By Devayani Sathyan
BENGALURU (Reuters) – Most emerging-market currencies are set to regain their recent strength later this year after some near-term paralysis as expectations of interest-rate cuts by the U.S. Federal Reserve keep the dollar in check, a Reuters poll found.
These currencies have popped higher in the past few weeks, driven by market bets for aggressive rate cuts by the Fed this year, dragging down U.S. bond yields. Those bets have eased somewhat in the first days of 2024, but only slightly.
The recent U.S. dollar sell-off has helped a wider index of emerging-market currencies gain nearly 3.5% since early November 2023.
However, with the greenback’s recent slide predicted to be brief and the risks of mispricing future Fed rate cuts increasing, gains in EM currencies will be moderate at least in the first half of the year. [EUR/POLL]
According to the Jan. 2-4 Reuters poll of 55 strategists, 11 of 15 EM currencies in the poll were forecast to gain against the dollar in 12 months, of which eight were predicted to recoup all of their 2023 losses.
Still, with the timing of the Fed’s launch of its easing cycle still unclear, median three-month estimates for some EM currencies like the Turkish lira and Russian rouble were slightly weaker compared with last month’s poll.
Chris Turner, ING’s head of FX strategy, said that while EM currencies should have a positive year overall, the start of 2024 may be difficult as “expectations for easier policy in the U.S. and Europe have probably come too far, too fast.”
“But when it becomes clear in Q2 the Fed will indeed ease … that should be a pretty benign and positive environment for emerging-market FX.”
A majority of EM currencies including the Chinese yuan, Indonesian rupiah, Korean won, Thai baht, Malaysian ringgit, Vietnamese dong and Taiwan dollar were expected to gain between 2.1% and 5.0% in a year. The Indian rupee was forecast to gain only about 1% to 82.50 per dollar in a year, barely changed from last month’s prediction. [INR/POLL]
The Turkish lira, South African rand and Russian rouble were among the few currencies not predicted to recover all of their losses from 2023 this year.
Another source of support for EM currencies comes from lower expectations of rate cuts not only by the Fed but by central banks in developing countries too, against a backdrop of reasonably stronger domestic economic growth.
“We currently don’t forecast the Fed to cut by as much as what the market is pricing in … that would perhaps suggest some or more limited scope for this year for EM currencies to gain substantially,” said Mitul Kotecha, head of FX and EM macro strategy Asia at Barclays.
“But probably as we go through the year we would maybe see some further upside for EM.”
(For other stories from the January Reuters foreign exchange poll:)
(Reporting by Devayani Sathyan in Bengaluru; Polling by Anant Chandak; Editing by Gabriel Burin, Ross Finley and Matthew Lewis)