Earlier today, Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank, gave a shout out to Janet Yellen, the U.S. Treasury-elect. President Lagarde wished Ms Yellen well on her confirmation which is expected to go favorably sometime this week. Both women have commented on the state of the foreign exchange markets this week with Dr Yellen expressing her preference for market determined foreign exchange rates and President Lagarde telling reporters during today’s European Central Bank policy rate announcement that the ECB would be monitoring foreign exchange rates “very closely.”
In its early days, the Trump administration expressed a preference for a “strong” dollar. A strong dollar scenario is one where the U.S. dollar has risen to a historically high exchange rate relative to another currency. Strength could be attributable to another nation devaluing its currency relative to the dollar in an effort to make the foreign country’s exports more competitive.
Deleveraging is another method of dollar strengthening where debts are paid off which reduces the amount of dollars in the system thus increasing the value of the dollar.
Although a strong dollar protects foreign investor holdings of U.S. assets , the higher prices for imports faced by Americans could create a political scene where consumers start asking their government to reverse the course. The prior administration’s use of tariffs in its trade spat with China raised such concerns.
While Ms Yellen has again expressed her preference for market-determined rates, her future Treasury Department could buy and sell foreign currency for the purpose of narrowing exchange rate movements should a market-determination scheme not meet the Biden administration’s policy objectives. If the dollar is viewed as depreciating too quickly, Treasury could boost demand and value by using foreign currency to buy the greenback. If the dollar is viewed as appreciating too quickly, the Treasury could resort to using the dollar to buy foreign currency. If Dr. Yellen stays the course on a market policy, then the tactic will be to allow the foreign exchange rate to move to equilibrium.
Across the Atlantic, President Lagarde will likely not just look at exchange rates but try to determine the impact rates is having on yields. The European Union has been signaling its desire to boost the status of its currency, hoping to attract more investment to the Eurozone. President Lagarde would likely want to see appreciation in the euro and an accompanying increase in yields.
Traders and brokers should pay close attention to policy moves designed to make the euro and the dollar more attractive to investors and also how the European Union positions itself between the United States and China. Depending on how competitive the United States and the European Union become, shout outs between Dr yellen and President Lagarde will become more interesting.