Currency Market Analysis

Jun 18, 2015 | Currency Market Analysis

Global Themes

The outlook for the U.S. dollar has turned more uncertain than ever. Disappointment that the Federal Reserve this week didn’t offer a more definitive signal that U.S. interest rates would rise this year weighed on the dollar and knocked it to one-month lows against a wide swath of rivals. Against sterling, the dollar slumped to its lowest in seven months. Once again, the Fed said that rates could rise later this year, repeating a familiar refrain that has already become a part of the dollar’s fabric. Along with a cut in its growth forecast for this year, the Fed’s overall tone sounded dovish, injuring the dollar. The dollar’s outlook isn’t necessarily a markedly darker one though as the Fed left the ball in the U.S. economy’s court. Better U.S. data would keep a 2015 rate hike on track and perhaps support the dollar in a way the Fed statement this week didn’t. Doubts about when U.S. rates will rise will remain selling points for dollar bears. But America’s higher rate outlook will offer a longer run advantage for the dollar whose biggest rivals are expected to trail the Fed in tightening policy. The dollar should take cues today from a slew of U.S. data, including critical numbers on jobs and inflation.


Mixed news on U.S. jobs and inflation added to the cloudy outlook for U.S. interest rates which did little to move the dollar from one-month lows. Core inflation ticked downward to an annual rate of 1.7%, away from the Fed’s 2% comfort level. The job market remained the economy’s MVP though as weekly claims improved to 267,000 from 279,000. Weekly jobless have hovered at historically healthy levels below 300,000 for 15 weeks in a row, a good sign for the next payrolls report. More U.S. data follow at 10 a.m. ET.


The loonie jumped to one-month highs on the heels of a weaker U.S. dollar and an uptick in oil to above $60. The Fed left many guessing when it would finally boost its key rate for the first time in nearly a decade, uncertainty that has subtracted from the dollar’s bullish run over the past year.


The dip in the dollar helped the euro throw caution surrounding Greece to the wind. The euro soared to fresh one-month highs against its U.S. counterpart after the Fed this week stopped short of an ironclad signal that rates would rise this year. Instability should remain the name of the game for the euro until markets know definitively what the immediate future holds for Greece. A higher risk of a Greek default should, at the very least, slow the euro’s ascent against the dollar.


The U.S. dollar rebounded from near one-month lows against the crown after Norway lowered interest rates to 1% from 1.25% and left the door open to further action.


The Swiss franc firmed after Switzerland’s central bank left its key rate unchanged at -0.75%. Officials though dubbed the franc as overvalued, suggesting a low tolerance of further appreciation which would increase an already strong headwind on the export-powered Alpine economy. Any worsening in the Greek crisis could thrust the central bank to lower rates further below zero to weaken the franc.


A trio of factors has formed quite a supporting cast for the pound which soared to seven-month highs against the dollar and fared even better on a broadly weighted basis, notching seven-year peaks. The pound has found durable support in renewed optimism in the U.K. economy. Retail sales topped forecasts today (+0.2% vs. forecast of zero), while wage growth this week proved the fastest in years. Greece’s debt troubles have burnished the pound’s safe haven allure, while a weaker greenback has also worked in the pound’s favor. The pound has strengthened more than 9% since hitting 5-year lows against the dollar in April. In transaction terms, that means a £100,000 payment then compared to now has swelled in cost by nearly $14,000. Talk to your account manager today about ways to prevent currency volatility from taking big bites out of cash flow.

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