News Analysis: Investors bullish on US dollar in Q2
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - March 31, 2013 - 10:04am

NEW YORK (Xinhua) - The US dollar has advanced against most major currencies in the first quarter of 2013 and market analysts expect the upward trend to continue in the next quarter on relatively strong economy in the United States and loose monetary policies employed by global central banks.

Statistics showed that the dollar rose 3 percent against the euro, 9 percent against the Japanese yen and 4 percent versus British pound in the first quarter.

Survey results by the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Fund manager also showed that investors are increasingly confident in the outlook for dollar.

According to the survey, March registered the highest level of dollar bullishness in the survey's history. A net 72 percent of respondents now expect the US currency to appreciate in the next year, a 30-point increase from a month ago.

"Relative US economic outperformance on the back of the housing market's ongoing improvement and the energy independence will lead a secular uptrend in the dollar," said Michael Hartnett, chief investment strategist at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research.

In fact, the euro had a strong start against the dollar since the beginning of 2013, rising from 1.32 to a peak in the first week of February of 1.37, while the rate was as low as 1.22.

Euro's bullishness came from eurozone's tighter monetary policy, compared to that in other advanced economies, said Willem Buiter, the chief economist at Citigroup.

Expansionary monetary policy in the United States, Britian and Japan all drive down their currencies' exchange rates, so it's not surprising that the least expansionary monetary policy made the currency rate "uncomfortably strong", said Buiter.

However, the euro's good start proved to be short-lived and is expected to slip further to the dollar, some analysts said.

"The euro has lost the momentum as the European recovery face problems from both economic and political perspective," Alessio de Longis, the vice president and portfolio manager of the Oppenheimer Currency Opportunities Fund, told Xinhua.

In February, Italian election turned out to be a disappointment and then shortly after the disappointment, there was the unnecessary uncertainty that was created by miscommunication of European officials with respect to the treatment of depositors in Cyprus, said Longis.

Longis also added "the Cyprus crisis has happened and it' s now behind us now. Cyprus created a resetting in the trading level of the euro and I think now the effect has been fully reflected on the rate."

On top of the negative news from the euro area, analysts believe what has validated market perception is the fact that the European economic data have decelerated.

There were more negative surprises than positive surprises on economic data released for the last three months, particularly the euro-zone purchasing manager index, indicating businesses have continued to show inability to bounce back and away from recessionary territories, while the rest of the world has been showing a little bit more resilience, particularly the United States.

Analysts expect the deceleration of the data to continue and all these uncertainties on the political side in Europe will affect business confidence, consumer confidence, thus hurting growth in the euro zone

The Oppenheimer currency analysts team think it' s very possible that the euro will stay around the level of 1.25 in the next couple of months, because euro-zone growth is failing to accelerate and countries like Italy and Spain continue to announce marginal but still negative revisions of their budget forecast to their growth forecast.

Meanwhile, it' s almost a market consensus that the Japanese yen would sharply depreciate against the dollar in the second quarter of the year.

The yen showed obvious declining trend since last November when the newly elected Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was campaigning for the position and won supports by playing the card of revitalizing the economy.

Abe has been inclined to pressure the Bank of Japan to launch more easing measures to fight the deflation which has lasted for two decades in the country. He also replaced the former BOJ governor Masaaki Shirakawa, who is known as reluctant to implement loose monetary policy, with Haruhiko Kuroda.

Kuroda has repeatedly said that the central bank would do whatever it takes to reach the 2 percent inflation target and investors expect him to take real actions after his first BOJ policy meeting in early April.

"Obviously, the BOJ has disappointed expectations but given the determination and resolution of the new decision markers to reflate the economy, I think the risk is that they will actually for a change do more what the market expects them to do," said Longis.

The Oppenheimer currency analysts team predict the yen can continue its downward trend aggressively throughout the year and the dollar/ yen rate could be higher than 100 by the middle of year.

Meanwhile, the confirmation that Britain's GDP fell by 0.3 percent in the final quarter of 2012 raised speculations that the country' s policymakers would take more aggressive easing moves, which will pull down the pound' s rate versus the dollar.

At the end of 2012, GDP sank and the trade deficit shot up to 9.6 billion pounds in the final quarter, up from 8.1 billion pounds in the preceding three months, and such poor performance will continue in the first quarter of 2013, said Glenn Uniacke, the head of options trading at Moneycorp.

"The chances of a triple dip recession just crept up from 50-50 to odds on. Such concerns have weighed heavily on sterling," he said.  
 

BANK OF AMERICA MERRILL LYNCH FUND BANK OF JAPAN BRITIAN AND JAPAN DOLLAR EURO GLENN UNIACKE HARUHIKO KURODA IN FEBRUARY LONGIS UNITED STATES
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