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Strange Dollar Patterns Draw Focus In FX Market
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Strange Dollar Patterns Draw Focus In FX Market

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Strange Dollar Patterns Draw Focus In FX Market

Unusual moves in the dollar this week serve as further evidence for some observers that a shift in currency-market dynamics is afoot.

Normally, good economic news from the U.S. pushes the buck lower, as it encourages investors to put dollars in riskier overseas assets. In particular, the euro tends to rise against the dollar when U.S. data offer a pleasant surprise.

Friday, though, as nonfarm payrolls data showed that the U.S. economy added 200,000 jobs in December--well above the 155,000 expected by economists--the euro fell.

It was a rerun of Thursday's currency-market reaction to another upbeat jobs report by Automatic Data Processing.

Friday's payrolls reading shoved the euro 0.5% lower against the dollar to a fresh 15-month low of $1.2726.

This could all be a sign that some usually reliable patterns are coming increasingly unglued.

"The market reaction to the positive U.S. data surprises is highly significant, in our view," said Ian Stannard, an analyst at Morgan Stanley in London, in a note to clients Friday.

Positive surprises in U.S. data aren't boosting general investor sentiment in the way they have historically done, Stannard said. Instead, they are bolstering the dollar's position as an "investment currency"--a target for investors seeking returns. The euro, meanwhile, seems set for the title of "funding currency"--a currency expected to be feeble in the long term, which makes it ideal for selling against juicier bets.

Morgan Stanley is one of the more euro-bearish banks in town, so this chimes neatly with its broader view that the euro will end this year at $1.20 against the dollar.

But it's not alone in highlighting this new trend. "In the U.S., the correlation between strong data and the dollar has flipped, where now positive U.S. data surprises are good for the dollar given European concerns," noted Bank of America Merrill Lynch Thursday. This firm expects to see the euro at $1.30 by the end of this year.

If the dollar's new trend lasts, any upturn in the fortunes of the U.S. this year will fail to throw the euro a lifeline, leaving the common currency to the whim of the market's take on the long-running debt crisis, to the joy of euro-area exporters, no doubt.


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