Currency Volatility at Seven-Year Low

Central banks' monetary policies and forward guidance are restraining price swings among major currencies.

Foreign exchange volatility fell to the lowest level in almost seven years as central-bank polices of monetary stimulus and forward guidance restrain price swings.

The yen strengthened earlier as a government report showed inflation accelerated to the fastest in more than two decades in April, reducing the prospect of additional stimulus by the Bank of Japan. The krona declined versus most of its 16 major peers after Sweden’s economy unexpectedly contracted and amid speculation the Riksbank will cut rates. The Canadian dollar fell as first-quarter economic growth slowed.

“The forward-guidance policy by the central banks is keeping a lid on rate expectations,” said Peter Kinsella, a senior foreign-exchange strategist at Commerzbank AG in London. “We’re increasingly going to see very flat volatility. It doesn’t seem at present that there’s going to be any catalyst to shake us from the malaise.”

JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s volatility index for the currencies of the G-7 nations fell to 5.92 percent at 11:52 a.m. New York time, reaching the lowest level since June 2007. A separate JPMorgan index measuring global foreign exchange volatility also reached a 2007 low.

The yen was little changed at 101.77 per dollar, and is up 0.4 percent this month. The euro gained 0.3 percent to $1.3641, paring its monthly decline to 1.6 percent The shared currency added 0.3 percent to 138.79 yen, trimming its loss since April 30 to 2.1 percent.

The Russian ruble and Chile’s peso have gained 2.4 percent against the dollar this month, leading winners among 31 major currencies, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Swedish krona dropped 2.6 percent, while the Czech koruna slipped 1.9 percent, the biggest losers.

Canada’s dollar dropped 0.2 percent to C$1.0858 against its U.S. counterpart after data showed gross domestic product grew at a 1.2 percent annualized pace in January through March, compared with a downwardly revised 2.7 percent in the prior three months. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg predicted growth would slow to a 1.8 percent pace.

The krona slid as much as 0.6 percent to 9.0894 per euro, the weakest level since May 6. It weakened for a fourth day against the dollar, depreciating 0.5 percent to 6.6768.

Gross domestic product shrank a quarterly 0.1 percent in the three months through March, Statistics Sweden said today. GDP was seen unchanged in a survey of analysts by Bloomberg. The economy expanded an annual 1.9 percent, compared with the 2.5 percent growth predicted by the central bank.

“After today’s data, the market is fully priced for one Riksbank cut this year and beginning to price in the risk of a second,” Adam Cole, head of Group-of-10 currency strategy at Royal Bank of Canada in London, wrote in a client note.

The euro headed for a monthly decline versus 15 of its 16 major counterparts amid bets the European Central Bank will introduce additional stimulus measures, which tend to weaken a currency, to combat low inflation.

ECB policy makers, led by President Mario Draghi, will reduce the refinancing rate to 0.1 percent on June 5, according to the median prediction of 53 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Only two of the analysts predicted that the rate will stay at 0.25 percent. Draghi said this month he’s “comfortable” with acting in June.

“We could see a large selloff in the euro if the ECB acts aggressively,” said Yuki Sakasai, a currency strategist in New York at Barclays. “A rate cut is already priced in and some people are also expecting liquidity measures, so the focus would be on whether they will deliver more.”

Japanese consumer prices excluding fresh food increased 3.2 percent from a year earlier, up from a 1.3 percent annual increase in March, the statistics bureau said in Tokyo today. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg predicted an increase of 3.1 percent. Inflation quickened after the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe boosted the sales tax to 8 percent from 5 percent on April 1.

The BOJ is due to announce its next policy decision on June 13 after refraining from adding stimulus at its May 21 gathering.

“There are questions on what the BOJ is going to do; to them the current policies seem to be working, and further easing might not be as imminent as we thought,” Sireen Harajli, a strategist at Mizuho Bank Ltd. in New York, said in a phone interview. “The bias is for a stronger yen versus the dollar.”

The dollar erased losses against the yen after a report showed business activity in the Chicago area unexpectedly increased to a seven-month high in May. The Institute for Supply Management-Chicago Inc.’s business barometer rose to 65.5 this month from 63 in April. The median forecast of 46 economists in a Bloomberg survey projected the index would fall to 61. Readings greater than 50 signal growth.

“We did see a pop in dollar-yen in the last few minutes,” said Michael Woolfolk, a global-markets strategist at Bank of New York Mellon in New York. “The data this morning was favorable, and in terms of the rise in dollar-yen, we can make the argument that the positive data supported it.”

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