New Trends in the Global Foreign Exchange Market

来源: CHINA FOREX 2017 Issue 4 作者:Shen Jianguang
Since September, global financial markets have been buffeted by a steady stream of unanticipated political and economic developments. The foreign exchange market has been no exception. It is now difficult to state unequivocally which currency is strong and which is weak. Moreover, this uncertain state of affairs could hold true for some time. In general, it is likely that the US dollar, the euro, the Japanese yen, the British pound and even the renminbi will move sideways in two-way range trading. Looking forward, there are three main factors influencing global exchange rate movements.

First, the global economy has rebounded more than expected. Since the beginning of this year, the global economy has been making good progress. Developed economies in Europe, as well as the US, Japan and others, in addition to China, have recorded unexpected growth. In particular, the European economy showed a strong recovery trend, and its growth rate surpassed that of the US for the first time in more than eight years. That supported the strong appreciation of the euro over the first three quarters of the year. Since mid-September, the US economy has seen positive growth. Despite the impact of devastating hurricanes, the initial reading of US gross domestic product in the third quarter showed growth of 3%, which was above expectations. Coupled with the prospect of  tax reform, the US dollar index was relatively firm.

China’s economic performance surpassed expectations as well, and overall growth came in at 6.9% in the first three quarters, indicating that China’s economy is becoming more resilient. In addition to the traditional economic drivers of infrastructure and real estate, the rapid growth of the service industry, the Internet, mobile payments and new energy played a significant role in driving the economic expansion.

The global economic rebound this year and the stronger performance of various other key economies have created momentum for a number of currencies. The sustainable development of the economic growth of various countries in the future will be one of the key factors affecting these exchange rate fluctuations.

Second, there are greater expectations of political stability. Political risk had a major impact on global exchange rate movements over the past two years. The author  believes that political uncertainties may yet undermine the strength of the US dollar.

On November 2, the US House of Representatives announced details of the tax reform bill. Two weeks later the bill was approved. However, the prospect of tax reform remains a public concern, behind which the reasons are as follows. First, the tax burden on multinational corporations accumulating overseas profits is up to 12%, which is higher than that of President Trump’s past suggestions. It is expected that the bill will have a very limited effect in promoting the return of corporate profits parked overseas. Second, the bill would substantially raise the threshold for payment of inheritance tax. It will ultimately abolish the tax though it will delay the starting date to 2024. Third, some business groups are opposed to the bill, despite a cut in corporate tax rates from 35% to 20%, and this could be a substantial obstacle to passage. Fourth, in the long run, whether the deficit increase caused by tax cuts can be offset by revenue from greater economic growth remains uncertain. In addition, the ongoing investigation of Russiagate could jeopardize the Trump administration, and this may have an impact on the dollar.

On the European front, the euro has been pressured somewhat by the German far-right forces have emerged as the third-largest political party in that country. Meanwhile, the pro-independence sentiment in the Spanish region of Catalonia  has also unsettled markets. However, it seems that the situation has improved somewhat since the Spanish central government took direct administrative control over Catalonia, briefly slowing the slide towards independence. As for Britain's Brexit talks, London has shown some flexibility amid domestic concerns over a "hard Brexit," but the crunch is yet to come.  If political risk in Europe can be further reduced, the euro is expected to experience another staged advance.

In China, the political leadership has been strengthened. The 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China has drafted a blueprint for the economy over the next five years and further into the future, stating new requirements for the nation's economic development. In the international arena, more attention is being paid to China's role in the formulation of international rules and the exertion of its global influence. In the domestic arena, the emphasis has shifted to higher quality growth rather than growth itself. In this context, the process of deleveraging may be accelerated. Economic policies in the future may pay more attention to dealing with the issues of income distribution, environmental protection and real estate.

Third, global monetary policy has shifted as major central banks move ahead with monetary tightening. In the future, the pace of the withdrawal from quantitative easing monetary policy will be the key to influencing exchange rate movements. The recent downward pressure on the euro stems from the expected shrinking of the European Central Bank's balance sheet and the withdrawal from quantitative easing. It is also likely that in December the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates for the third time this year. This could buoy the dollar in the near term.

However, whether the US dollar can continue to rise after the year-end interest rate hike is doubtful. In the last two years the Federal Reserve raised interest rates at the year-end, but the dollar declined in the first half of the following year. In addition, it is more likely that Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve board member who is slated to become chairman next year, will maintain a dovish stance on monetary policy. That could have a neutral or slightly negative effect on the dollar.

In China, monetary policy has clearly tightened since the beginning of this year. Deleveraging has also led to a marked increase in interest rates in domestic financial markets. At the 19th Communist Party Congress, policy makers stressed the need for more deleveraging. That indicated that amid a global withdrawal from quantitative easing, China's monetary policy will maintain a neutral to slightly tighter posture in order to deepen the initial stage of the deleveraging program.

All in all, the recent trends of exchange rates in various countries basically depend on the interaction of a number of forces. It is expected that by the end of the year, the dollar will be volatile. It is difficult to find an absolutely strong currency in the world in the short term. In the coming few years, the author believes that the dollar will generally remain weak. There is still room for appreciation of the euro against the dollar, and the renminbi will be fluctuating around its current parity level of around 6.5 to the dollar.


The author is managing director and chief economist at Mizuho Securities Asia Ltd.
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