Say you're a Doc, working out of NYU Hospital on 1st and 34th, and on October 29 you park your car in the lot next door. Sandy rolls in, and the next morning your car is 20 feet underwater. You've got insurance, so a week later, check in hand, you look at new cars and narrow it down to two. A decked out Lexus LS460 and very nice Audi A8. The walk out price on both cars comes to 80 grand. Which one do you choose?
That was just three months ago. At that time the relative value of these cars was equal. If you assume that 80% of the cost of the car was the imported value, then you were "paying" 50,394 Euros for the Audi and 5,120,000 Yen for the Lexus. At the exchange rates in early November, the Euro component of the Audi was $64,000 (80,000 X 80% X EURUSD 1.27). The Yen cost was also $64,000 (80,000 X 80% /80.00). The EURJPY exchange rate was 102.
Today the EURJPY FX rate is 1.2650. The dollar cost of those Euros and Yen have changed substantially. $68,900 is now the Euro component of the Audi (+3,900). The dollar cost of the imported Lexus has fallen to $55, 350 (-$8,649). Looking at just the FX rate changes, the cost of the Lexus is down to $71,350, the Audi is up to $84,910. In three months there is a $13,560 price gap. Now which one do you choose?
I bring this up to make the point about how very rapidly the terms of trade have turned against Germany (all of the EU) and in favor of Japan. What is striking, is how quickly the adjustment has been. Consider this 15 year chart of the EURJPY:
What jumps out in the chart is the huge drop in the FX rate that occurred staring from July of 2008, and ending in February 2009. I discount that period of extreme volatility as it was marked by global instability. During those same months the S&P fell 50%. Everything was going wild.
If you exclude (or diminish) the 2008-09 experience, then you could could say that the movement in the EURJPY over the past six months is the most violent (vertical lines) in recent history.
The period from 1999 to 2004 is notable as an "up" period for EURJPY. The trend for that period was driven by steady currency intervention by the Bank of Japan. So the spikes higher for the EURJPY are quite different than what we are witnessing today. The Yen is not weakening because of a forceful Central Bank. If anything, the BOJ has "disappointed" on what it has promised to do.
What we are witnessing is Yen weakness (yes, coupled with Euro strength vs the $). The rate of change has been very substantial, arguably, this is the most volatile period in FX over the past 15 years.
Compare the prior periods of FX upheaval to today. In many ways, what has happened of late with the Yen versus the major currencies is unique to history. What is also amazing (to me) is that this FX violence is happening at a time when equity markets are soaring.
From 1999 - 2003 NASDAQ fell 70%, the S&P got clipped for 40%. 2008 - 2009 was a horror show. Today, the equity markets are thriving on the FX instability.
Are we in one of those "New Paradigm" things with markets again? A financial world that can go through a very turbulent period in FX, while there is no fallout anywhere else?
For what it is worth, I didn't believe in the New Paradigm in 2000, I don't believe in it today.