It is not an easy time to forecast currencies. Just as many forecasters fought for the accolade of being the most bearish on the EUR and many others were forced to capitulate or risk falling behind the curve, EUR/USD has started to perk up. Similarly, commodity currencies and many emerging market currencies have bounced.
Perhaps the explanation of these moves is merely position adjustments as traders and investors square positions as they keep one eye on the World Cup or maybe its just fatigue after weeks of selling pressure. Either way, the fact that speculative USD market positioning is at a very high level, suggests there is plenty of scope to take profits on long USD positions.
There are various reasons to expect the calm to give way to renewed tensions, however. Public opposition to austerity plans in Europe, added to the prospects for slowing growth as the plans are implemented, in addition to banking sector concerns, suggest that the outlook for the EUR remains downbeat. These factors also point to the prospects of risk aversion rising over the coming weeks, reversing the recent rally in risk currencies.
Further out, the EUR’s travails will not be over quickly and in the wake of the implementation of austerity plans the EUR will struggle from the impact of relatively slower growth in the eurozone compared to the US and other countries. The EUR will continue to remain under pressure even as risk appetite improves and many risk currencies appreciate.
The interruption of risk as an FX determinant is likely to fade towards the end of the year and investors will then go back to differentiating on the basis of relative growth and interest rate dynamics, which will play well for the USD as US growth strengthens.
Relative growth differentials will also bode well for commodity currencies and there will be scope for plenty of upside in the AUD and NZD as growth strengthens. Both countries have benefited from firm demand in Asia and China in particular and this source of support will likely continue to be beneficial.
Funding currencies including JPY and CHF will likely weaken this year against the USD based on the likely improvement in risk appetite later this year. The outlook for the JPY will be particularly interesting in the wake of the change in Prime Minister in Japan, especially given the new PM’s preference for a weaker JPY and reflationary policies. USD/JPY will likely reach 100 by the end of the year.
GBP should not be seen in the same context as the EUR. Although the UK has got its own share of fiscal problems the new government appears to be moving quickly to mollify both investor and ratings agency concerns. The test will come with the reaction of the emergency budget on June 22nd but I suspect that the downside risk to GBP will be limited.
Unlike the EUR which is trading around “fair value”, GBP is highly undervalued. Arguably past GBP weakness puts the UK economy on a stronger recovery footing. Moreover, problems that Europe will face in implementing multi country austerity plans and widening growth divergence, will not be repeated in the UK. Overall, there is likely to be significant outperformance of GBP versus EUR over coming months