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Speculation masks a political agenda

THE chiefs of the central banks from Germany, France, Belgium, Austria and The Netherlands met in Frankfurt on February 16.

They are incensed by the now well known fact that New York and London bankers and their elite minions are speculating with the increased leverage of derivatives to cause devaluations in the currencies which are in or hoping to be in the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) of the European Community (EC).

The speculations are not solely for profit, although billions have been gained, but for political reasons.

The New York and London bankers do not want the EC to succeed, and they do not want a European currency to replace the US dollar as the world's reserve currency.

The central bankers have reason to believe there will be one more attack on the French franc before the March 20 French election, in order to disrupt the election and get people friendly with the US and London bankers elected.

There were several interesting factors which came out of the meeting. The central bank chiefs agreed that there was no way they would allow the speculators to drive down the French franc, or drive a wedge between Germany and France.

They are especially interested in getting Mr Raymond Barre elected as French Prime Minister. The speculators, by contrast, want a socialist to be elected. There are several conservative parties and all would be for the monetary union of the five hard core currency countries.

The most interesting factor to emerge was that the heads of these five central banks believe that after the French election, the New York and London bankers and their elite associates plan to attack the German mark.

It is believed that the speculators feel they can drive down the will to support the mark because of Germany's deep recession, bankruptcies and unemployment. The way the Group of Five will combat this is by eliminating the Bundesbank and installing, in its place in Frankfurt, a new single central bank for all five countries combined.

The first chief of the new five-nation central bank will be Mr Jean Claude Trichet, who is now a civil servant in the Bank of France and who, as a civil servant, will remain regardless of the French election results. All five countries will have the samemonetary policy and all will be within a 0.5 per cent band of each other.

It is believed that the five, working in complete harmony, can hold the common EC currency intact. The soft currency countries will have to enter, if they can, at a slower speed.

While the US and British bankers have disrupted the ERM, it appears now they will not be able to destroy it for the five strongest countries in Europe.

ufsbox Dollar to slip again THE US dollar has easily fallen back to its September low against the yen and it appears it can hold only a short time and then will have a further fall.

The dollar has lost momentum against the European currencies and will now test 1.65 marks and 1.550 Swiss francs, which will be required for the dollar to advance. However, at best it can have no meaningful advance as a top is forming which should bring it down.

The greenback has not continued its advance on the Canadian dollar, but there is no confirmation that the greenback will not strengthen further against the New Zealand dollar and Australian dollar.

The British pound has lost its downward momentum against all currencies. However, this condition is the result of rallies which are limited and there is no confirmation that it has established a significant floor.

The Japanese yen has aggressively pushed back to 1992's high against the dollar and will meet only limited resistance before it renews its advance. The yen has spent its momentum against European currencies and further consolidation will be required before the yen can advance against European currencies.

The Swiss franc has found a base near its 1992 lows against the yen, mark, French franc and greenback. Now a close below February's lows would be necessary to indicate any further weakness.

The German mark has steadied against the yen after February's sharp decline but this condition can only exist temporarily.

Against the dollar, the mark has steadied against its 1992 low and a decline to $0.60 is necessary to show renewed vulnerability. The mark is steady against the French franc and a close at FF3.37 would be necessary to negate scope for a rally upward. Themark is firm against other European currencies.

Gamblers' market THE Hongkong stock market is now only for gamblers. The best stock market opportunities are all European (except London and Germany) and a great opportunity exists in stock markets in Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and probably Taiwan.

With the exception of Germany and Britain, European stock markets look exceptionally good. The Swiss market has excellent potential but so do Spain (especially banks), Holland, Sweden, France, and Belgium. European stocks are half the price of US or Hongkong and offer better potential. You can now buy European blue chips and hold long term.

In my opinion, the spread between three-month treasury bills and Eurodollars will widen. Beware of US Treasury bills, notes and bonds. American citizens in Hongkong should buy US municipal bonds triple A or at least double A, as the Clinton administration's high-tax, left-of-centre policy will make tax-free municipal bonds zoom. Repeat, this is only for Hongkong-based Americans.

Australians in Hongkong who want to keep funds in Australia should buy Matilda bonds as the Australian credit market looks great once again.

Clinton's tax turn-off TWO countries show special risk to me. One is Germany, which is paying out much of West Germany's money as unemployment benefits to East Germany's unemployed.

It should be putting the unemployed in eastern Germany to work building infrastructure, which would give them income and let eastern Germany become productive.

The second is the US, where the Spending Bill has asked for outrageous tax increases. This will sink business, which creates jobs, with super-high taxes, and drive the middle class and wealthy to tax havens.

The Clinton programme, according to economist Mr Milton Friedman, will perpetuate government waste and spending orgies and do little to create jobs.

They have invented a new economic model where a nation can tax itself to prosperity.

Mr Clinton appears a dozen eggs in search of a blind juggler. My message is to get any money you have in the US or in US dollars out fast.

Businessman Leon Richardson is a well-known financial commentator and investor