Cantillon: Christmas shoppers tripped up by currency rally

Sterling and dollar confound forecasts to make comeback, while euro nerves return

Hold off on that shopping trip to New York – with the dollar rallying, Irish shoppers might be better off staying at home for bargains. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Hold off on that shopping trip to New York – with the dollar rallying, Irish shoppers might be better off staying at home for bargains. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

 

Those planning shopping trips up North – or to New York – may have felt all their Christmases had come together. Forecasts were for a big fall in sterling after the Brexit vote. And market analysts felt that the Trump uncertainty would send the dollar lower.

One forecast now looks questionable: sterling has rallied a bit. The other has so far been plain wrong, with the US currency briefly dropping to over $1.11 against the euro after the vote, but since rallying strongly to under $1.06, with talk of parity in the air. This is as bad a deal as Irish shoppers heading to the Big Apple have got since last Christmas and is well below average trading levels over the last five years, during which time one euro has generally bought $1.25 or more.

Part of the problem is an unanticipated issue. Investors are now nervy about the euro, fearing the result of the Italian constitutional vote next month and French and German elections next year – and expecting the ECB to extend its monetary easing. Rather than sterling or the dollar, right now it is the euro in the firing line.

That is good for exporters, even if the outlook is unpredictable. Shoppers, meanwhile, might be as well advised to buy Irish.

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