Currency seasonality’s slow comeback?

This report updates the monthly seasonal patterns of 31 major Nominal Effective Exchange Rates (NEERs) going back to January 2010, using over two million daily data points with trade-weights derived from the BIS (April 2019) and national central banks (see Nominal Effective Exchange Rates: Monthly seasonal patterns, 10th January 2019).

A number of factors can drive currency seasonality, including underlying seasonal patterns in balance of payment flows, the timing of public holidays and market liquidity. Identifying monthly seasonal patterns and why they may break down (significant changes in central bank or government policy, market positioning, macro data surprises and unexpected domestic events) can thus potentially augment investment returns and generate alpha.

Unsurprisingly the Covid-19 pandemic — a once-in-a-lifetime “black swan” event — and accompanying measures such as national lockdowns severely disrupted typical monthly seasonal currency patterns in 2020, particularly in March and June (the trough and peak in global risk appetite) but also in Q4, with a few exceptions (see Monthly currency seasonality: Down and out?, 4th January 2021).

A number of emerging and developed market currencies continued to deviate from their 2010–2019 historical patterns in January 2021. In particular the “normally” strong Brazilian Real and to a lesser extent Colombian Peso and Polish Zloty depreciated. The Swiss Franc, contrary to history and in line with our forecast, also weakened slightly. The South African Rand depreciated 2.1%, five times as much as its 11-year historical average.

Conversely the “normally” weak Turkish Lira was the outperformer, with the NEER appreciating nearly 4%. Sterling, the Australian Dollar and Norwegian Krone also outperformed in January relative to their historical seasonal patterns.

However, and while early days, about 17 currencies, including the Dollar, Euro, Kiwi Dollar, Mexican Peso and most Asian currencies performed in line with their historical seasonality.

Based on 2010–19 data Thai Baht, Norwegian Krone, Hungarian Forint and Polish Zloty were strongest currencies in the month of February while Korean Won was the weakest.

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Olivier Desbarres is Founder of 4X Global Research, providing substantive research and analysis on Emerging and G20 economies and fixed income markets.