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Updated December 29th, 2023 at 21:31 IST

Dollar on pace for first yearly loss since 2020

With markets already pricing in aggressive cuts, how much further dollar falls is a key question.

Reported by: Business Desk
Dollar hits three-month low
Dollar hits three-month low | Image:Unsplash
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The US dollar is set to end 2023 with its first loss since 2020 against the euro, coupled with a basket of currencies on expectations the US Federal Reserve will begin cutting rates next year as inflation moderates. Some pressing questions for the next year will be when the Fed begins cuts, and whether the first rate reduction is made to avoid over-tightening as inflation drops, or due to rapidly slowing US economic growth. With markets already pricing in aggressive cuts, debate is also focused on how much further the dollar is likely to fall. “We’ve already weakened quite a bit in anticipation of a Fed cut cycle to come,” said Brad Bechtel, global head of FX at Jefferies in New York. 

The dollar's decline accelerated after the Fed adopted an unexpectedly dovish tone and forecast 75 basis points in rate reductions for 2024 at its December policy meeting. Markets are pricing in even more aggressive cuts, with the first reduction seen likely in March and 154 basis points in cuts expected by year-end. The Fed’s tone contrasted other major central banks, including the European Central Bank (ECB) and Bank of England (BoE), which maintained they will hold rates higher for longer. But “I do think they will capitulate. European growth is just struggling too much and inflation’s coming down relatively fast… same in the U.K. in many ways,” said Bechtel. “If all three central banks are cutting, it's going to be very hard for the dollar to weaken significantly." 

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Against a basket of currencies, the greenback was little changed on Friday at 101.18, rising from a five-month trough of 100.61 reached on Thursday. It is on track to lose 2.23% this year. The euro gained 0.07% to $1.1069, hovering just below a five-month peak of $1.11395 reached on Thursday. It is heading for a 3.31% gain for the year, its first positive year since 2020. "Markets are looking for a cut earlier in the US and are less certain that the European Central Bank will cut as quickly, so that's why the dollar is very soft," said Niels Christensen, chief analyst at Nordea. 

"We also have positive risk appetite which is another negative for the dollar. Going into 2024, the soft dollar will be a theme towards the March central bank meetings," Christensen added. Policymakers at the ECB and the BoE did not signal any imminent rate cuts at their policy meetings this month, but traders are pricing in 161 bps of cuts by the ECB next year, with the probability of two cuts by April. The BofE is also expected to cut rates by 148 bps in 2024. "While it feels like the market might have moved too far too fast, the facts are that growth is non-existent in Europe, slowing in the U.S., and inflation is falling globally," said CJ Cowan, portfolio manager at Quilter Investors. "The ECB is famously slow to change policy course so almost two cuts priced by April looks aggressive, even if it might be the right thing to do." Sterling was little changed on the day at $1.2733 and on track for a 5.29% yearly gain, its best performance since 2017. 

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(With Reuters inputs) 

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Published December 29th, 2023 at 21:31 IST

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