January 2019

Jan. 18, 2019 (Western Union Business Solutions)  – Constructive news on the trade war had a mixed impact on major currencies. The U.S. dollar was mostly flat as losses against the euro and Canadian dollar were offset by gains against the yen and sterling. Market morale is taking some comfort from reports that the U.S. is mulling reducing tariffs on Chinese goods to help broker a trade agreement. Reduced trade tensions weighed on safe havens, sending the Japanese currency to its lowest in more than two weeks. Sterling dipped from two-month peaks as weaker than expected U.K. consumer spending catalyzed a bout of profit taking on its broad outperformance this week. Britain’s Brexit crisis has shown marked signs of going from a boil to a simmer as fears of a potentially disastrous no-deal exit from the bloc recede. In focus today will be reports on U.S. consumer morale and Canadian inflation.

 

GBP

 

Sterling slipped from two-month highs as sobering news on the U.K consumer spurred many to take some chips off the table. Sterling pared some of its gains but remained a penny higher on the week as the rocky week of U.K. politics suggested a fading likelihood of Britain exiting the EU without a deal, markets worst case scenario. The Brexit process is in wait and see what the prime minister’s Plan B looks like when Theresa May reveals it Monday. The pound could be in the early innings of a significant rally if Britain in the end should decide to cancel Brexit. On the data front, U.K. retail sales tumbled nearly a percent in December, news that highlighted the vulnerable state of the economy months ahead of its expected departure from the EU in March.

 

EUR

 

The euro eked out a gain but its vital signs remained bearish as concerns about a slowing euro zone economy put a lid on meaningful gains. The euro was on track for a weekly loss with the big blow this week coming from news that Germany’s economy grew at the slowest pace in 5 years in 2018. Recent numbers suggest the economy is likely to remain in a lower gear over the foreseeable future, casting significant doubt on an ECB interest rate hike this year.

 

CAD

 

Canada’s dollar appreciated after news of warmer than expected inflation to close out 2018 kept the door ajar to higher interest rates. Overall inflation unexpectedly rose to a 2% annual rate in December, compared to forecasts to remain at 1.7%. However, less volatile underlying inflation steadied below the Bank of Canada’s 2% goal. While the data was consistent with tame inflation, it appeared warm enough to keep a rate hike later this year in the conversation, a notion that’s positive for the loonie’s appeal.

 


USA 

Jan. 15, 2019 (Western Union Business Solutions)  – Rising risks in Europe offered a broad boost to the U.S. currency. The euro led losses against the greenback with the yen and sterling also in the red. Somewhat stable global markets and oil prices supported Canada’s dollar. All eyes are on the U.K. today as Britain’s parliament is expected to vote on the divorce agreement that the prime minister forged with the EU. The unpopular plan all but assures that U.K. politicians will vote against the deal. Key for sterling and broader market morale will be the margin of victory, which is considered unlikely, or defeat. Voting on the deal is expected to start around 2 p.m. ET with a decision likely an hour or so later. The euro plunged after Germany reported the weakest growth in five years in 2018. While stronger Tuesday, the greenback’s fundamental appeal was perceived as limited with the Fed signaling a high bar to further rate increases.

 

CAD

 

The loonie firmed Tuesday as oil prices rose above $51. How the loonie fares today and over coming days could hinge on what transpires in Britain’s parliament since the big vote over there today could set the stage for broader market sentiment. An outcome that heightens political risk and uncertainty in Europe would tend to be bad for stocks and commodities, a situation that could leave the loonie at risk of losses against safer peers like its U.S. counterpart. Loonie sentiment has also wavered in the run-up to Canadian inflation on Friday. Softer price growth would inject uncertainty and doubt into the need for the Bank of Canada to raise borrowing rates this year.

 

GBP

 

Sterling slid a cent below two-month peaks against the dollar as players favored safer bets ahead of today’s expected vote in the U.K. parliament over the terms of Britain’s split with the EU. The market is positioned for the bill to be defeat but what could matter most is the margin. A small defeat might allow room for Theresa May to seek tweaks from the EU to make it palatable enough to cross the finish line. However, a large margin of defeat could spell heightened U.K. uncertainty. The pound is seen held hostage to the Brexit drama and tends to outperform when odds of a potentially cataclysmic no-deal, hard Brexit lessen.

 

EUR

 

The euro sank to its lowest in more than a week after Germany acknowledged the weakest growth in years in 2018. While Europe’s biggest economy grew for a ninth straight year, it did so at the weakest rate (1.5%) in 5 years which followed a 2.2% pace in 2017. The soggy data threw a wet blanket over chances of the ECB raising borrowing rates later this year. The big headwinds on growth were the slowing world economy and the trans-Atlantic trade dispute with Washington.

 

USD

 

America’s dollar garnered a haven boost with risks on the rise in Europe. Today’s main market driver is liable to arrive around 2 p.m. ET when U.K. lawmakers are expected to start voting on the prime minister’s Brexit plan. While stronger, meaningful gains could elude the buck with the Fed signaling a wait and see stance with respect to future interest rate increases. Downbeat data on the U.S. economy further dampened prospects of a rate hike as Empire State index of New York area business conditions disappointed and grew at the slowest pace since May 2017 in January.

 

Jan. 9, 2019 (Western Union Business Solutions)  – The U.S. dollar’s rout today to October lows was justified by a cautious set of minutes from the last Fed meeting. The minutes from the Fed’s December meeting at which officials raised rates for the fourth time in 2018 played up higher uncertainty and risks facing the U.S. economy from trade wars and slowing global growth. The minutes’ cautious tone bolstered the view that U.S. interest rates are on hold for now and even hinted that policymakers may almost be done raising rates. With inflation well contained and at risk of moderating in the wake of weaker oil prices, it seems like the door is closed for now for the Fed to increase borrowing rates, a dovish outlook that could leave the dollar susceptible to further downside risk over the coming days and weeks.

The Fed issues its first policy decision of the year on Jan. 30 at which it is all but certain to leave rates unchanged at 2.5%.

GBP

 

When it comes to all things Brexit – prepare for the unexpected. The coming week looms large for sterling with Britain’s parliament slated to finally vote on the prime minister’s unpopular Brexit deal on Jan. 15. Failure to pass Theresa May’s EU-endorsed plan would risk a sterling selloff, a scenario that could heightened the risk of a disorderly, no-deal, hard split from the EU. Still, the endgame for Brexit is anything but certain and could range from a host of scenarios such as delaying Brexit day that’s set for March 29 or holding another Brexit referendum.

 

CAD

 

The Bank of Canada today should offer a key test of strength in the loonie’s recovery from May 2017 lows. The loonie has clawed back ground thanks to the moderating greenback and the rebound in stock markets and oil prices. Crude topped $50 today, buoying commodity currencies. The BOC is expected to leave its base rate unchanged at 1.75% in the wake of tumultuous moves in both stock and oil prices. The BOC will also issue new forecasts for growth. The bar appears to be elevated for Canada to raise rates at all this year so if policymakers sound a hawkish note it could add fuel to the recent decline in USDCAD.

 

EUR

 

The euro moved to within striking distance of recent peaks in the wake of mixed data from the euro zone. News that area unemployment fell by a notch to 7.9% in November, a decade-low, helped to dim the spotlight on growing signs of weakness in the bloc’s top economy. Germany reported a larger than expected trade surplus of €19.6 billion in November which resulted from Germans buying far less from abroad than they sold. Next to fundamentally impact the single currency will be Thursday minutes of the ECB’s final meeting of 2018.

 

 

Jan. 4, 2019 (Western Union Business Solutions)  – The U.S. dollar ticked lower as risk appetite improved after a gangbusters U.S. jobs report tempered worries of a moderating economy and validated Fed forecasts of higher interest rates this year. America added a whopping 312,000 jobs in December, the most in 10 months. Unemployment rose by two ticks above 49-year lows to 3.9% but for good reason as it reflected a larger workforce. Wages unexpectedly increased, rising to an annual rate of 3.2% versus forecasts of 3.0%. While constructive for the dollar, the data won’t remove the cloud of political uncertainty over Washington amid a partially closed U.S. government, which suggests limited upside for the buck.

 

GBP

 

Sterling caught a boost after U.K. services data topped expectations, an outcome that surprised to the upside and helped the pound recover from a flash crash-induced slide this week to April 2017 lows. Britain’s economy-driving services industry closed out 2018 on firmer footing with the PMI rising to 51.2. Support from the data may not last long for sterling given the still unsettled situation in Britain over Brexit.

 

EUR

 

The euro fell after bullish U.S. jobs data stood in contrast to weaker inflation numbers from Europe that kept a near-term rate hike by the ECB off the table. Inflation in the euro bloc slowed to an annual rate of 1.6% last month, down from 1.9% in November, the weakest in 8 months. The less volatile core number steadied at a low 1%.

 

CAD

 

Canada’s dollar rose above 1 ½ year lows thanks to stronger oil markets and faster hiring last month. Canada added 9,300 jobs in December, above forecasts of 5,500, though a marked slowdown from the record spike of more than 94,000 in November. Unemployment stayed at 5.6% compared to forecasts of a modest uptick. A closer look at the data showed that all of the hiring came from the less meaningful part-time positions, suggesting limited support to the loonie.

 

Jan. 2, 2019 (Western Union Business Solutions)  – The U.S. dollar fared mixed on the first trading day of 2019. The dollar rallied against its European counterparts, hit a seven-month low against the yen and was little changed against the Canadian dollar. It may be a new year but the same uncertainties continue to dog global markets. Disappointing data from China and Europe added to mounting signs of a moderating world economy, a risk-averse backdrop that supported safe bets like the U.S. and Japanese currencies. The broadly weighted U.S. Dollar Index appreciated 4% in 2018 which proved its strongest year in three. Yet the U.S. currency finished 2018 in second place as it took a back seat to the yen which thrived as a haven destination from global stock swings and moderating expectations for U.S. growth and higher interest rates this year. This week’s main event will be America’s jobs report on Friday that’s forecast to show faster hiring in December.

 

USD

 

The dollar caught a safe haven boost with global markets in the red in the wake of dismal data from China and Europe. The coming year could prove more challenging for the dollar should the U.S. economy slow and throw a wrench in Fed plans to continue to lift borrowing rates in 2019. America’s jobs report Friday will be important for the buck’s early 2019 prospects as labor market strength and the lowest unemployment in 49 years have the Fed penciling in higher interest rates this year.

 

JPY

 

The yen kept in pole position after gaining against the otherwise stronger greenback in 2018. A messy global backdrop of moderating growth and political uncertainty in Britain and beyond continues to stoke demand for safer plays like the yen which clocked a seven-month high on the first trading day of 2019. Until market risk factors subside, the path of least resistance appears higher for the yen.

 

EUR

 

The euro started the year with a plunge after disappointing factory data from the Top 4 euro zone economies weighed. The big blow came from manufacturing data from France and Italy that showed growth below the boom or bust level of 50. With factory growth in the red in the bloc’s Nos. 2 and 3 economies, it underscored the dovish outlook for ECB policy, a chief source of euro weakness.

 

CAD

 

Canada’s dollar steadied out of the 2019 gates but its outlook remained fraught with negativity with oil markets in the red. Sliding oil prices signal a weaker outlook for global growth, a scenario that suggests a closed door for the Bank of Canada to raise borrowing rates this month or any time soon. Canada on Friday will release the nation’s December jobs report that’s forecast to show a marked slowdown in hiring to around 5,500 jobs after a record gain of more than 90,000 in November.