Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Krona Problem

There is a New York Times story about what is going on in Iceland – and one thing jarred me – the quoted exchange rate.  They quoted 130 to the dollar which suggests the Krona has only lost half its value. 


This seems a little mild compared given what has happened to the country – it has effectively defaulted on international deposit insurance obligations and had the IMF step in.


But the Central Bank of Iceland gives an exchange rate – and the exchange rate matches the New York Times story.  The NYT however says that the banks are rationing foreign currency – which suggests that the published exchange rate is a nonsense.  Still the IMF money can be supporting an exchange rate - I really do not know.  


Anyway here is the sequence of Krona per Euro exchange rates as published by Sedlibank. 


9/15/2008

129.64

130.36

130.0

9/16/2008

130.15

130.87

130.51

9/17/2008

131.13

131.87

131.5

9/18/2008

135.32

136.08

135.7

9/19/2008

131.29

132.03

131.66

9/22/2008

130.05

130.77

130.41

9/23/2008

138.03

138.81

138.42

9/24/2008

139.32

140.1

139.71

9/25/2008

135.8

136.56

136.18

9/26/2008

140.72

141.5

141.11

9/29/2008

142.45

143.25

142.85

9/30/2008

145.08

145.9

145.49

10/01/2008

152.62

153.48

153.05

10/02/2008

154.39

155.25

154.82

10/03/2008

155.65

156.53

156.09

10/06/2008

154.91

155.77

155.34

10/07/2008

135.83

136.59

136.21

10/08/2008

172.16

173.12

172.64

10/09/2008

143.87

144.67

144.27

10/10/2008

149.74

150.58

150.16

10/13/2008

149.79

150.63

150.21

10/14/2008

149.96

150.8

150.38

10/15/2008

149.58

150.42

150.0

10/16/2008

150.08

150.92

150.5

10/17/2008

150.58

151.42

151.0

10/20/2008

150.08

150.92

150.5

10/21/2008

150.08

150.92

150.5

10/22/2008

150.08

150.92

150.5

10/23/2008

150.58

151.42

151.0

10/24/2008

151.58

152.42

152.0

10/27/2008

151.58

152.42

152.0

10/28/2008

152.07

152.93

152.5

10/29/2008

152.07

152.93

152.5

10/30/2008

152.57

153.43

153.0

10/31/2008

153.07

153.93

153.5

11/03/2008

159.55

160.45

160.0

11/04/2008

163.54

164.46

164.0

11/05/2008

163.54

164.46

164.0

11/06/2008

165.54

166.46

166.0

11/07/2008

165.54

166.46

166.0


I have highlighted the day of full collapse.  There is a Bloomberg article from the crisis day which quotes the Krona trading at 350 to the Euro – way worse than the official exchange rate. 


In most developing countries a black market develops pretty quickly in foreign currency when this sort of thing happens.  Often the street rates are way different from official rates.  [You want a big difference – go to Burma…]


Are the Icelandic people so law abiding they have not developed a street market or is the official rate real? 


What is meant by banks rationing foreign currency?  The New York Times doesn't give an answer.  Can someone with real experience in trading in Iceland post crisis (or someone from Iceland give me an answer).  I am surprised at the data.

If the Krona finds a freely convertible level at about the level quoted in the NYT then Iceland will not go through the extent of crisis I originally thought.  And if it is freely convertible whoever purchased Krona at 350 to the Euro on the day of the crisis made a fabulous trade.  Find that trader!


 

 

John Hempton


PS - Some follow up.

I found a good end-of-October internet post about the situation.  The rationing of foreign currency is indeed severe and the exchange rates are hence meaningless.  I would love to know the extent of the rationing and whether a black market has developed in the currency.   If people wish to add to or correct material here I would appreciate it.

Anyway here is the post material:


Exclamation Iceland situation

I've not written anything about the situation in Iceland for just over a week now. Here is the latest from my perspective as an Icelander.


- The Central Bank lowered interest rates last week from 15,5% to 12%. However, because of agreement with the IMF before the weekend, interest rates were raised to 18% today.
This means companies and individuals, that are already struggling to pay loans, will suffer even more. No new loans at all from anywhere.

- The IMF agreement last week gives us $2.1 billion to prop up our currency. This is not enough, and we're seeking an extra $4 billion from other countries, the Fed, ECB and Scandinavian CB's.

- It is estimated that economic contraction will be around 10%.

It is estimated that 20% of companies will not be able to pay payroll this month. I have a feeling a lot of companies are just "ghost" companies, people still working, but the company is essentially bankrupt.

- Massive layoffs in the construction industry, and the banking sector of course.

Inflation roared to 15,5% this month, expected to rise.

- Our currency is still worthless and still not traded overseas. Although there was a news today that hinted there was some trade with the ISK, where it was less than half the value that our CB claims.

- I must note that there are no shortages (yet) of food, fuel and medicine, or much else I've noticed. But if current situation continues then we could see some shortages, but not of necessities. However, because of rationing of foreign currency other importers are not able to import new supply of e.g. clothes, industry material etc. I expect many companies not being able to continue their operations because of import restrictions.

The sovereign state has not yet defaulted on any loans, despite statements in the foreign media. It requires a lot of help to get back on it's feet, and seems to be getting it soon.

- A lot of families are "stuck" in their homes, cannot sell, cannot move, cannot buy. The mortgage debt is around 10-40% higher then the value of their homes. Home value is expected to drop significantly in the coming months.

- The government owns all the banks, and indirectly owns all the media, and all the debt of the people. With taxes and debt payment the people are in a state of servitude to the government. Not many realize this.

- Some conspiracy theories are on the icelandic forums that the government is censoring the media, directing them to mitigate the news. They own all the media after all!

- Many are considering strategies out of this, e.g. husband and wife divorcing and allowing one of them to default on the debt and go bankrupt, while the other one keeps a clean slate. Some are thinking about fleeing to another country.

- The government has been able to offer a temporary freeze on payments on mortgages, 4-6 months. The depression is expected to last at least 1 year, maybe 2 years.

- There are some protests, but they seem to be minor. There is general calm, but still anxiety, frustration, over the situation. I expect things to get a lot worse when people lose their jobs and have nothing better to do than to protest.


I think the coming friday/monday is the big reveal moment, e.g. who pays the payroll and who doesn't. Just then we'll realize how serious the situation is. I expect thousands to lose their jobs.


How does once a free-market capitalist system, with the highest standard of living in the world, the most freedom of the press in the world, the happiest people in the world and least corrupt people in the world turn into a Orwellian fantasy almost overnight is beyond me.

3 comments:

Blank Xavier said...

I've just got back in touch with an old Icelandic friend, was worried about her. We're just catching up now. She said last week the redundencies started - thousands of people lost their jobs - including her husband. When you consider the *total* population is about 301,000, that's a few pecentage of the total working population. She says it's expected to continue at that rate each month for some months to come. She also says that the Government isn't really saying very much at all - just stuff like "we can't say anything because of the negotiations" - and this is making people unhappy. More as it comes.

Bakken BEx said...

There is a black market for currencies going on in the classified sections of Icelandic newspapers. http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2008/10/markets-in-ev-3.html

The post even links to one ad, but I don't know of a reliable Icelandic translator online....

Scott said...

Perhaps due to slowdown of trade due to the default, not that many people are able/wanting to move in and out of the country, which would slow down the process of formation of an active black market? I imagine it would be somewhat difficult to get suitcases of $/euros through airport security.

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