What to expect from the rest of the year

One more Fed rate hike at least and a narrowly softer dollar outlook

The forthcoming Federal Open Market Committee meeting may be a relatively subdued gathering, leaving exciting loose ends for September. Meanwhile, the dollar could trade around current ranges with a modest softening bias over the rest of the year.

July FOMC meeting

The FOMC meets on 25-26 July and a 25-basis point hike in the Fed Funds rate is inevitable. The ‘skip’ from the last meeting foreshadowed a hike in July – and potentially another in September. Markets unanimously expect a July hike and Federal Reserve officials haven’t pushed back.

Since the June FOMC meeting, and in view of favourable inflation prints and softer employment data, markets no longer anticipate a September hike. While that may prove right, they might be getting ahead of themselves. One month’s data doesn’t make a trend. Further, core inflation remains too high for the Fed and labour markets are still quite resilient. Expectations of a US recession or hard landing continue to fade – ‘soft landing’ is the buzzword of the day.

More data will come in after the July FOMC meeting and data dependence will shape the September decision. Perhaps the Jackson Hole symposium in August will shed some light on Fed thinking.

The key challenge for the July meeting will be communications. Regardless of the September outlook, the Fed has won its months-long struggle, convincing markets that, at least for now, the FOMC is on hold for the rest of 2023. The July meeting should be wary of any statements that might imperil this victory.

Foreign exchange outlook

Predicting exchange rates is a fool’s errand. With that disclaimer, what is the dollar’s outlook for the remainder of the year?

The dollar is off its peak from last autumn, but it remains strong (Figure 1). The dollar’s upside may be limited as the Fed’s rate hiking cycle is nearing an end. Improving inflation may inject a downward bias to note and bond yields. However, the downside may also be limited given anticipation that the FFR, after peaking, will be on hold for the rest of 2023 and services price will be sticky.

Figure 1. Dollar remains strong despite falling from peak

Source: Federal Reserve; through June 2023


A soft landing scenario would comport with muted dollar sentiment and modest volatility, unlike a sharp risk-off or risk-on environment. Decent dollar selling could emerge when markets perceive with certainty the Fed will start embarking on rate cuts, but that isn’t priced in at this juncture until early next year.

The base case faces two-sided risks. If US inflation comes down more sharply than anticipated, major financial instability emerges or the economy sharply stagnates, the Fed could begin cutting rates earlier than expected, yields could fall and the dollar tumble. On the upside, more inflation persistence or greater than expected vigour in the US economy could sustain demand, as could a heightening in geopolitical risks.

Of course, the dollar will also be impacted by what is happening abroad.

Markets are discounting two more European Central Bank hikes this year – though there is increased debate about a September hike. The euro area economy has already stagnated and the outlook is for continued weakness. Absent further inflationary impulse, this weakness will curb the ECB’s hiking appetite and limit euro appreciation.

The Japanese yen’s course will be sensitive to finance ministry concerns about yen weakness and yield curve control policy expectations. Further yen weakness will be limited by market concerns over official jawboning or intervention. Meanwhile, markets expected a quick abandonment of YCC after Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda stepped down earlier this year, but his successor Kazuo Ueda has taken a cautious approach. However, YCC adjustment seems more a question of when than if. Altering YCC could significantly boost the yen.

There may be modest renminbi upside against the dollar. It’s a managed currency, and opaquely so. It has depreciated against the dollar by some 4% this year, mainly reflecting divergent monetary policy stances in the US and China. Capital inflow to China has sharply ebbed over the last year. The authorities are resisting depreciation, though not through formal People’s Bank of China intervention, and increasingly signalling stronger aversion to renminbi weakness. .

The Chinese growth surge expected after reopening has fallen short of expectations given strong headwinds. The PBoC has only run slightly more accommodative policies and the fiscal authorities have so far eschewed significant stimulus given the economy’s high indebtedness. The renminbi will remain soft overall, unless authorities embark unexpectedly on stepped up fiscal stimulus – a topic increasingly debated.

With the UK facing continued inflation challenges, the Bank of England may need to stick with relatively high rates, undergirding sterling.

One quarter of the dollar’s trade-weighted basket consists of the Mexican peso and Canadian dollar. Mexico moved preemptively to raise interest rates ahead of the Fed, hiking by nearly six percentage points since early 2022, and Banco de México is holding rates high, given elevated inflation. The peso took off this year, rising by 16%. Further upside is limited. The Canadian dollar through ups and downs has been fairly flat this year.

The picture facing emerging market currencies varies. But good performers that raised policy rates preemptively relative to the Fed, such as Brazil, have experienced good capital inflows this year.

Putting it all together, the dollar may trade narrowly with a softening bias for the rest of 2023. Next year may prove more interesting.

Mark Sobel is US Chair of OMFIF.

Image source: Federal Reserve

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