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From a client folio prepared by Morgan Stanley. Very illuminating analysis on the USD trends:

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Currencies
The Fed’s QE Operations and the Dollar
November 28, 2008

Summary and Conclusions

The Fed has commenced QE (quantitative easing). In this note, we review the concept of QE and analyse the likely impact of this extraordinary operation on the dollar. The upshot is that, since monetary policy, including QE, is a ‘nominal’ operation, the operation itself should not have significant implications for the real value of the dollar. The nominal dollar value should, thus, only be affected if QE alters the outlook of inflation in the US over the medium term. Also, whether QE by the Fed should erode the value of the dollar should be assessed relative to what other central banks do. To the extent that the ECB and the BoE also conduct QE – which is the case – the impact of QE on the dollar is not necessarily negative.

Having said this, though QE per se should affect the dollar through relative inflation as well as inflation expectations, the underlying structural problems that forced the Fed to conduct QE in the first place should alter the fundamental value of the dollar, relative to those of other currencies. The parlous state of the US financial system should, in theory, be reflected in a lower value of the dollar, had it not been for its hegemonic reserve currency status propping the dollar up during this deleveraging phase. The bloated fiscal deficits (which we assume will exceed those of the G7 countries) will further weigh on the intrinsic value of the dollar.

In sum, whether QE by the Fed is negative for the dollar depends on the inflation outlook of the US and the resulting inflation expectations. But at a fundamental level, the dollar’s intrinsic value has indeed deteriorated with its severely weakened financial sector. We maintain our core view that the dollar should continue to appreciate as the world slows – which we assume will last until next summer – but could give back some of the gains when deleveraging stops and the recovery phase for the US economy proves to be more protracted and treacherous than for other economies. The size and vigour of the dollar rally against the majors in the next six months or so are also likely to be more tempered than we have had in mind, in light of the deteriorating fundamentals in the US. Our call on EM currencies remains unchanged.

See the rest of the analysis here.

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(Excerpt from a client folio published by Morgan Stanley)

Energy

This past year, energy issues dominated much of the policy agenda as oil touched $150 per barrel and gas prices soared past $4.00 per gallon across the country. With both oil and gas prices in retreat as the economy hits the brakes, energy policy has lost its urgency. The new Obama administration will have many ideas and proposals in the energy arena, and the issue is sure to generate attention, but not much sweeping action.

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(Excerpt from a client folio published by Morgan Stanley)

Miscellaneous Business, Labor and Manufacturing

A handful of other commercial issues currently dominate the attention of lawmakers and federal officials – payday lending reform, credit card abuse, union elections, infrastructure improvements – and Obama has identified each as a priority in 2009.

In general, Obama supports a more consumer protection-oriented approach than McCain would have. A good example was the Obama campaign’s focus on payday lending abuses. To protect lower-income individuals, Obama has announced his intention to cap interest rates on payday loans at 36 percent, while seeking to provide borrowers with clearer, simplified disclosures on loan fees, payments and penalties. He would encourage banks and credit unions to increase small-denomination, short-term consumer loans.

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(Excerpt from a client folio published by Morgan Stanley)

Financial Crisis/Economic Rescue

Obama envisions fiscal policy as a central tool for spurring the economy and blunting the coming recession. To build upon the first economic stimulus package passed in February 2008, Obama supports passage of a second stimulus bill to inject infrastructure and benefits-related spending into the economic engine (Obama did not vote on the final version of the first stimulus package). Obama has proposed a twoyear, $175 billion total package, with:

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(Excerpt from a client folio published by Morgan Stanley)

Senator Barack Obama’s electoral victory, complete with expanded majorities in the House and Senate, gives the Democrats control over the legislative and administrative processes for the first time since 1994. This has significant ramifications for the new Administration’s policies to deal with the economic crisis, as well as domestic priorities on taxes, health care, energy, the environment, labor relations, and trade.

Today, President-Elect Barack Obama will shift to presidential transition following many months of campaigning. He will have just 77 days to assemble a cabinet, set critical priorities, and prepare a federal budget (which must be submitted to congress by February). Though he has not discussed it publicly, these plans are well underway. The Obama team is actively discussing potential Cabinet selections and will soon begin vetting resumes for the estimated 7,800 presidential appointee jobs which must be filled – 1,177 require Senate confirmation – and finalizing a comprehensive blueprint which will guide the incoming president through the transition.

While it is certain that the Obama presidency will mark a stark contrast from the Bush years, what remains to be seen is how much external factors like the economic crisis will impact his first 100 days and beyond. The following examines what we are likely to see under an Obama administration on an array of pressing issues.
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