Currency intervention

Currency intervention

Currency intervention is the buying or selling of currency by central banks in an attempt to manipulate the price of a particular currency.


Japanese Yen

From 1989 to 2003, the Japanese economy was suffering from a long deflationary period. On June 2003, over a 15 month period, the Japanese central bank intervened in the YEN/USD currency markets by creating over 35 trillion Yen of currency ("printing" money). This currency was then used to buy 320 billion U.S. dollars, which were in turn invested into U.S. treasuries. This increased the supply of yen, weakening the yen against the dollar, improving exports and lifting Japan out of a deflationary period. At the same time, the U.S. was lifted out of the 2001-2003 recession with the ability to keep interest rates low, despite growing trade and government deficits.[1][2]

Chinese Yuan

When a consumer in the U.S. buys a Chinese product, Chinese manufacturers are paid in US dollars. These U.S. dollars are then deposited in a U.S. bank account. At this point, the Chinese exporter needs to convert dollars into yuan. Through its commercial bank it sells the U.S. dollars to the Chinese central bank, the People's Bank of China. Since the trade between the United States and China does not balance, there is a shortage of yuan and a surplus of U.S. dollars in the Chinese central bank (therefore the Yuan must be 'created'). The usual remedy to this situation used in international trade would be for the Chinese central bank sell its dollars on international currency markets and buy yuan in exchange, resulting in a self-correcting system: the U.S. dollar weakens and the Chinese yuan strengthens, until equilibrium is restored and the trade gap closes.

However, in order to avoid this situation (which would decrease Chinese exports), the Chinese central bank chooses a different solution: it slows the appreciation of the Yuan, or in some cases effectively pegs the CNY against the USD. The central bank net buys USD, then sterilizes the excess dollar flows by buying dollar-denominated assets, such as U.S. treasuries. This has the effect of keeping the excess dollars out of the currency exchange markets, where they would cause a correction in the exchange rates. Thus, the Chinese central bank manipulates the exchange rates by creating yuan and buying U.S. debt. This "printing" of Chinese Yuan by the central bank is not without consequence, however, since in excess (if yuan are created faster than domestic economic output) it would eventually lead to inflation, causing consumer prices to rise.[2][3] Economist Paul Krugman writes that by keeping its currency artificially weak China generates a dollar surplus; this means that the Chinese government has to buy up the excess dollars.[4]

United States and the Great Depression

During the 1920s, the U.S. government "sterilized" gold in-flows from Europe used to purchase products, in an effort to prevent the U.S. dollar from strengthening and hurting the export economy. This set the stage for the Great Depression, as it caused the money supply of gold in Europe to shrink (deflation).[5]

See also


  1. ^ Michael Maloney, Guide to Investing in Gold and Silver, Hachette Book Group, 2008, page 88-89
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ Michael Maloney, Guide to Investing in Gold and Silver, Hachette Book Group, 2008, page 84-85
  4. ^
  5. ^ Michael Maloney, Guide to Investing in Gold and Silver, Hachette Book Group, 2008, page 86

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