FTG Blog - Oil Tightens Its Noose Around Currency Market as Rout Deepens

Oil Tightens Its Noose Around Currency Market as Rout Deepens

Oil is re-asserting its stranglehold on the currencies of energy producers.

After ignoring volatile crude prices for most of the year, the currencies of Norway and Canada are succumbing to a selloff that has knocked 12 percent off the value of their biggest export this month. Russia’s ruble, a favorite destination of carry traders using borrowed dollars to invest in higher-yielding assets, has proved more resilient.

“In the past few months, oil prices had taken the backseat, with shifts in interest-rate differentials and monetary policy expectations chiefly driving NOK and CAD,” said Themos Fiotakis, co-head currency and rates strategy at UBS Group AG. “Now both drivers are lining up. With inflation declining at the same time as oil dropping, the co-movement between NOK, CAD and oil prices is resurfacing.”

Policy makers in Canada and Norway are treading carefully, lest energy prices inflict more damage to their economies. They stuck to stimulative rates this month in the face of weakness in the labor market, inflation and exports. UBS strategists are calling for Norway’s krone to languish near its lowest level in four months against the euro, and for the Canadian dollar to weaken to 1.36 per dollar, from 1.34, through June.

The Bank of Canada said a pick-up in consumer prices is fleeting, as it focused on ”subdued” wage growth in its March 1 decision to leave rates unchanged at 0.5 percent. Norges Bank echoed the sentiment last week as it also held its benchmark at 0.5 percent, signaling it’s prepared to keep interest rates lower for longer to guard against slowing inflation amid a fragile recovery in western Europe’s largest oil producer.