A Look At Forex History

by Warren Seah
a look at forex history

5 Economic Events When Currency Rocked The World

These are changes in the currency markets which caused substantial impact in the world economy. It is important that people learn about currency movements and how the occurrence of such events provide lucrative opportunities for currency investors to profit from the forex markets.

Free Market Capitalism is Born

On August 15 1971, this date marked the end of the Bretton Woods system, a system that used to fix the value of a currency to the value of gold. The United States pulled out of the Bretton Woods Accord and took the US off the established Gold exchange Standard.

US were running a balance of payments deficit and a trade deficit back in the early 1970s due to the costs of Vietnam War and increased domestic spending has accelerated inflation. The US government used up almost all of his reserves and gold reserves by that time. Hence it began to print more dollars to supplement its expenditure. In short, most countries lost faith in the dollar as it is overvalued against gold. The international community dumped their dollars in exchange for gold.

The fact is there was not enough gold in the US vault to pay back the international community. US government had printed too much dollar and they were broke.

Following that, President Nixon shocked the world. The event was informally named ‘Nixon Shock’ because President Nixon and 15 advisors removed US from the Gold Exchange System without consulting the members of the international monetary system.

US dollars was the first currency to be floated- that is, exchange rates were no longer the principal method used by governments to administer monetary policy but is solely determined by supply and demand market forces. By 1976, all the major currencies were floated. The forex markets were started.

Devaluation of U.S Dollar – Plaza Accord

In the early 1980s, the US Federal Reserve System under Paul Volcker had overvalued the dollar enough to make US exports in the global economy less competitive. The U.S government faced a large and growing current account deficit, while Japan and Germany were facing large and growing surpluses.

This imbalance could create a serious economic disequilibrium which would result in a distortion of the foreign exchange markets and thus the global economy. The result of current account imbalances and the possibility of foreign exchange distortion brought ministers of the world’s leading economies – France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States together in New York City.

The Plaza Accord was signed on September 22, 1985 at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, agreeing to depreciate the US dollar in relation to the Japanese yen and German Deutsche Mark by intervening in currency markets.

The effects of the Plaza Accord agreement were seen immediately within 2 years. The dollar fell 46 percent and 50 percent against the deutsche mark and the Japanese Yen. Devaluation of the dollar stabilise the growing US trade deficit with its trading partners for a short period of time. As a result, U.S. economy became more export-oriented while Germany and Japan became more import-oriented.

The signing of the Plaza Accord was significant in that it reflected coordinated actions with respective governments were able to regulate the value of the dollar in the forex market. Values of floating currencies were determined by supply and demand, but such forces were insufficient, and it was the responsibility of the world’s central banks to intervene on behalf of the international community when necessary.

To date, we still see countries that continue to regulate value of its currency within a certain band in the forex market. Example of one country is Japan.

Black Wednesday – The Man Who Broke the Bank

Black Wednesday refers to the events on 16th September 1992 when George Soros placed a $10 billion speculative bet against the U.K. pound and won. He became the man who broke the Bank of England.

In 1990, U.K. joined the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) at a rate of 2.95 deutsche marks to the pound and with a fluctuation band of +/- 6 percent. ERM gave each participatory currency a central exchange rage against a basket of currencies, the European Currency Unit (ECU). This system prevents the exchange rate of participatory currencies from too much fluctuation with the basket of currencies.

Until mid 1992, economy began to change in Germany. Following reunification of 1989, German government spending surged, forcing the Bundesbank to print more money. German economy experienced inflation and interest rates were raised to curb inflation.

Other participatory countries in the ERM were also forced to raise interest rates so as to maintain the pegged currency exchange rate. The rate hike led to severe repercussions in the United Kingdom. At that time, U.K. had a weak economy and high unemployment rate. Maintaining high interest rates is not sustainable for U.K. in  the long term,  and George Soros stepped into action.

George Soros was said to profit $2 billion from the Black Wednesday. This single event showed that with knowledge and experience, investors could profit from the forex market. No central banks can control the forex markets.

Asia Currency Crisis

Leading up to 1997, investors were attracted to Asian investments because of their high interest rates leading to a high rate of return. As a result, Asia received a large inflow of money. In particular, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and South Korea experienced unprecedented growth in the early 1990s.

These countries fell one after another like a set of dominos on July 2, 1997, showing the interdependence of the Asian 5 Tigers’ economies. Many economists believe that the Asian Financial Crisis was created not by market psychology but by shrouded lending practices and lack of respective government transparency.

In early 1997, Thailand current account deficit has grown consistently up to a level that is believed to be unsustainable. Shrouded lending practices oversupplied the country with credit and in turn drove up prices of assets. The same type of situation happened in Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Levels were reached where price of assets were overvalued and coupled with a sn unsustainable trade deficit, international investors and hedge fund managers began to sell Thai baht and neighboring countries’ currencies hoping to profit from the plunge.

Following mass short speculation and attempted intervention, the Asian economies were in shambles. Thai baht was sharply devalued by as much as 48 percent and Indonesian rupiah fell 228 percent from it previous high of 12,950 to the fixed U.S. dollar.

The financial crisis of 1997-1998 revealed the interconnectivity of economies and their effects on the global currency markets. The inability of central banks to intervene in currency markets provided yet another lucrative opportunity for currency investors to profit.

The Euro: Best Reserve Currency after Dollar

The name Euro was officially adopted on 16 December 1995. The Euro is the official currency of 16 of the 27 Member States of the European Union. Euro is the second largest reserve currency and the second most traded currency in the world after the U.S. dollar.

As of November 2008, with more than €751 billion in circulation, the euro is the currency with the highest combined value of cash in circulation in the world, having surpassed the U.S. dollar. Based on IMF estimates of 2008 GDP and purchasing power parity among the various currencies, the Eurozone is the second largest economy in the world.[1]

Value of Euro and the U.S. dollar are inversely correlated. Should the dollar fall, value of Euro currency will rise. Euro will be the best choice to shift money to, should the value of U.S. dollar continue to fall. This makes the Euro the best substitute currency for the dollar.

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[1] Wikipeda, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euro

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