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Latin American currencies join US dollar in strong rebound as stocks correct

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7 September 2020

Written by
Enrique Díaz-Álvarez

Chief Risk Officer at Ebury. Committed to mitigating FX risk through tailored strategies, detailed market insight, and FXFC forecasting for Bloomberg.

Last week we saw an unusual combination of winners.

T
he US dollar bounced back, perhaps unsurprisingly given the stretched short dollar positioning in markets, yet another positive surprise from the US labour market, and the general correction of recent trends in financial markets. Unusually, however, key Latin American currencies managed to buck the usual correlations and actually rose against the greenback. The Brazilian real and the Mexican peso both finished at the top of the weekly performance rankings. Signs that the pandemic may be peaking in both those countries deserve some of the credit, undoubtedly, but also the fact that both those currencies had suffered the worst pandemic losses of all the majors and were undoubtedly cheap.

The key for trading this week will be the ECB September meeting on Thursday. Markets will be eager to see the central bank’s reaction to the latest economic numbers, especially the inflation shocker that saw core inflation drop to an all-time low of 0.4% year-on-year. We think that the combination of Euro Area inflation weakness, US labour market strength and extreme long euro positioning is likely to result in temporary weakness in the common currency.

Equity markets and risk assets rally on easing virus fears

GBP

Sterling seems to be caught between two opposing trends. On the one hand, economic data in the UK has been surprising to the upside. On the other, there seems to be no progress in the Brexit negotiations so far. Our expectation is for economic data to start taking a back seat to Brexit negotiations over the next few weeks.

Given how fast the Pound has risen since the pandemic lows and the tendency to take Brexit negotiations down to the wire, this could mean recent short-term weakness in Sterling continues. PM Johnson has reportedly set a 15th October deadline for an agreement to be reached, so expect some volatility in the markets as this date draws near.

EUR

Alarms must have gone off at the ECB’s Frankfurt headquarters last week. A shocking inflation report showed the key core inflation measure come in vastly under expectations at 0.4%, its lowest point ever. The euro then breached the psychological level of 1.20 to the dollar at one point, though it fell back later in the week.

We’d wager that neither development had been expected by the ECB at its previous meeting. While we do not expect any immediate change in monetary policy, this week’s meeting takes on added importance for FX traders. It will be key to see how much tolerance there is in Frankfurt for further currency appreciation in the context of near zero inflation.

USD

US economic data was fairly strong last week. The ISM indices of business activity are all in solidly expansionary territory, above 56 for both services and manufacturing. Critically, the labour market report for August confirmed the positive news from the weekly jobless numbers. A net 1.4 million jobs were recovered in August. Even more positive was the household report on unemployment, pegging the unemployment rate at 8.4%, far below expectations.

This week, with little in the way of news beyond Friday’s inflation numbers, we expect the dollar to react primarily to news from the ECB meeting as well as any headlines from the negotiations between Democrats and Republicans on the size and composition of additional stimulus measures.

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