The Far East Races South

Originally published February 10, 2015 in the Penn State Economics Association’s February edition of the fabled Optimal Bundle.

At the time, I was a second-semester junior at Penn State, studying finance and economics and had just invested half of my life savings in an ETF tracking the Nikkei 225 (primary Japanese stock index). 

There is a race to the bottom happening in East Asia. Export-heavy countries like Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan have watched their currencies depreciate over the past few years. Japan has taken charge in this race to the bottom as the Yen has shed 54% of its value against the U.S. dollar since February 2012. The drop has been exacerbated by the Bank of Japan’s quantitative easing, which has put pressure on other export-heavy countries to copycat and depress their currencies. Since the announcement of Japanese QE in April 2013, the Singapore dollar and New Taiwan dollar have lost 10.5% and 7% respectively relative to the U.S. dollar. The depreciation is due to a cocktail of the recent strengthening of the U.S. dollar and Asian central bank intervention. If natural strengthening of the USD does not satisfy the export desires of Asian central bankers, FX traders could see an Asian currency print-off and the race to the bottom would accelerate.


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