LONDON – The US dollar is hitting new 12-year highs almost daily, while the euro seems to be plunging inexorably to below dollar parity. Currency movements are often described as the most unpredictable of all financial variables; but recent events in foreign-exchange markets seem, for once, to have a fairly obvious explanation – one that almost all economists and policymakers accept and endorse.
French President François Hollande, for one, has ecstatically welcomed the plunging euro: “It makes things nice and clear: one euro equals a dollar," he told an audience of industrialists. But it is when things seem “nice and clear" that investors should question conventional wisdom. A strong dollar and a weak euro is certainly the most popular bet of 2015. So is there a chance that the exchange-rate trend may already be overshooting?
In one sense, the conventional explanation of the recent euro-dollar movement is surely right. The main driving force clearly has been monetary divergence, with the Federal Reserve tightening policy and the European Central Bank maintaining rock-bottom interest rates and launching quantitative easing. But how much of this divergence is already priced in? The answer depends on how many people either are unaware of the interest-rate spread or do not believe that it will widen very far.
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