Slowing U.S. growth and the widening interest-rate gap between America and the rest of the world may mean no rebound this year for the dollar, the world’s worst- performing major currency in the past three months.
The Federal Reserve’s U.S. Trade-Weighted Major Currency Dollar Index fell to a record low last month after policy makers in Australia and Canada, and the European Central Bank raised rates to damp inflation. Even after the declines, strategists from Barclays Plc and Morgan Stanley are cutting their forecasts for the greenback.
Optimism that the dollar would strengthen as soon as June when the Fed stops printing cash to buy $600 billion of Treasuries is giving way to bearishness after the economy slowed more than forecast last quarter and the Fed said record low rates are needed to foster growth. While a weaker dollar may signal waning confidence in the U.S., it may help President Barack Obama reach his goal of doubling exports by 2015 and reducing unemployment.
The dollar is “probably going to get even cheaper,” said Thomas Stolper, the chief currency strategist at New York-based Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the fifth-biggest U.S. bank. The outlook for growth in the next few months “doesn’t look particularly strong,” he said in a phone interview last week.
The dollar may rebound if signs emerge that growth is picking up enough to prompt the Fed to tighten credit sooner than forecast or a shock to the financial system causes investors to seek the safety of U.S. assets. The Dollar Index surged 12 percent in the second half of 2008 as the credit crisis intensified and jumped more than 10 percent in the first half of 2010 as Europe’s sovereign debt woes emerged.
“The main scenario is for more policy normalization in the U.S.,” said Henrik Gullberg, a strategist in London at Deutsche Bank AG, the world’s biggest currency trader according to Euromoney Institutional Investor Plc. “If we see signs that the global recovery is losing some momentum, that wouldn’t be good for risk appetite and what isn’t good for risk appetite would be positive for the dollar.”