Monthly currency seasonality: Down and out?

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”, 10 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.

However, significant changes in central bank or government policy, major domestic events (e.g. Brexit) and once-in-a-lifetime “black swan” events such as the Covid-19 pandemic January can break down even well established seasonal currency patterns. In emerging Asia interventionist central banks have in part eroded monthly currency seasonality.

Unsurprisingly, typical monthly seasonal currency patterns broke down in 2020, with a few exceptions. In particular, when global risk sentiment collapsed in March and peaked in June only a handful of currencies moved broadly in line with their historical patterns.

Historical seasonal patterns somewhat re-established themselves in Q3 (notably August) with domestic factors once again driving asset prices, including currencies. But the resurgence in Covid-19 cases and deaths in Q4 along with the re-imposition of national lockdowns once again contributed to a breakdown in historical seasonal patterns, albeit not as marked as in March or June.

The Brazilian Real and Colombian Peso NEERs recorded the strongest average rates of appreciation in the month of January in 2010–2019, while the Turkish Lira and Russian Rouble were the weakest. About 15 NEERs traded broadly in line with their historical patterns in January 2020.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic was still in its infancy and its impact on global economies and financial markets still modest. The risk is that many currencies, including the typically strong Swiss Franc, may in January 2021 continue to deviate materially from their 2010–2019 seasonal patterns in our view.

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