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EUR/USD breaks 1.02 handle as recession panic intensifies

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7 July 2022

Written by
Matthew Ryan

Head of Market Strategy at Ebury Providing expert currency analysis so small and mid-sized businesses can effectively navigate international markets.

The euro made another fresh march towards parity against the US dollar on Wednesday, as talk of recessions in the common bloc and around the world once again weighed on risk appetite.


  • EUR/USD trades below 1.02 level for the first time since December 2002, as markets react to rising European gas prices, heightened recession fears.
  • Boris Johnson’s time as Prime Minister appears to be at an end after host of cabinet resignations, calls among Tory MPs for his resignation.
  • GBP driven more by recession concerns and expectations for BoE monetary policy. MPC member Pill says UK economy set to ‘crawl’ in coming year.
  • CEE currencies lead losses in EM for second straight day, as energy crisis weighs on risk sentiment.

 Since I began covering financial markets in 2014, we’ve had a handful of periods where talk of EUR/USD parity has dominated the narrative in FX, notably in early-2015 and late-2016. Unlike in previous years, there appears an air of inevitability this time around, and a growing consensus that a move below parity may merely be a matter of when, rather than if. Our view that parity in the pair would be avoided has certainly softened this week. This is not merely a reaction to the moves seen in the currency market in the past few days, but also a response to the broad shift in stance towards the impact of rising energy prices on the Euro Area economy. Since the middle of June, we’ve seen a stark divergence between US and EU gas prices, with the former easing and the latter rising to four-month highs.

Not only does the jump in European energy prices ramp up global recession concerns, but the divergence across the Atlantic has also increased expectations that the US economy is in a better position to weather a slowdown than its Euro Area counterpart. Macroeconomic data releases yesterday supported exactly that, with a big downside surprise in Eurozone retail sales (+0.2 YoY vs. 5.4% consensus) coming in sharp contrast to a better-than-expected US services PMI (a still very healthy 55.3 vs. 54.5 expected). US labour data out in the next couple of days, namely this afternoon’s ADP employment change number and Friday’s nonfarm payrolls report, will likely be highly important for markets. Continued signs of strength here could be enough to trigger another move lower in EUR/USD.

Figure 2: US ISM Services PMI (2013 – 2022)

Source: Refinitiv Datastream Date: 06/07/2022

The pound once again traded lower against the US dollar yesterday, ending the London session around the 1.19 level. We think that much of the weakness in sterling has been driven by the flight to safety and rising UK recession concerns more than anything else, although one could easily be forgiven for assuming that the recent sell-off has been a product of rising political uncertainty. While Boris Johnson continues to cling to power at the time of writing, it appears inevitable that a resignation or forced exit through another no confidence vote is imminent any day – some bookies are offering as little as a 2% chance that he survives the year.

While a possible PM change is likely to dominate the national newswires, we actually see little meaningful immediate impact on GBP from the likely change in leadership. As of yet, there are no clear frontrunners to replace Johnson – Penny Mordaunt and Rishi Sunak appear to be in pole position, although bookmarks appear rather torn over half a dozen or more candidates. Until a clear favourite emerges, we won’t have any real read on potential policy implications, although regardless these changes are likely to be minor, and we think that markets will be paying much closer attention to both recession fears and interest rate expectations. As far as the latter is concerned, Bank of England Chief Economist Huw Pill said yesterday that the UK economy was set to ‘crawl’ in the coming 12 months, somewhat dampening expectations that ultra-aggressive rate hikes could be on the way during the remainder of the year.

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