I really can’t figure out which currency is something I would want to hold if I had the option. It doesn’t really matter, since I am not going to act on it in a very direct way (maybe if I felt very strongly I would do something but it would probably be pretty limited), but I still keep thinking about this issue out of curiosity.
The USA dollar seems lousy to me. Huge debt (both government and consumer). Government debt is huge on the books and huge off the books (state and local retirement – and federal medical care [social security is really in much better shape than people think, though it also has issues 30 + years out}).
The Euro seemed a bit lame 3 years ago. Today it seems crazy to think at least one Euro country won’t default in the next 3 years – and likely more. And if they take steps to avoid that it seems like it is going to make the case for the Euro worse).
The Japanese Yen is much stronger than makes any sense to me. I think it is mainly because of how lousy all the options are. The huge government debt (worse than almost anywhere) and lousy demographics (and the refusal to deal with demographics with immigration or something) are big problems. The biggest reason for strength is that the individuals have huge savings (when your citizens own the debt it is much less horrible than when others do – especially when you are looking at currency value).
The Chinese Yuan is the best looking at the economic data. The problem is economic data is questionable for the best cases (looking at the USA, Japan…). China’s economic data is far from transparent. There is also great political and social risk. The current worries of a real estate bubble seems justified to me and China just this week took exactly the wrong action – trying to prop up the bubble (in order to decrease the economic slowdown). I can see either of these cases playing out 10 years from now: It was obvious the Yuan was the strongest currency you are an idiot for not being able to see that or It was obvious China was a bubble with unsustainable policies and likely social upheaval thinking that was anything but a sign to sell the Yuan was foolish.
Given all this I think I weakly come down on the side that the Yuan is likely to be the strongest.
The safest play I think is the US dollar (as lousy as it is on an absolute basis the options make it look almost good). It could get clobbered. But that seems less likely than the others getting clobbered.
Smaller currencies have some promise but they can be swamped by global moves. I really have no idea about the Brazilian Real. That might actually be a really good option. The Australian Dollar and Canadian Dollar may also. But those economies are really small. I don’t trust India: they have many good macro-economic factors but the climate for business leaves far too much to be desired (as does the pace of progress fixing those weaknesses). Many economist like them due to demographic factors. I understand that demographic factors will help, but without systemic reform I question how well India can do (it certainly has the potential to do amazingly well, but they seem to be significantly farther away from reaching their potential compared to many countries).
The Singapore Dollar seems good on many levels, but the economy is small. I am not really sure about emerging economies, there currencies can get swamped in a hurry. Thailand and Indonesia experienced this recently. Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia are interesting to me in thinking about what their currencies may experience, I would like to read more on this.
This is more an intellectual and curiosity exercise than something I see directly tied to my investing strategy. But having clear answers of what I thought reasonable scenarios were for currencies going forward that would factor into my investing decisions. Right now, the confusing this causes me, leads me to favor companies that should be fine whatever happens: Apple, Google, Toyota, Intel (I don’t really like Facebook overall but in this way they fit). Lots of the stocks in my 12 stocks for 10 years portfolio, you might notice.