Kames Capital Conversations | Coronavirus and currency moves

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Education

Coronavirus and currency moves

By Gareth Gettinby, Investment Manager, Multi-Asset Investing

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) epidemic started impacting markets a month ago, and investors have bought the US dollar and Swiss franc as safe-haven assets as a consequence, shunning the Japanese yen.

The Swiss franc was strong before the current viral outbreak as traders expressed concern about the euro. The latter currency has been weakened by a series of disappointing economic data culminating in a sharp contraction in industrial production in December. There is also the suspicion that Trump’s antagonism towards US-designated currency manipulators will result in a range of measures designed to push the Swiss franc higher. Add some classic risk aversion (borne of the virus) and small wonder that the Swiss franc continues to rise. This situation might change given the first episode of the coronavirus in Switzerland was recently announced. Still, there seem few sellers of the currency at the moment.

The situation in China (regarding COVID-19) seems to be improving. This could see activity there start to return to normal, much to the relief of European exporters. If this continues then a euro recovery may follow through to Swiss franc weakness, but until the threat of hostile actions from the US Treasury subsides, the Switzerland’s currency looks unlikely to come to much harm. Alternatively, if the WHO declares a pandemic then equities will fret afresh and currency traders will position for decent upside in Swiss francs.

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