The Chinese zodiac is quite unique in its construction. Based on a cyclical perception of time, the twelve animal signs are structured around a 12 year cycle. Starting with the Rat, they each represent various characteristics of people that are born during the Chinese year.  In China it is currently the Year of the Rat, a year symbolizing hard work, shrewdness, and ruthlessness. 2008 is also considered a lucky year as the number 8 is very auspicious and in Chinese, sounds similar to the word for prosperity or wealth.
The white dove and olive branch is arguably the most recognized worldwide symbol for peace. References of the dove range from The Holy Qura’an to Pablo Picasso’s artwork.  You can even purchase a War & Peace watch with a rotating Dove from the United Nations online bookshop for US$45.95. 
In the finance world however, references to doves are not exactly meant to illustrate peace. Instead, financial jargon defines these words as follows:
- Dovish: A Central Bank that is cutting (reducing) interest rates
- Hawkish: A Central Bank this is increasing interest rates
Simply put, a Central Bank that reduces the interest rate at which commercial banks can borrow at is said to be Dovish and vice versa. In general, interest rates lower debt cost. For example, in Kuwait, loans are usually quoted as a percentage over the CBK rate and most of the loan terms are actually pre-determined by the Central Bank of Kuwait. That means that if you took out an Al-Afdal loan from Gulf Bank today [4% + CBK rate] your interest would be 8.5%.
As we all have come to know, 2008 has been terrorized by the banking and financial crisis and according to the latest SMS circling Kuwait, a year where only two banks are expected to remain – the Blood Bank and the Sperm Bank. However, the Central Banks have many tools at their disposal to deter such an event from becoming a reality. Increasing or decreasing interest rates are one of the many gadgets used to promote financial and economic stability. During these moments of crisis the Central Bank policy makers have joined together in a coordinated effort to reduce interest rates hence making this year a Dovish one.
The graph below highlights the year to date interest rate for the US Federal Reserve, Bank of England, and the European Central Bank. The US has been more aggressive than its peers in reducing interest rates as it struggles to keep its economy afloat.
Interest Rates – YTD %
- ECB: 3.75%
- US FED: 1.00%
- BOE: 4.50%
Merely noting the net change in the interest rates does not give a clear picture as to whether the policy was effective in achieving its objective. One measure of credit and liquidity risk in the banking system is the TED spread. It is calculated by taking the 3 month London Interbank Offer Rate [LIBOR] and subtracting the 3 month T-Bill yield.
- LIBOR: It is a measure of how much banks are willing to lend US dollars to each other. The reported rate is an average of participating banks.
- T-Bills: The interest rate at which you can borrow, essentially risk free, from the US government.
As a rule of thumb, when the TED spread is:
- High: Banks are less willing to lend to each other as they believe other banks are not safe
- Low: Banks are more willing to lend to each other as they expect to get their money back
In this particular case, policy makers reacted to a nosediveÂ in global equities during September and scrambled to take action. From September until about mid October, the TED spread continued to rise as banks simply stopped lending to each other. However, after interest rates were reduced globally the TED spread started to come off its high.
- All time High: 4.57% [October 10, 2008]
- All time Low: -0.034% [September 12, 2001]
We can see that the coordinated rate cuts were effective in reducing the credit risk in the banking system as banks became more willing to lend to one another. As of November 1, 2008 these are where things stand:
- TED Spread: 2.41%
- LIBOR: 3.02%
- T-Bill: 0.61%
However, when comparing the TED spread to the May 1987 average of 1.7% and the October 1987 average of 2.26% we are still at higher levels. This is somewhat anticipated as the current crisis is far greater in depth and breadth than The Crash of 1987 which started on October 19, 1987 in Hong Kong. 
In summation, I would like to leave you with a recap of the main points discussed in this post and what you can anticipate going forward:
- Dovish Central Banks help reduce the overall cost of debt and aid in de-leveraging of the economy
- The TED Spread is a measure of credit and liquidity risk in the banking system
- Expect LIBOR rates to decrease as liquidity is injected into the system and inter-bank trust is restored
- Expect Central Banks to continue to reduce interest rates
- Consider making a deposit at your local Blood Bank and/or Sperm Bank
I will be posting a follow up to this topic later this week and will discuss the various Central Bank actions year to date.
Please do not hesitate to leave a comment or send me an email if you have any inquiries or would like to discuss the post.
 Dove of Peace. Pablo Picasso.