The dollar continues to climb

Foreign Exchange

Central Banks and their policy choices once again dominated the currency markets last week and will continue to do so as we edge closer to their next meetings.

With interest rates set to rise worldwide, speculation is rife on the quantum of the rises. The most aggressive stance is still being taken by the US Federal Reserve, which continues to say nothing to dissuade investors from anticipating successive increases of 0.5% at their next two meetings and, if some analysts are to be believed, possibly by more. The derivative markets are now pricing in no less than nine back-to-back rises of at least 0.25%. In contrast, the Bank of England is sounding almost dovish, and in the face of gathering problems for the UK economy, this may be prudent. Last but by no means least, even the European Central Bank is now hoping to raise rates by 0.75% by the end of the summer.

The euro initially bounced before giving back most of its gains on the news that Emmanuel Macron was comfortably re-elected on Sunday after gaining nearly 58% of the vote in the Presidential Election. With the French Presidential elections settled, a European embargo on Russian oil is more likely, which will cap any advance by the single currency. The week head is bereft of important economic data until the end of the week when inflation in the eurozone and GDP in the US is released. With a dearth of financial data, speculation over the war in Ukraine will play a more significant role in the markets, and the euro will be on the frontline as it feels the impact of slowing economies, dropping consumer confidence, and rising energy costs. Also fighting for attention will be the bond markets which, after a week of rising yields, may continue to undermine confidence in the equity markets, which could lead to a further search for safe-haven assets. All in all, a challenging week ahead for the euro and the pound was possibly made worse with month-end volatility exaggerating movements.

Friday’s poor set of retail sales data combined with falling consumer confidence was taken badly by currency traders who pushed sterling sharply lower against the euro and the dollar. It has started the week still on the back foot, having lost nearly two cents over the last seven days and is now sitting near its lowest levels against the dollar for 18 months. On reflection, the hesitancy of Andrew Bailey to be hawkish is understandable; however, the market still sees at least a 0.25% rise in base rate after next week’s meeting of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee. Whether the appetite is still there to increase the base rate by 0.5% is now open to debate, and this doubt has encouraged the recent sellers. Sterling’s sharp fall will also put pressure on the Bank of England as there is now a danger of importing inflation through a weakened exchange rate. Unusually it’s a barren week for macroeconomic data in the UK, which may not be necessarily a good thing. Attention may turn to Boris Johnson’s problems and his seemingly constant battle to stay as Prime Minister. Campaigning for the local elections, which take place on the same day as the Bank of England meets, will also start to hit the headlines, so we could be in for a nervy week politically, which may feed through to sterling. Tomorrow Sam Woods from the Bank of England is scheduled to speak, and his colleague Sarah Breeden will take to the rostrum on Thursday.

Despite President Macron winning a second term, the euro is still hovering around its lowest level for two years against the dollar. With the Federal Reserve set on raising the cost of borrowing next week and risk aversion continuing, the euro is likely to stay on the back foot for the time being. This week, investors in the euro can turn their attention back to raw macroeconomic data and the problems the European Central Bank faces. The problem for the ECB is how to start normalising policy and when to start doing so. This was brought into focus on Friday with ISMs Purchasing Manager’s Indexes release. During April, the services sector in the eurozone touched a seven-month high; however, manufacturing PMIs appear to be grinding to a halt. With manufacturing stuttering and inflation growing, it does appear that the eurozone is heading into a period of stagflation. The eurozone has the busiest data docket of all the major currencies this week, starting this morning with the release of the IFO Business sentiment reports for Germany, followed by EU Construction Output. We then have a couple of days without top tier data before Germany releases its preliminary Consumer Price Index and Eurostat publishes a plethora of data, the most important being Consumer and Industrial Confidence. A busy week closes with  German and eurozone GDP and the EU Consumer Price Index. The only speakers due from the European Central Bank are Fabio Panetta this evening and Luis de Guindos on Thursday afternoon.

The Federal Reserve looks nailed on to raise rates in a little over a week, by 0.5% and even if some are to be believed, 0.75%. This should continue to support the dollar, especially against currencies with more circumspect central banks. The prospect of the rise is causing risk assets to come under pressure in particular stock markets, which in turn is strengthening the greenback. A quiet start to the week on the data front is in prospect until Thursday when Gross Domestic Product is released, which is expected to have slowed from the last quarter as Omicron damaged the economy. However, if recent data is believed, this is a blip, and the second quarter GDP should bounce back strongly. Friday sees the release of Personal Consumption Income and Spending, including the April Index, which the Fed will be watching closely. Before that, Durable Goods are released tomorrow, and of course, the weekly jobs data is out on Thursday. There are no speakers from the Federal Reserve this week as they are in their normal blackout period ahead of their monthly meeting on 4th May.