An employee loads a machine with sheets of five dollar notes that will receive a serial number and the seals of the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, D.C. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Even Dollar Bears Wary of Betting Against Greenback Just Yet

(Bloomberg) -- Dollar bears may want to hibernate this winter.

Although many currency strategists see the greenback resuming its downtrend in 2019, some are advising investors to keep their powder dry for now. The Bloomberg dollar index climbed as much as 0.6 percent Monday and touched its strongest level in almost 18 months. The greenback was buoyed last week by a decline in U.S. stocks and signals from the Federal Reserve that it doesn’t plan to budge from its tightening path, and received further impetus Monday as political risks helped drag down the euro and pound.

The “king dollar” trend may have room to run, Valentin Marinov, head of Group-of-10 currency strategy at Credit Agricole, said in an interview last week. With the Fed expected to continue raising rates into 2019, the U.S. currency may remain strong well into the first quarter.

“You may see a gradual grind higher, even though it will fall well short of the lofty highs of late 2016, early 2017,” he said about the greenback. He emphasized that it will do best against currencies with more exposure to China, such as Australia’s and New Zealand’s, but warned “the dollar is close to peaking, and the longer-term risks 6-to-12 months out seem to be on the downside.”

Even Dollar Bears Wary of Betting Against Greenback Just Yet

Kit Juckes, global fixed-income strategist at Societe Generale, also doubted the dollar’s good vibes are drying up. Between the U.S. economy still running hot, a tightening labor market and a Fed that’s “unlikely to give any hint that they are approaching peak rates for several quarters,” dollar bears have plenty of hurdles to clear, Juckes said in a Nov. 8 note.

The currency is overvalued and market is positioned long, which suggests a correction is likely in 2019, Juckes wrote. In the meantime, however, he is “wary of jumping the gun.”

Ben Randol, senior director of currency strategy at Bank of America, expects the dollar will weaken next year as U.S. economic growth cools, he said in an interview last week. But it may find support from Brexit difficulties, the threat of deeper Italian fiscal crisis and U.S.-China trade tensions.

“Timing is very difficult,” Randol said “Given the risks, it can be a challenge to have conviction high enough to short the dollar.”

The turning point may arrive near the end of the first quarter when political risk bubbles up again around U.S. government spending, Credit Agricole’s Marinov said. Plus, the U.S. midterm election results may stymie additional fiscal stimulus measures. A pause in Fed rate hikes some time around the middle of 2019 and the start of rate increases in Europe could also factor in.

“We think that growth will moderate, especially given that the prospects for further aggressive fiscal stimulus may wane now that political gridlock has returned to Washington D.C. and the global growth headwinds have intensified,” he said.

By the end of next year, the euro could be back above $1.26 from around $1.13 at the moment, while the dollar-yen rate, which is close to 114, could be below 104, he said. That could see the dollar index return to levels last seen in late 2017 and early 2018, according to Marinov.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.