Bretton Woods 3 - New world monetary order

Being talked about by some as having started when Russia invaded Ukraine, and the US (and West) blocked Russia's access to it's money with economic sanctions. Written about for everyone by Zoltan Pozsar, strategist at Credit Suisse.

The first Bretton Woods (the only formal actual agreement) was in 1944 (700 delegates from 44 allied nations met in New Hampshire for 3 weeks in July, establishing the IMF and a part of what would later be the World Bank). The British Pound was decreasing in value. The US dollar became the world standard. It was pegged to gold. It became the most common reserve currency (when a country exports more than it imports, it will end up holding foreign currency, so it has to decide which foreign currency to hold. Most picked US dollar). The second (informal but considered to be) "Bretton Woods" happened when in 1971 (but Bretton Woods I was considered OVER by 1973) Nixon decided the US was going off US-gold convertibility (after the US decoupled many fixed currencies followed, and currencies were allowed to float relative to each other - fiat currency. Price stability was the job of the central bank, controlling inflation, keeping it low, stable and predictable. (US buying a lot of Chinese goods and China holding US reserve currency was a hallmark of BW2. This Chinese holding of USD peaked in 2014 but is still up there). Dollar hegemony.

"Bretton Woods 3:" The West imposed severe sanctions on Russia this year, and Russia therefore had access to only $300b of its $600b of foreign reserves. The result is that central banks of every country are now concerned their foreign reserves can be confiscated this way if their actions fall foul of US policy.

Zoltan Pozsar says the core of our portfolios (and also the monetary system) will be in commodities in the future, and that central banks might have to bail out commodity traders (which seems to people an odd thing to say).

Zoltan drew an analogy between subprime assets 2008 which triggered the global financial crisis AND Russian commodities, which he considers to be sub prime. Prime assets are non-Russian commodities, which are kind of like treasuries in 2008, the safe haven assets everyone wanted to protect them from the equity storm. Urals (Russian) crude oil currently trades $30 (huge difference) below the price of Brent (delivered in the North Sea).

China, says Zoltan, will play a large role in bringing those subprime commodities (Russian ones) and prime commodities (non-Russian ones). Because China has lots of reserves and it also has not imposed sanctions on Russia.

Zoltan sees a multi-polar world emerging, where we're no longer dominated by US dollar trading. We'll use Renminbi when trading with China, Rubles when trading with Russia. Ie weaker dollar and stronger Renminbi. If China wants to do this (bring R subprime and non-R prime commodities back into line, it can: sell treasuries, which would push up the yield in the US and with that money buy Russian commodities. Use some of that money to lease US vessels (raising shipping costs and thereby inflation in the West) and use ships to store commodities if it runs out of storage space in China. Another way China could do this thing is if the Chinese government prints renminbi and use that to buy commodities from Russia. This would also push up US yields (and therefore inflation because its still a supply squeeze) because they wouldn't have to store any dollars in US treasuries, because a big buyer of US treasuries would suddenly disappear.

If this happened, there would be not just the US dollar "eurodollar" (nothing to do with Euros) market but also a renminbi market. End of US dollar hegemony.

Either of these two options China has, Zoltan says, will cause higher inflation in the West, higher yet US treasury yields, and higher shipping costs (also inflationary). Another result is commoditiy volatility, rising up fast, crashing down (remember the London nickel exchange crash day written about on this blog?) Commodity traders could fail and become bankrupt. Central clearing counterparties could also fail, leading to government bailouts.

And, as Larry Fink has talked about, the end of globalization because of resource nationalism (as a defensive measure), stockpiling of commodities, and rethinking (localizing and multiplying) supply chains.