Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 August 2020

Euro slumps to lowest in over two years on economic fears

The currency fell to the weakest since 2017 versus the dollar and its lowest level against the Swiss franc since 2015

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde speaks during a debate on the Eurozone’s economic governance and ECB activities at the European Parliament on Tuesday in France. Photo: AFP
European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde speaks during a debate on the Eurozone’s economic governance and ECB activities at the European Parliament on Tuesday in France. Photo: AFP

The euro’s slump to start 2020 is gaining momentum amid growing concern that Germany could be headed for recession because of the lingering effects on the global economy from the coronavirus.

The common currency fell to the weakest since 2017 versus the dollar Wednesday, sinking as much as 0.5 per cent to $1.0865.

On Thursday it hit its lowest level against the Swiss franc since August 2015 as investors sought safe havens after China’s Hubei province, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, reported a sharp jump in the number of new cases.

The euro briefly fell to 1.0622 Swiss francs, below its 2016 trough of 1.0623, and last stood at as low as 1.06207.

Concern about German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s succession plans and a dovish European Central Bank have weighed on the euro, which investors are looking to as a vehicle to fund riskier positions. The S&P 500 Index rose to a record in New York as the euro sank.

Deutsche Bank now expects a slight contraction for Germany in the fourth quarter as the virus exacerbates an industrial slump. Euro-area industrial output posted the steepest drop in almost four years at the end of 2019, data showed Wednesday.

“The narrative of slowing economic activity is key and today’s industrial production data is key,” said Monex Europe currency analyst Simon Harvey. “Many are suggesting further easing may be on the horizon. Combine this with the easing risk climate, and the euro seems to be suffering as the funding currency.”

Traders are dialling up expectations that the ECB may need to lower rates to counter the economic fallout from the coronavirus. Money markets are pricing in around six basis points of a cut by end-2020, versus a zero chance of easing a month earlier. Credit Agricole downgraded its forecast on the shared currency Wednesday, following similar moves by JP Morgan Chase and RBC Capital Markets last week.

Fourth-quarter growth data for Germany are set for release Friday. While the median prediction is for 0.1 per cent quarterly growth, almost 30 per cent of survey respondents forecast a contraction.

“Persistently weak growth will keep pressure on the ECB to deliver further easing, posing downside risks for the euro which is already weakening in anticipation of potential policy action,” said Lee Hardman, a foreign-exchange strategist at MUFG Bank in London.

Still, even with the euro down about 3 per cent against the dollar in 2020, a majority of forecasters still predict it will strengthen by the end of the year. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey is for the euro to trade at $1.14 in the fourth quarter.

Updated: February 13, 2020 12:29 PM

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