Forex outlook for 2019

January 08, 2019 10:14
With monetary policy broadly looking stable, there is plenty of potential upside for the euro. Photo: Reuters

Global currency markets witnessed a number of big market-moving events in 2018 which created plenty of opportunities for investors.

Sterling was one of the headline stories of the year with Brexit negotiations providing sharp swings in the pound at various stages during the year. In April, the pound was trading at 1.43 against the US dollar, but has now slid to around 1.26.

The greenback itself had had a lot of fluctuations during the year, but was generally strong in the second half. Trading against the euro, the US currency was around 0.80 in April but roared to an impressive level of 0.88 in December.

So what can we expect in the currency markets this year? Which pairs offer some of the best investing opportunities?


A number of factors are at play for the euro in 2019, which could see the currency strengthen against the greenback. With the Brexit deadline approaching fast, the euro will face less downward pressure from the uncertainty over the type of deal to be accepted.

In addition, there is room for optimism that eurozone inflation could boost the currency in the early part of the year. With monetary policy broadly looking stable, there is plenty of potential upside for the euro, especially if one takes the view that the risk factor posed by Italy is now overstated.

With all of this in mind, it is easy to see why some traders feel positive about the euro in 2019 as it looks to put aside the downward pressure it has felt as a result of the political turmoil for much of the previous year.

Risk off in Europe

The European Union has seen great upheaval in the past two years with big domestic political events driving uncertainty and volatility within the markets.

Brexit has been the obvious culprit but further crises in Greece, Italy and Spain have all weighed on sentiment and forced FX traders to look for value trades elsewhere. This year could see a lessening of risk sentiment in Europe which could coincide with an upswing in fortunes for the currency.

Many investors are of the view that the potential for a truly systemic European risk event has receded significantly. With this in mind, pairs like EUR/GBP and EUR/CHF could offer investors value over the longer term as Europe looks to right itself following its recent period of relative weakness.

What to make of CNH?

US dollar against China offshore spot is one of the most interesting pairs to watch for 2019 as the world’s two biggest economies continue to clash on a number of key issues.

The Trump administration’s trade tariffs have not been received well by Beijing and the tit-for-tat escalation has seen investors around the world concerned over the growing financial impact of a full-blown trade war. With no firm agreement in place, the continuing uncertainty could impact prices.

USD/CNH was trading at 6.27 earlier in 2018 and has rallied to its current level of around 6.86 (it was as high as 7.0 in November).

Trouble brews on the horizon, however, as the continuing fallout from the Huawei saga takes its toll on sentiment. With fresh moves likely in the standoff between Washington and Beijing in early 2019, there could be volatility in the markets creating opportunities for traders.

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Senior analyst at eToro