August jobs data due on Friday will be the first potential catalyst of many in September that could either revive a sliding U.S. dollar or clear the way for further weakness,
So far, the greenback has had a turbulent week, making Friday’s data even more important to give it some direction. It weakened after mixed economic data and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying that a weak currency could be beneficial in trade on Thursday, retracing its gains from a rally on Wednesday, spurred by a weakening euro and supportive ADP private-sector employment numbers and revised second quarter gross domestic product numbers.
Economists warn of reading too much into ADP numbers as a bellwether for other data, and Thursday’s woes upset the previously positive tone ahead of Friday’s nonfarm payroll and unemployment data.
The ICE U.S. Dollar Index DXY, +0.00% a measure of the currency against a basket of six major rivals, is down more than 9% since the end of 2016.
“It is now all down to Friday’s official nonfarm payrolls report,” Fawad Razaqzada, market analyst at Forex.com, wrote in a note on Wednesday. “If this also shows further strength in the labor market and another rise in wages, then calls for a December rate rise may increase, triggering further dollar buying interest.”
The dollar’s long-running weakness is widely attributed to mixed data, gridlock in Washington, and geopolitical uncertainties, including tensions with North Korea. A resurgent euro has also taken a toll on the dollar as investors anticipate the European Central Bank will soon outline a plan to begin winding down its bond-buying program.
Meanwhile, the dollar has tended to slump during periods of geopolitical uncertainty, leading investors to wonder if the currency has ceded its role as a haven. The dollar index dropped to its lowest level since January 2015 after North Korea’s firing of a missile that traveled through Japanese airspace triggered a global flight to quality assets.
“It seems the combination of an expectation for a dovish-leaning Federal Reserve normalization process, soft U.S. dollar policies, White House instability and geopolitical tension are all contributing to the U.S. dollar’s departure from its traditional safe-haven status,” Joel Kruger, currency strategist at LMAX Exchange said on Wednesday.
That said, it would be hard to imagine a scenario in which the dollar wasn’t able to rally on the back of a deterioration in sentiment, given the U.S. remains the largest and safest economy in the world, Kruger said.
Analysts appear split about the direction of the buck. In the one corner are those expecting a rally given the Federal Reserve’s expected balance sheet unwinding and hopes for a rate increase amid improving data. Their opponents are those staying set on the euro to finish the year stronger due to a more stable political environment and faster economic growth in Europe.
Fed policy makers are due to meet Sept. 19 and 20.
Besides employment numbers, manufacturing data is also due on Friday and could help paint a rosy picture of the U.S. economy. Further into September, showdowns over the federal budget and debt ceiling could add some headline risk to the dollar. Even if the debt ceiling will be raised, some posturing from political figures is likely, which would make for a volatile buck, market participants said.
Meanwhile, the renegotiation process of the North American Free Trade Agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico is due to enter its second round on Friday, after the first round was marked by aggressive rhetoric from the U.S., including tweets from Trump suggesting the pact should be terminated. The Mexican peso USDMXN, -0.0225% dropped in response against its northern neighbor, suggesting that headline risks are geared toward the peso and the Canadian dollar USDCAD, -0.0403%
Over in Europe, expectations that the European Central Bank could address the prolonged strength in the euro following its Sept. 7 policy meeting are mounting. If ECB officials talk the euro down, this would lend more support to the dollar’s recovery.
The euro EURUSD, +0.1770% hit a 31-month high of $1.2073 on Tuesday, before retreating below the $1.20 market again. It last traded at $1.1895.
“There is some concern about potential ECB intervention,” Alvin Tan, currency strategist at Société Générale, said. The euro’s historical average is around the $1.21 mark—higher than where it currently trades—but central bankers are likely more worried about the pace of the shared currency’s appreciation rather than its value, Tan added.
Also on the calendar next month, German elections are set for Sept. 24. Chancellor Angela Merkel is widely expected to win another term. But her most serious opponent, Social Democrat Martin Schulz, is also a pro-European Union candidate, leading market participants to dismiss the potential election result as nothing to worry too much about.