The Currency Wars’ “Pearl Harbor”

Switzerland had just abandoned its peg of the Swiss Franc to the Euro. The result was mayhem with an immediate 30% drop in the value of the Euro against the Franc, and billions of dollars of trading losses by banks and investors around the world.Several foreign exchange brokers went bankrupt because their customers could not settle their losing trades. The Swiss operated in total secrecy.

Currency wars resemble real wars in the sense that they do not involve continuous fighting all the time. At certain times, there are intense battles, followed by lulls, followed by more intense battles.

The problem with currency wars is they last a long time; sometimes even fifteen or twenty years. The reason is they have no logical conclusion, just back-and-forth devaluations and revaluations as countries retaliate against each other.

This maxim is not without historical precedent. You’ve probably heard about Franklin Roosevelt’s own sneak currency attack. In 1933, President Roosevelt devised a plan to increase the price of gold in dollars, effectively a dollar devaluation. But he had a problem. If he increased the price of gold while Americans owned it, the profit would go to the citizens, not the U.S. Treasury. He knew that he had to lie to the American people about his intentions in order to pull off the theft of the century.

So Roosevelt issued an emergency executive order confiscating the gold at about $20.00 per ounce, and then revalued it to $35.00 per ounce, with the Treasury getting the profits.

On Thursday, the Swiss National Bank pulled a similar stunt. Last November, the Swiss citizens voted on a referendum to require an informal link of the Swiss Franc to gold. The Swiss National Bank argued against the referendum on the ground that it would cause them to break the peg of the Swiss Franc to the Euro.

The people believed them and voted “no” on the referendum. But now the Swiss National Bank has broken the peg anyway. The price of gold is spiking as a result, but the Swiss citizens have lost the benefit of that because the referendum is now a dead letter. The Swiss National Bank lied to the Swiss people about their intentions with regard to the peg.

Full articles: The Currency Wars’ “Pearl Harbor” (Daily Reckoning)

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