The Delicate Game of Interest Rates & Inflation

Brazil lifts interest rates by 1% to 5.25%. It’s seen as its most aggressive move since 2016.

2 weeks ago, Russia, (another commodity reliant economy) hiked rates too.

It looks like both central banks are trying to curb inflationary pressures. Rising commodity prices are a notable contributor.

Invariably, rising inflation will send government bond yields higher.

Why are the central banks in other commodity sensitive economies such as Australia and Canada still holding interest rates around the 0.50% mark?

Are the Bank of Canada and the Reserve Bank of Australia foolishly towing the same line as other Western economies?

The British, German and French economies are vastly different.

This may turn out to be a perilous policy error.

Are the BOC and RBA not entirely politically independent?

Can it be that the Russian Central Bank is acting for the good of the economy and citizens or is it because Putin doesn’t need to worry about being re-elected and Scott Morrison does?

Or perhaps it’s because the Household Debt to GDP for Russian’s and Brazilians is 22% and 37% respectively,

while in Canada it’s 113% and Australia’s is a world topping 123% ????

August 6, 2021

by Rob Zdravevski

rob@karriasset.com.au

Russia aggressively hikes interest rates

I found this news interesting.

https://www.reuters.com/business/finance/russia-raises-key-rate-65-sharpest-move-since-2014-2021-07-23/


Is the world’s 11th largest economy ahead of the curve and crowd when it comes to managing inflation or does its strengthening currency hinder growth and exports?

Incidentally, South Korea and Australia are ranked 12th and 13th

Alaska Might Be Next ?

It’s quite simple.

Starting a war is generally good for the economy of the aggressor. Just think of how World War II mobilised the American economy. Putin needs a war to keep his people occupied and distracted from their ailing economy. Putin and his government have talked of a “New Russia”. I think it’ll be Russia who decides whether to start a war, not the United States.

What is more complicated to understand is how and when countries go to war when you consider their debt position, electoral cycle, policies and the effect on their economies.

Sanctions:

I’m not sure that sanctions will work on a country with a relatively large population, land mass and economy (or in Russia’s case, possessing vast commodity resources). Funnily, I find it interesting that the United States government is much more involved in the Russia, Ukrainian & Crimea story that it was or has been in the Syrian civil war.

Oil & Gas Prices Will Rise:

If America places heavy sanctions on Russia, the price of oil will go up. If Europe is not happy with Russia’s territorial expansion, then the price of gas will rise too.

The U.S. Dollar Will Rise:

Money is leaving Russia and it won’t be converted into Euros, especially with it trading around the 1.38 mark. You may see the Swiss Franc and British Pound rise, but Billions of Rubles will be converted into US Dollars by global money managers. A rising USD will disrupt the currently sweetened competitive position of U.S. products in the global markets. War with Russia won’t help an indebted United States especially given that they have been financing military exercises for the past 12 years.

Please Consider The Neighbours:

Picking a war on Russia will somehow involve China, North Korea & Iran. This will test the various Asian Pacific relationships that the U.S. has been nurturing. Indirectly, it will involve Venezuela too, who will add to the pressure on the oil price. Russia will have little trouble financing a war.

Russia may be pursuing an old imperial model of domination by land acquisition.

As investors, we need to understand the effect on various assets and which ones to own if a scenario of war develops, ’cause China may not choose to buy anymore U.S. government debt and even elect to sell its current holdings.

Imagine if China sold a lot of their Treasuries thus placing pressure on bond prices, which would send U.S. interest rates higher. Consider this in tandem with a rising U.S. Dollar and coupled with rising oil prices. Now that would be interesting.

As a closing tidbit, the U.S. acquired Alaska in 1867 for $7.2 million which is equivalent to 2 cents per acre. Alaska has no naval base and has barely 20,000 U.S. military personnel.

A freeze of a different kind

Over the weekend, the European Central Bank (ECB) decided to steal up to 40% of the bank deposits held in the Cypriot banks above EUR 100,000.

This will specifically affect a large amount of Russian owned deposits. Moreover, the Russian government was humiliated over the weekends decision for they were not consulted after having been courted earlier in the week.

Furthermore, when banks re-open, capital controls will most likely exist to prevent the free flow of money out of Cyprus.

I think Europe themselves needs to prepare for a different type of freeze.

Come this winter (December 2013-Feb 2014) I would expect Russia to re-coup some of “their” money by turning off the gas pipelines to Europe.

Energy prices will rise, utilities will be affected and the consumers pockets will be hit.

A population doesn’t like being hungry and especially freezing cold. Watch out for any growing social backlash against Europe’s politicians.

 

 

Hope equals complacency

Something that I have difficulty explaining tells me that the Cyprus situation can’t end well. This feeling is biased by the complacency exhibited by European politicians.

Loosely, there is an assumption it will be fixed by somebody. Almost a similar feeling that permeated prior to Lehman Brothers collapsing. There is also a distancing by Germany, that someone else will save Cyprus.

Keep in mind that Angela Merkel has an election in September 2013. Why would she use German money to save Cyprus following the backlash she experienced in Greece.

But here come the Russians.

I have read that $40 or $50 billion of private Russian deposits sit within Cyprus’ offshore banking haven.

Here is how you would do a sovereign bailout deal.

For a $10 billion bailout, Russia gets to protect its citizens deposits in Cyprus, take over a huge slice of Cypriot debt (which they’ll eventually make a profit from, as it’s currently trading at 65 cents in the dollar) and take ownership or security over Cyprus’ Aphrodite gas field.

The Aphrodite gas field has natural gas reserves of about 7 trillion cubic feet (tcf) worth around $45 billion. That is enough gas to meet the energy needs of 7 million households for 20 years. Cyprus only has a population of 1 million people.

Incidentally, Aphrodite sits next to Israel’s larger Leviathan (16 tcf) and Tamar (8 tcf) fields.

It possibly makes for some interesting scenarios involving the politics of Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Syria, Iran & Russia????

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