Kuta Beach

Kuta Beach

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

What if the Aussie Dollar Collapsed?

One of my hobbies in life is to read financial porn, i.e. stories about how the economy will collapse in the future. One such scare story I have read is in the Contrarian Investors' Journal titled Will There Be an AUD Currency Crisis?

This piece explains that the Australian economy is highly leveraged to the mortgage debt market. Even though public debt in Australia is around 7 per cent of GDP, this masks the massive extent of private sector debt in the country, mainly held by invididuals in the form of mortgage debt.

Everything will be fine if Australians continue to be able to pay their mortgages, and signs so far seem to suggest that Australians are managing to pay their mortgages. Pay your mortgages like the obediant slaves you are!

However, if something bad happens, chances are the government will take over these banks and, as in America, private debt will be nationalized and public debt will skyrocket. Furthermore, foreigners will be less likely to lend to Australians (both Australian governments and Australian banks) and this will cause the Aussie dollar to collapse. Furthermore, the unwinding of the carry trade will also smash the Australian dollar.

A great deleveraging and unwinding of the carry trade occured in late 2009 at the height of the GFC. During this great period of deleveraging, the Australian dollar collapsed to the point where A$1 = US$0.65. However, there was a recovery in the stock market, the American government started to print money like crazy, and now the Australian dollar has soared against the US dollar where A$1 = US$1.01. I feel very superior to the Americans at the moment because this means that my salary in US dollars rises a lot and I admit a guilty pleasure of mine in my spare time is to browse through Wikipedia and check out the median incomes of people in certain states and counties in America and then compare my income to their income. Because the Australian dollar has soared so much, my income converted into US dollars is approaching the median incomes in many of the exclusive areas in America! This means I have become rich according to American standards! (I know I am not really rich and that this illusory wealth is just a product of American money becoming worthless.)

Given that everything is going so well at the moment, I often wonder how long it will last. If life has taught me any great lesson it is that you should always have a plan B. You should always have an exit strategy. What if the Aussie dollar collapsed? What do you do?

One thing we can look at is what happened in the last deleveraging when the Australian dollar. Some people suggest that buying American shares is a good idea if you want to protect yourself from a falling Aussie dollar. But the graph below shows that the American stock market--as measured by the S&P500 index--collapsed with the Australian dollar.

What can you do? The graph above suggests that gold is a good idea. Even the GFC struck, stocks fell, and the Aussie dollar plummeted, the price of gold in Australian dollars went up.

This analysis is purely technical and looks only at historical data. It does not look at any fundamental reasons why gold would be a good hedge against an Aussie dollar collapse. Personally I believe that those who are worried about an Aussie dollar collapse should convert Aussie dollars into both US dollars and gold (physical gold or gold ETFs). But I don't necessarily believe the Aussie dollar will necessarily crash. If Australians continue to pay their mortgages, then all should be fine. Even if they cannot afford to pay their mortgages, surely the Australian central bank will lower interest rates.

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