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Market Update

FX volatility continues amidst a tepid economic recovery

September 14, 2020
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    Michael Lombardi

    Client Relationship Management

    Corporates | Kennett Square, PA


As summer ended, we saw several market and economic headlines that treasury teams should carefully monitor as their organizations plan for 2021. The euro and British pound continued to experience heightened volatility, while the VIX spiked and crude oil broke down following a pretty placid summer.

A tale of two currencies

During a European Central Bank press conference on Thursday, President Christine Lagarde struck a positive tone as she contemplated a stronger-than-expected economic recovery for the Eurozone. Her optimistic remarks and decision to leave the bank’s key interest rate unchanged caused the euro to further rally after cooling off earlier in the week. Addressing concerns related to euro strength and the impact it could have on a fragile economic recovery, Lagarde commented that the ECB is monitoring the currency’s movements, but they do not target a specific FX rate or range.

Currency movements across the English Channel drew a sharp contrast to the recent Euro strength, as the British pound continued to slide. The U.K. government unveiled a Brexit bill that would override elements of its original withdrawal agreement with the European Union, making it increasingly likely that there will be no trade agreement in place before the October 15 deadline. The prospects of higher trading costs and tariffs between the two parties put more downward pressure on the pound, which ended the week at 1.28.

(Related insight: Download Chatham’s Benchmark Study Report, "The State of Financial Risk Management," to see what peer corporations are doing to manage FX risk.)

COVID stimulus talks wear on as U.S. markets turn choppy

Equity market volatility continued against a backdrop of risk-off investor sentiment following the pre-Labor Day decline in tech stocks. Despite the growing consensus that the recent correction is a healthy market adjustment that brings prices closer to underlying value, equities failed to gain any significant momentum in either direction for the week. COVID stimulus talks did nothing to help boost investor or economic sentiment, as both sides of the aisle drifted even further apart in their respective visions for a relief package. Republicans floated increasingly smaller relief plans, culminating in the proposal of a $300 billion bill on Thursday, on which Senate Democrats blocked a vote. 10-year treasury rates slid 3 basis points on the news, reversing an earlier increase driven by unemployment claims holding steady week-over-week.

Rangebound crude breaks lower

After drifting higher for most of the summer, crude oil markets saw a sharp correction lower on account of compounding negative headlines. Earlier in the week, Saudi Arabia announced it would be cutting prices for October shipments to Asian and U.S. refining customers due to continued weak demand. This was followed by the U.S. Energy Information Administration reporting a 2-million-barrel increase in crude oil inventories, catching a market expecting an inventory decrease even more off-guard. While we transition away from summer and peak seasonal demand, there are mounting downward pressures for OPEC+ to wrestle with when they meet next week.

(Related insight: Read "Market volatility impacts fuel markets.")

Week ahead

In addition to monitoring crude oil volatility, we can expect to see markets respond to a Federal Reserve Chair press conference scheduled for Wednesday, September 16, which will be Chairman Powell’s first public address since the August announcement of their change in approach to managing inflation.

About the author

  • Michael Lombardi

    Client Relationship Management

    Corporates | Kennett Square, PA


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