The unprecedented turnaround of fortunes for the US Dollar is continuing to leave a lasting impression on the FX markets, following the Dollar Index’s rise to above 92.80 on Monday, a new milestone for 2018. The emerging market currencies are now playing catch up with some of the excessive losses seen in developed currencies like the Euro, British Pound and Japanese Yen over the past couple of weeks, with the Dollar broadly stronger against the emerging markets at the start of the week. Asian currencies have also fallen victim to the latest round of USD buying momentum. The Japanese Yen, Singapore Dollar, New Taiwan Dollar, Korean Won, Philippine Peso, Indonesian Rupiah, Chinese Yuan, Malaysian Ringgit and Thai Baht are all suffering as a result of the USD’s strength at time of writing.
While there will be concerns that the extended run of Dollar-buying momentum risks spelling pain for the emerging markets in ways not seen since the Federal Reserve began raising US interest rates back in 2015, emerging market investors should not panic. It must not be forgotten that we are encountering an unexpected global theme where the Dollar has become unexpectedly stronger than the overwhelming majority of its counterparts. The British Pound has nosedived 5.5% since April 17th, while the Euro has lost 3.7% during the same period.
Rather than investors becoming concerned about the future prospects of the emerging markets, the real question to ask is – what exactly has encouraged such a turnaround in investor demand for the Dollar? Many will be inclined to look towards the 10-year US treasury yields, that are above 3% for the first time since 2014, as being the main catalyst behind the Dollar drive. Although I am personally leaning towards the view that increased interest rate differentials between the United States and its developed peers are what is causing the move in the US Dollar. Both the Bank of England (BoE) & European Central Bank (ECB) have seemingly backtracked from their own interest rate ambitions over the past couple of weeks. This has reminded investors that the Federal Reserve remains significantly beyond its developed peers when it comes to normalizing monetary policy.
Euro hits new 2018 low
The EURUSD has resumed its recent downward spiral by falling below 1.19 for the first time since late 2017. A new round of weak economic data has exposed further fears that the Euro area is at risk of entering another downturn. I personally feel that this view is a little unfair, considering that the Eurozone outperformed all expectations throughout the previous year. The latest EU data will however provide the ECB with more reason to remain hesitant on raising interest rates, meaning that increasing interest rate differentials between the United States and Europe risk exposing the EURUSD further to the downside.
China and Nafta talks still in spotlight
The first round of negotiations between the United States and China concluded at the end of last week with no breakthrough, as expected. While ongoing talks behind the scenes have eased tensions around a potential trade war between two of the largest economies in the world, investors will remain on high alert for trade threats, as long as the discussions fail to bring any tangible results.
Oil benefits from Iran risk
Persistent fears that President Trump will pull out of the Iran nuclear deal later this week have played a pivotal role behind the price of US Oil rising above $70 for the first time since November 2014. With Trump having referred to the Iran agreement in the past as “the worst deal ever”, it is not difficult to understand why investors are pricing in heavy risk premiums into the price of oil before Trump’s announcement on the Iran nuclear deal this evening. It does need to be remembered that there will be wider implications than the price of oil, if Trump does abandon the 2015 nuclear deal.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has already warned that the US would “regret” its decision to exit the nuclear deal, and concerns over how Iran might react to the United States pulling out do not appear to have been factored into other asset classes. One of the most difficult questions to answer is what impact the United States pulling out of the deal might mean for politics in the Middle East.
There is a likelihood of market uncertainty in the lead up to Trump’s “decision” on the Iran nuclear deal today, and I think the Japanese Yen and Gold will be sought from investors if there is a period of risk aversion in the markets.
Ringgit weakens ahead of General Election
Ahead of an extremely busy week for the Malaysian economic calendar, the Ringgit is showing signs of weakness against the USD.
The intense buying momentum in the USD has probably been the main contributor to the Ringgit fluctuations, but the general election later this week will still be seen as a potential event risk. If there is unexpected uncertainty with the election in Malaysia, it can’t be ruled out that the Ringgit could find itself at risk of further selling pressure.
Rupiah weakens as Indonesia GDP disappoints
The Indonesian Rupiah tumbled to its lowest levels since December 2015 at 14,000, after GDP growth in Indonesia showed signs of weakness in the first quarter of 2018. The headline GDP miss has been attributed to weak consumption, and the news failed to help the Rupiah pull away from its recent rut that has seen the currency take the position of the second-worst Asian performer over the past three months.
The slower pace of economic growth is going to make it difficult for Bank Indonesia to raise interest rates, despite calls for the central bank to take action in an effort to prevent the local currency from further weakness.