Investors Are More Confident in Countries That Can Devalue and Inflate
CHART OF THE DAY: This Is Our Vote For CHART OF THE YEAR: A phrase you sometimes hear in financial markets is 'punish the printer.' The idea is that countries that are printing a lot of money will see their currencies dive. But a defining characteristic of 2011 was that markets loved printers. Specifically, countries that were able to print their own money saw their borrowing costs plunge, while countries (even fiscally responsible ones) that didn't have this ability saw their borrowing costs jump. (Our) favorite example of this is Sweden vs. Finland. The former is outside of the euro zone and can print its own money; the latter uses the Euro and can't. Historically, the two countries have borrowed money at roughly the same rate. Both are considered to be stable and fiscally disciplined.
In this chart, the green line is the yield on the Finnish 10-year bond. The orange is the Swedish 10-year bond. Starting in the Spring, Finland began to pay a penalty, but still, the two roughly moved in the same direction. It was in late November, when the European crisis got to its hairiest point (even Germany had a failed auction) that you really saw the difference. Finnish yields spiked at the same time Swedish yields plunged. Investors flocked to the country that could print its own money. This defining idea of 2011 also resulted in ultra-cheap rates in the UK, Japan, and of course the U.S.