Morgan Stanley
  • Thoughts on the Market Podcast
  • Jan 19, 2022

2022 Global Currency Outlook: The Trick is in The Timing


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm James Lord, Global Head of Foreign Exchange and Emerging Market Strategy for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the outlook for the US dollar and global currency markets. It's Wednesday, January 19th at 2:00 p.m. in London.

This time last year, many strategists on Wall Street were expecting 2021 to turn out badly for the US dollar. But as we now know, the dollar ended the year much differently. The dollar troughed on January 6th, spent the first half of the year moving sideways, then began a pretty strong rally mid-year and finished the year around the strongest levels since July of 2020. And the question we've all been asking ourselves recently is - how much more can the dollar rise in 2022?

Well, this year, most analysts and investors expect the dollar to continue to rise. But if last year's track record of prediction is anything to go by, this probably means that the dollar could instead head lower over the next 12 months. Our team at Morgan Stanley believes that the US dollar could be close to peaking. In fact, we've just changed our dollar call to neutral, which means we think it will just go sideways from here - after being bullish the dollar since June last year.

Here's why: the Federal Reserve has indicated it may be close to raising interest rates, and we think that the Fed starting an interest rate hiking cycle could be a signal that the dollar's rise is close to finished. This may seem counterintuitive, since rising interest rates tend to strengthen currencies. But the US dollar has actually already gone up on the back of rising interest rates. A year ago, the market wasn't expecting any rate hikes for the year ahead. Now, the market is expecting nearly four hikes and for lift off to potentially begin as soon as March.

If we look back at the last five cycles where the Fed has hiked interest rates, we can see the same pattern every time. The US dollar tends to rise in the months before lift off, but fall in the months afterwards. This is a great example of buying the rumor and selling the fact.

And if the market is right and the Fed hikes rates as soon as March, the peak of the US dollar for this cycle may not be too far away.

We also need to remember that the dollar doesn't stand in isolation. Currencies are always a relative game and are valued against the currencies of other economies. Because of that, what happens in other parts of the world also affects the value of the US dollar. And what we've seen recently is that other central banks are also starting to think about tightening policy and raising interest rates, which will, to some extent, offset Fed hikes - reducing their impact on the dollar.

We think this may be a good time for investors to start to reduce their dollar long positions, not add to them.

What does the future hold for emerging market currencies? Recently, one investor said to me that the only good thing about emerging market currencies is that everybody already hates them. And candidly, that's not too far from the truth. The consensus view is very negative on emerging markets, and that is the polar opposite of this time last year when everybody loved them. Like last year, though, we suspect the consensus view will probably be wrong by the time we close the year. Valuations on emerging market currencies and local currency bonds are cheap. If inflation peaks over the next few months, as Morgan Stanley economists expect, then investors may well take another look at emerging market bonds and any inflows would strengthen their currencies.

Bottom line: the dollar has probably peaked for the year, but the future for emerging market currencies is brighter than most people think. As ever, the trick is in the timing. Stay tuned.

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In 2021, many expected the US dollar to face significant challenges yet the year ended with strong levels coming off a mid-year rally. As we look out at 2022, how much more can the dollar rise and where do other currency opportunities lie?

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