Russia sees world nearing currency war as Europe joins fight

The world is on the brink of a fresh “currency war,” Russia warned, as European policy makers joined Japan in bemoaning the economic cost of rising exchange rates.

“Japan is weakening the yen and other countries may follow,” Alexei Ulyukayev, first deputy chairman of Russia’s central bank, said at a conference today in Moscow.

The alert from the country that chairs the Group of 20 came as Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker complained of a “dangerously high” euro and officials in Norway and Sweden expressed exchange-rate concern.

The push for weaker currencies is being driven by a need to find new sources of economic growth as monetary and fiscal policies run out of room. The risk is as each country tries to boost exports, it hurts the competitiveness of other economies and provokes retaliation.

Yesterday “will go down as the first day European policy makers fired a shot in the 2013 currency war,” said Chris Turner, head of foreign-exchange strategy at ING Groep NV in London.

G-20 Clash

The skirmish may lead to a clash of G-20 finance ministers and central banks when they meet next month in Moscow, three months after reiterating their 2009 pledge to “refrain from competitive devaluation of currencies.”

While emerging markets have repeatedly complained about strong currencies as a result of easy monetary policies in the west, the engagement of richer nations is adding a new dimension to what Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega first dubbed a currency war in 2010.

After Switzerland blocked the franc’s appreciation against the euro since September 2011, Japan has reignited the latest round of rhetoric as newly elected Prime Minister Shinzo Abe campaigns to spur growth via a more aggressive central bank. The yen has slid 11% against the dollar since December and this week touched its lowest level in two years.

Now other policy makers are speaking out. Juncker, who leads the group of euro-area finance ministers, said yesterday that the euro’s 7% gain against the dollar in the past six months poses a fresh threat to the European economy just as it shows signs of escaping its three-year debt crisis.

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