets felt the pound was “overvalued” when it joined the ERM, a combination of events just before and after Britain joined convinced the market that the pound was ready for speculation. These events were: q q n n The fall of the Berlin Wall in Nov 1989 The economic “recession” in the U. K. in 1991 -92. German decided to raise interest rates in order to attract needed capital for the reunification of Germany. The issue for the U. K. was having to raise interest rates during their recession. q Political and economic component to this decision.
Response of British Government to Specul Attack: September 1992 n Pound currency attack begin in September 1992 q n Wednesday, September 16 (“Black Wednesday”) q q n Led by hedge funds: For example, George Soros. Bank of England raised interest rates twice from 10% to 12% and then later in the day to 15% Move was an attempt to make U. K. investments more attractive to overseas and domestic investors. During the attack the Bank of England spent 4 billion pounds ($7 billion) in defense of its currency. n n n Buying pounds (selling U. S. dollars and German marks). Estimates: 1/3 of its hard currency was spent. Thursday, September 17, U. K. left the exchange rate mechanism and let the pound float! q Pound fell from 2. 7780 to 2. 413; or -13. 1%
British Pound: Jan 1991 – Dec 1992
15% Change in British Pound
Pound Against the U. S. Dollar: 1992 n Down by 25%: What did this mean for U. S. Companies operating in the U. K. ?
Case Study: Asian Currency Crisis of 1997 n n n During the 1980 s, a group of countries in Southeast Asia – known as the “Asian Tigers” – experienced exceptionally high economic growth rates. The economic miracle was accompanied by these countries opening up their financial markets to foreign capital inflows Also, during this time, the currencies of these countries were pegged to the U. S. dollar.
Thailand: Background n Thailand was part of the southeast Asian region which experienced double digit real growth up to the mid-1990 s. q Exports were critical to the regions exceptional growth. n q Thailand’s exports had increased 16% per year from 1990 to 1996. Economic growth in the region was fueled by massive increases in foreign borrowing. n n Government borrowing for infrastructure investment Corporate borrowing for investment expansion.
The Thai Baht: A Pegged Currency The Thai baht had been pegged to the U. S. dollar at 25 to the dollar for 13 years.
Thailand Begins to Unravel n The massive increase in foreign investment eventually resulted in: q q q n Overcapacity in Thailand Poor lending/investment decisions Investment in speculative activities (especially the property markets) On February 5, 1997, the Thai property developer, Somprasong Land, announced it could not make a $3. 1 million interest payment on an outstanding $80 billion loan. q Other Thai development companies followed and the Thai property market began to unravel.
Currency Traders Assess the Situation n Currency traders were aware of the following: q q Thailand’s enormous external debt which was denominated in U. S. dollars would require a large demand for dollars. Coupled with the debt burden, Thailand’s export growth began to slow and moved into deficit. n q Question: Where would the dollars come from the finance the external debt? Traders believed the baht was “overvalued at 25 to the dollar.
The Attack on the Thai Baht Peg n Believing the baht was overvalued, speculators: q Start to sell the baht short in May 1997 n Traders borrowed bahts from local banks and immediately resold them in the foreign exchange markets for dollars. q If the baht did weaken, traders could buy the bahts back and pay off the loan and make a profit on the dollar appreciation.
Response of the Thai Government n n The Thai Government initially responded by: q Purchasing bahts on foreign exchange markets n Used $5 billion in this effort q Raising interest rates from 10 to 12. 5% Thailand was quickly running short of U. S. dollars q They had just over $1 billion left to support the baht. The higher interest rates raised the cost of borrowing and adversely affected floating rate loan liabilities. Bottom line: Continuing to defend the peg was quickly approaching an impossible situation.
Releasing the Peg n On July 2, 1997, the Thai government announced they were abandoning the peg and would let the currency float. q q The baht immediately lost 18% of its value By January 1998, it was trading at 55 to the dollar.
Baht’s 55% Fall Against the Dollar
Contagion Effect in Asia (1997) n The attack on the Thai baht, quickly spread to other Asian currencies q n n n Example of a regional contagion effect Concern mounted regarding the economic and financial “soundness” of these countries as well. As a direct result, many of these Asian countries were forced to abandon their pegged regimes. For a complete discussion of the crisis see: q http: //www. wright. edu/~tran. dung/asiancrisis-hill. htm
Indonesia Rupiah, Jan 1997 – Dec 1997
Philippine Peso, Jan 1997 – Dec 1997
Taiwan Dollar, Jan 1997 – Dec 1997
Korean Won, Jan 1997 – Dec 1997
Malaysian Ringgit, Jan 1997 – Dec 1997
Malaysian Ringgit: 1997 – June 2005
July 21, 2005: Malaysia Moves To a Manag Float.
Exchange Rate Changes in Asia: June 1997 June 1998
One Government, However, Was Able to Successfully Defend Its Currency n Hong Kong Dollar q China purchase massive amounts of stock being sold on the Hong Kong stock exchange. n q China sold massive amounts of U. S. dollars in defense of the HK$ n q Offset the short selling of hedge funds. Offset the selling of the Hong Kong dollar on foreign exchange markets. The HK$ peg was successfully defended and remains so today.
Hong Kong Dollar in 1997