Swiss Franc Devaluation Attempt Backfires

FT
August 18, 2011

Traders shrugged off new measures by the Swiss authorities to stem demand for their currency, sending the Swiss franc sharply higher on Wednesday.

The Swiss franc jumped 2 per cent against both the euro and the dollar in a matter of minutes, as traders ignored the Swiss National Bank’s decision to almost double the amount of liquidity available to the money market from SFr120bn ($152bn) to SFr200bn. The increase, which compares with “normal” liquidity levels of about SFr30bn, has lowered already rock-bottom interest rates and turned some short-term rates negative.

While the Swiss franc pared some of its gains later in the session, in late New York trading it was still up 0.8 per cent against the euro at SFr1.1391 and 1.1 per cent against the dollar at SFr0.7886.

“The measures taken thus far by the Swiss National Bank against the strength of the Swiss franc are having an impact. Nevertheless, the Swiss franc remains massively overvalued,” the SNB said.

The Swiss government also announced that it would allocate SFr2bn to help consumers, exporters and the tourism industry, which have all been hit by the currency’s rise. “Measures … are being examined and will be rapidly implemented,” the government said in a statement, but did not provide any details.

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Ron Paul Embarrasses Ben Bernanke as he says Gold is not Money

Forbes
July 13, 2011

Chairman Ben Bernanke faced-off with Fed-hating Representative Ron Paul during his monetary policy report to Congress on Wednesday.  The head of the Fed was forced to respond to accusations of enriching already rich corporations while failing to help Main Street, while he was pushed on his views on gold.  “Gold isn’t money,” Bernanke said. (See video below).

While most of Bernanke’s reports to Congress serve politicians to pursue their own agendas by gearing the Chairman towards their issues, with Republican Rep. Bacchus talking of the unsustainability of Medicaid and Rep. Frank (D, Mass.) asking about the need to raise the debt limit without cutting spending, it was a stand-off between Bernanke and Ron Paul that took all the attention. (Read Apocalyptic Bernanke: Raise The Debt Ceiling Or Else).

Rep. Ron Paul, Republican for Texas, asked Bernanke why a capital injection of more than $5 trillion “hasn’t done much” to help the consumer, who makes up about two-thirds of GDP in the U.S., and prop up the economy, while it helped boost corporate profits.  “You could’ve given $17,000 to each citizen,” Ron Paul claimed.

Bernanke, clearly on the defensive, told Rep. Ron Paul that his institution hadn’t spent a single dollar, rather, the Fed has been a “profit center” according to the Chairman, returning profits to the federal government.  As Bernanke began to sermon Rep. Paul on the history of the Fed (“we are here to provide liquidity [in abnormal situations],” the Chairman said), he was interrupted.

“When you wake up in the morning, do you think about the price of gold,” Rep. Paul asked.  After pausing for a second, Bernanke responded, clearly uncomfortable. that he paid much attention to the price of gold, only to be interrupted once again.

“Gold’s at about $1,580 [an ounce] this morning, what do you think of the price of gold?” asked Rep. Paul.  A stern-faced Bernanke responded people bought it for protection and was once again cut-off, with Ron Paul once again on the offensive.

“Is gold money?” he asked.  Clearly bothered, Bernanke told the representative “no, gold is not money, it’s an asset.  Treasuries are an asset, people hold them, but I don’t think of them as money,” said Bernanke.

Rep. Ron Paul again jumped in, noting the long history of gold being used as money, and then asked Bernanke why people didn’t hold diamonds, clearly hinting at his fiat money criticism of the U.S. monetary system.  The Fed Chairman told Rep. Paul it was nothing more than tradition, and, as he was attempting to develop his argument, Rep. Ron Paul quickly asked the acting authority of the House of Representative’s Committee on Financial Services, Rep. Bacchus, to excuse him for exceeding his time, as he returned the floor to the Committee. (Read Bernanke To Rep. Paul Ryan: QE2 Created 600,000 Jobs).

The interesting exchange served as one of the few times Bernanke has been publicly pushed off his comfort zone by an elected official.  Rep. Ron Paul brought up the issues that he’s famous for, namely, a sort of allegiance between the Fed and the nation’s most powerful institutions, the illusion of fiat money, and the gold standard.  Bernanke, angered and bothered, had no option but to respond. (Read Bernanke’s Contradiction: Minutes Reveal QE3 Talk And Exit Strategy).