Forex Blog: Currency Trading News & Analysis.

May 20th 2009

Euro Continues to Rise, but Technical Obstacles Exist

Over the last couple months, the Euro has thoroughly outperformed the Dollar, which recently fell to a five-month low on a trade-weighted basis. Over the same period, global stock and commodity prices have also risen quickly, which is not a coincidence.
Euro Rallies against DollarIn other words, investors are allocating capital on the basis of risk, rather than in accordance with (economic) fundamentals. For example, “ICE’s Dollar Index and crude oil have a correlation of minus 0.61 in the past two months, compared with minus 0.26 since the start of the year,” as rising oil prices and the declining Dollar feed back into each other.

Meanwhile, “Implied volatility on major currencies, which reflects investors’ expectations of currency swings, fell to 13.96 percent yesterday, from…17.22 percent at the end of March. A drop in volatility tends to signal less demand for options to protect investors from currency swings.” This indicator is now at its lowest level since the days preceding the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and subsequent stock market collapse. One would normally expect a correlation between risk and return, but in this case, rising returns have been accompanied by lower risk.

Even more unbelievable is that this decline in risk is taking place against the backdrop of declining economic fundamentals. “Risk appetite in the currency market is nothing short of impressive considering the fact that the Fed reduced their growth forecasts,” said one analyst. However, “The euro-area economy will contract 4.2 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund, more than the projected 2.8 percent contraction in the U.S. and 4.1 percent slump in the U.K.” If investors were focusing on this divergence in economic growth, one would expect the Euro would be falling.

One hypothesis is that inflation-conscious traders are flocking to the Euro, since the ECB remains vigilant about fighting inflation, even in the face of declining prices and aggregate demand. After cutting rates to a record low 1% earlier this month, the ECB unveiled its own version of a quantitative easing plan, involving the purchase of 60 billion euros worth of low risk securities. But this is a pittance, both relative to the size of the EU economy (it represents a mere .6% of GDP) and compared to the Trillion Dollar Fed program. This led one analyst to call the ECB’s plan “chicken feed.” While all of this is noteworthy, it’s unlikely that this is having a meaningful effect on forex markets, which still remain focused on (avoiding) deflation.

If the Euro is to continue rising, it must overcome some technical obstacles. “The euro could hit a ceiling if the recent resilience of U.S. stock markets faces headwinds. ‘At some point…stronger nongovernment growth has to show up to sustain and justify these moves in equities.’ ” It’s interesting that the fear of Euro bulls is not that the EU economy won’t recover, but rather that US stock prices are overvalued. Given recent market movements, however, their concerns are reasonable, and “any disappointment [in corporate fundamentals] could provide an excuse to take profit [this] week — benefiting the dollar.”

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Euro, News, US Dollar | 1 Comment »

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One Review of “Euro Continues to Rise, but Technical Obstacles Exist”

  1. Edward Hugh Says:

    “One hypothesis is that inflation-conscious traders are flocking to the Euro, since the ECB remains vigilant about fighting inflation”

    Look, basically this isn’t a euro story, but a borrow in NY (or London) and sell-dollar carry story. So the euro “appears” to be rising, but this is simply a corrolary of the fall in the dollar, ie an optical illusion. Even the US credit rating downgrade story doesn’t wash, since half the eurozone ratings could easily be reduced, including “benchmark” Germany’s at some point.

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