U.S. dollar: Neutral
We believe the U.S. dollar is caught between two trends. Interest rate hikes and balance sheet reduction by the U.S. Federal Reserve (Fed) have increased U.S. dollar funding costs and tightened financial conditions, spurring the dollar rally. Uncertainty over trade policy has exacerbated the move. On the other hand, global growth has been strong and it appears that U.S. economic activity, while buoyant, has peaked – a convergence that typically causes the U.S. dollar to weaken.
The euro/U.S. dollar exchange rate breached a key support level of 1.15 in August, while risk aversion across emerging market currencies (sparked by Turkey) continued to spur the U.S. dollar higher.1 The fundamental economic picture has improved in the euro area, but exogenous factors driving sentiment across currency markets are unpredictable, keeping us sidelined for now.
The renminbi/U.S. dollar exchange rate traded between 6.80 and 6.95 in August.2 In addition to the counter-cyclical adjustment factored into the daily fixing rate and the reserve requirement of 20% on foreign exchange forwards, the People’s Bank of China has banned interbank renminbi deposits and loans to the offshore market through free trade zones.3 This move likely led the exchange rate to quickly drop from 6.95 to 6.84.4 Capital controls for outflows remain tight, but financial opening, such as the inclusion of Chinese equities and onshore bonds in major global indexes, will probably further increase overseas demand for Chinese onshore assets and could help maintain stable capital flows. We expect the exchange rate to hover around 6.8 to 6.9 in the near term. However, positive headlines related to U.S.-China trade negotiations could cause the exchange rate to trade below 6.80.
Japanese yen: Overweight
The yen has benefited from the recent spike in volatility and deteriorating risk sentiment caused by the Turkish asset selloff. The yen/U.S. dollar exchange rate traded down from about 112 at the beginning of August to a low of 110.1 as the selloff in the Turkish lira peaked.5 Looking ahead, we believe that the Bank of Japan policy tweak (which increased the target for 10-year yields) will support the yen, and the current valuation looks attractive. However, the exception to our view is the potential for broader U.S. dollar strength driven by Fed policy and reduced global risk appetite from continuing trade tensions. We believe the yen may be sidelined against the U.S. dollar in this scenario but will likely outperform versus other currencies.
British pound sterling: Neutral
Sterling is likely to be driven by developments in Brexit discussions and expectations for U.K. interest rate hikes. We do not expect a breakthrough on Brexit anytime soon, but the Bank of England delivered a unanimous 0.25% rate hike to 0.75% in its August meeting as widely expected.6 It also revised its growth and inflation forecasts upwards. However, Governor Mark Carney signaled that policy tightening would remain gradual and the chance of a no-deal Brexit is “uncomfortably high.” After this statement, the sterling/U.S. dollar exchange rate weakened below 1.30.7 Over the medium term, we continue to expect sterling to appreciate, but will need some positive developments from Brexit negotiations for this to materialize.
Canadian dollar: Neutral
The Canadian dollar has remained in a slow decline this year, although it has outperformed other “dollar-bloc” currencies such as the Australian and New Zealand dollars. The Bank of Canada policy rate hike to 1.50% in July did nothing to alter the path of the currency.8 Skepticism over resolving the ongoing NAFTA trade negotiations remains a huge hurdle. In addition, foreign demand for the currency driven by investment in Canadian real estate has been declining.