What Happened: Year 2018
As usual, Deutsche Bank experts summed up the year at the end of December. And the results were just fantastic, with a negative connotation. 93% of all assets fell in comparison with January 2018, and this figure was the worst in the last 118 years, surpassing even 1920 with its 84%.
Experts say that the main reason for the recession was “extremely soft monetary policy,” which grew into a monetary tightening. Four US interest rate increases by the US Federal Reserve were enough to send most of the markets to a nose dove, which can turn into a prolonged recession. US President Donald Trump openly called Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and his colleagues insane, calling for an end to the rate hike. But, as it turned out, the President could not decree bankers, and on December 19, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) raised the rate by another 0.25%. Moreover, it turned out that in 2019 only two members of this Committee see a rate of 2.5%, six see it at 2.75%, four at 3.25%, three at 3.30%, and two FOMC members would like it to be 3.6%!
The result is obvious: at the end of the year, everything that could fall, was falling on the market. The Dow Jones Industrial Average had the worst December since the Great Depression of the 1930s. As Bloomberg calculated, the collapse made 500 world richest people poorer by $ 511 billion, and Facebook founder Zuckerberg suffered the most, his fortune lost $23 billion.
As for the foreign exchange market, the beginning of 2018 was marked by a serious strengthening of the euro against the US dollar. At the peak, on February 16, the EUR/USD pair reached 1.2555. But then the difference in the monetary policy of the Fed and the ECB, the difficulties with the Brexit agreement, the Italian problems and the slowdown in the Eurozone economy as a whole, played into the dollar, and the pair went down, reaching the bottom at 1.1215 in mid-November.
GBP/USD experienced similar fluctuations. It reached the maximum value of 1.4375 on April 17, and the minimum was recorded on December 12, when the pair fell to 1.2475, losing 1,900 points in eight months.
As for the Japanese yen, investors viewed it mainly as a safe haven in case of acceleration of trade wars between the USA and China. However, since no special changes were observed on this front, the USD/JPY pair met the end of the year near the Pivot Point of the last two years in the 111.00 zone. Thus, compared to the beginning of 2018. the pair lost only about 200 points.
What will Happen: Year 2019
According to a number of analysts, everything that happened in the outgoing year is only the beginning of a common prolonged depression. First of all, the forecast concerns the United States, where the yield on two-year Treasury bonds has already decreased, and the yield on similar ten-year securities has fallen to a seven-month low, which is considered a sign of recession.
The situation in the Eurozone looks somewhat better, despite the fact that the ECB has revised its forecasts for inflation and economic growth downward. The past year has shown that the trade wars unleashed by Trump are not so terrible for the Old World as was previously assumed. However, both the European currency and the British pound continue to be influenced by the problems associated with Brexit.
On the other hand, the end of the 90-day truce between the United States and China will soon come up, which introduces additional uncertainty about the dollar exchange rate.
In the meantime, the forecasts given by strategists from leading world banks and agencies, for the most part, look quite similar.
Blomberg bases its forecast on the positive dynamics of European exports, improved situation in the German automotive industry and accelerated growth of average wages. All this may lead to the normalization of the monetary policy of the Eurozone and the growth of the euro to the level of $1.20 by the end of the year.
Morgan Stanley also expects the year 2019 to be difficult for the dollar and recommends its sale against the euro amid the forecast for inflation in the Eurozone. The immediate target for the EUR/USD pair is in the $1.18 zone.
It should be noted that, for the most part, analysts make very optimistic forecasts for the euro for the next 3-month period. Societe Generale and CIBC Capital Markets point out at the level $1.17, TD Securities forecast is at $1.18, Unicredit at $1.19, and finally, Lloyds Bank has set a record bar of $1.24.
However, there are more cautious views. Thus, Citi experts believe that the European currency has not yet reached its bottom, and by the end of the I quarter of 2019. it may drop to $1.13, and only then it will go up, reaching the mark at $1.18 in the second half of the year. The Barclays Capital expect a fall to $1.12 by March 31, and for ING Group forecasts, the bottom may be at the level of $1.11.
JPMorgan Chase analysts also believe that the US economy will experience a recession in 2019, as Trump's fiscal stimulus will run out, and the Fed’s monetary policy will no longer provide cheap money. Thus, the growth rate of the Eurozone economy will come out ahead, and the euro will start to grow on expectations of higher interest rates from the ECB, but this will happen only in the second half of 2019.
In numbers, the forecast looks like this: falling to $1.11 in the first quarter and rising to $1.18 by the end of the fourth quarter of 2019.
As for the GBP/USD, the JPMorgan Chase forecast assumes the growth of the British currency to $1.30 in the first quarter and to $1.37 by the end of the year, provided that Brexit is quiet (40% probability). In the absence of an Agreement on the terms of leaving the EU, the pound sterling will fall by 10%, and in the case of Brexit cancellation, on the contrary, it will grow by 10%.
Concerning the future, the yen forecast is negative. So, the pair JPY/USD in the first half of 2019. expects growth first to the level of 112 yen per dollar, and then to the values of 2016. at 118.00. Experts explain the possible weakening of the Japanese currency by an increase in foreign investment by Japanese companies and a worsening trade balance. Spreads are also expected to increase on the rates, which will adversely affect the yen rate.
Similar trends are predicted by Citi strategists. In their opinion, the GBP/USD is expected to grow to 1.26-1.30, and JPY/USD - to 113.00-115.00.
John Gordon, NordFX
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