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China stunned the world’s financial markets on Wednesday by devaluing the yuan for the second consecutive day, triggering fears the world’s second largest economy is in worse shape than investors believed.
The move sent fresh shockwaves through global markets, pushing shares sharply lower and sending commodity prices further into reverse as traders feared the move could ignite a currency war that would destabilise the world economy.
There were widespread losses in Asia, and in Europe stock markets suffered falls of about 1%, with the FTSE 100 tumbling almost 2% at one stage.
The Chinese currency hit a four-year low on Wednesday after the People’s Bank of China set the yuan’s daily midpoint even weaker than in Tuesday’s devaluation.
This is why I trade #currencies and not #stocks 😉 Global panic helped us reach our bearish target on the #AUDUSD pair as Mr. Aussie managed to become one of the major losers during “Black Monday” #marketcrash thanks to #China. Ms. USA was also among the losers as her power shifted from strong to weak as I covered in this week’s #forex strength ranking
However Mr. #Aussie became weak enough to drag Ms. USA all the way down to our target of 1.7150 [Celebration please!]
Is there more opportunity for us to #trade? Hell yes!
Go to @investdiva .com for my FREE #trading strategy
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When Christos Papaioannou noticed his car needed new tires, the Greek computer engineer bought them with euros—but used an alternative currency, called TEM, to pay his mechanic for the labor.
His country has avoided a catastrophic exit from the common currency, at least for now. But a small but growing number of cash-strapped Greeks, who are still grappling with strict money-withdrawal limits, have found another route in TEM and other unconventional payment systems like it.
“Money is sparse right now, but people still have the same skills and knowledge they had before the crisis,” said Mr. Papaioannou, part of a cooperative that founded TEM in the port city of Volos and one of nearly 1,000 registered users of the alternate currency there.
TEM—a sophisticated form of barter whose name is the Greek acronym for Local Alternative Unit—was founded in 2010 in the early months of Greece’s debt crisis with less than a dozen members. Now it includes dozens of participating local businesses that use the system to sell goods and services, including prepared food, haircuts, doctor visits, or even for renting an apartment.
One of the larger and more established alternative payment systems in Greece, TEM has given Greeks living under the strain of wage cuts and tax increases a supplementary way to trade. Instead of dealing with a physical currency, members have an online account that starts at zero when they join. They can opt to take payment for goods and services in TEM, and then use those to buy products from others.
On the network website, users can post ads on what they can offer and what they want. Mr. Papaioannou, for instance, accepts TEM as payment for the computer repairs he does and says he uses the alternate currency in transactions several times a week.
It is a localized version of what Greece might have to turn to if a tentative bailout agreement reached this week is derailed, or ultimately fails. Before his resignation last month, former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis floated the idea of setting up a parallel-currency system based on IOUs in the event that Greece could no longer stay afloat using euros. Without a rescue, the idea of using IOUs is seen as the country’s most likely alternative.
The number of such alternate-currency projects began swelling in Greece in 2009, according to Irene Sotiropoulou, a Greek economist. That was the year the country’s budget deficit mushroomed to 15% of gross domestic product and investor appetite for Greek bonds collapsed.
Before then, Ms. Sotiropoulou said she was only aware of two such programs. No official record of the number of alternative currencies and local bartering systems appears to exist in Greece. But according to an Athens-based grass roots organization called Omikron Project, there are now more than 80 such programs, double the number in 2013. They vary in size, from dozens of members to thousands.
“The problems that existed have only gotten worse, and the new deal is going to create problems of its own that will deepen the crisis in certain areas,” said Mehran Khalili, one of the founders of Omikron. “The logical response is to create groups to react to that and fill those gaps that are going to exist because of the unsustainable situation that Greece has found itself in.”
Experts say TEM and other local currencies work best side-by-side with the euro, not as a replacement.
“They aren’t going to overhaul the financial system,” said Leander Bindewald, a researcher at the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability at the U.K.’s University of Cumbria. “But they represent a certain kind of value that normal money just cannot give you.” Users of the alternative currencies often cite the sense of community it provides as an additional benefit, saying they like the cooperation and social interaction it provides.
One notable example of alternative currencies used during a crisis was in the 1930s during the Great Depression, when the Austrian town of Wörgl decided to fight the economic downturn by printing its own money. Economists called the result a miracle: Employment boomed, while inflation remained subdued. During the economic depression that struck Argentina in 1998 and lasted till 2002, people formed barter networks and several provinces introduced their own currencies.
In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, similar projects have been introduced to Spain, Italy, Portugal, Germany and France.
In Volos, one unit of the alternative currency is equal to one euro and the entire system is administered exclusively online and on mobile through an open-source online-banking system called Cyclos. To keep the currency fairly liquid and encourage active participation, no member may keep more than 1,200 TEMs, and no one may owe more than 300.
The alternate currencies have their limitations: The use of TEM, for example is restricted to those people and local businesses that choose to accept them, and won’t directly help people struggling to meet their monthly utility bills.
Maria McCarthy, a British woman who lives in Volos with her Greek husband and children, has earned and spent over 10,000 TEMs in four years by offering English and guitar lessons. She also sells secondhand clothes and other material goods in Volos’ biweekly marketplace, where almost everything besides euros are exchanged.
“I charge roughly what I would charge for an English lesson if it was in euros,” said Ms. McCarthy. But, she adds, she is able to continue to do business with people who can no longer afford to pay in euros. When civil wages were cut in 2010, Ms. McCarthy’s household income was nearly halved, and trading in TEM has become a mode of supplementing their income.
Mr. Papaioannou says he has paid for renovating parts of his home as well as food and clothing with the currency, and an increasingly larger share of his computer-repair work is done through transactions with TEM.
“You’re used to a method of doing things,” he said, “and suddenly, you realize there are other ways too.”