5 Biggest Exotic Currency Moves in Q1 2014

In the spirit of spring (and spring break) season, we’re taking a break from the majors and taking a look at the exotic currencies. These less often traded (but still popular) currencies can get volatile so brace yourself for some interesting price action!

We zoomed in on the United Nation’s top 50 economies and picked out the top 5 exotic currencies that ended Q1 2014 the farthest from their open prices against the U.S. dollar. For your reference, both EUR and GBP posted 0.57% gains, JPY is up by 2.03%, and AUD is sporting a 4.32% jump.

1. ARS: Argentine Peso (-22.79%)

Back in 2001, Argentina was unofficially blocked from the international credit markets after it defaulted on US$95 billion worth of government debt. And with the economy dealing with high inflation and weak exports, the government had to control the investors’ (and locals’) flight away from the ARS by imposing controls such as a 35% tax on credit card purchases abroad, selling U.S. dollars, and banning citizens from saving in U.S. dollars.

It wasn’t until January this year when the government was forced to scale back on its market intervention policies. Its foreign reserves–the only way it can pay foreign creditors – had dropped to a seven-year low (below US$30 billion), which prompted the government to devalue its currency by more than 12% in two days in order to preserve its cash. Yikes!

2. KZT: Kazakhstani Tenge (-17.97%)

Like other major oil and gas producing countries, Kazakhstan got hit by a combo of the Fed’s tapering, broad capital flight from emerging economies, and geopolitical fears during Russia’s bid to get Crimea.

Weakening commodity prices, increased consumption of imports, and the government’s constant currency interventions also did a number on Kazakhstan’s trade balance and foreign reserves. These factors prompted the government to devalue KZT by a whopping 19% in February to preserve its cash. Talk about acting proactively!

3. PKR: Pakistani Rupee (+7.04%)

USD/PKR was steadily cruising around the 104 to 105 handles in to the second week of March when it suddenly plunged below 100. Market geeks believe that the drop was due to Saudi Arabia giving US$750 million to the Pakistan Development Fund (PDF) as military support against Syria.

The government remained tight-lipped, however, and pointed instead to the country’s strong foreign direct investment, better home remittances, and reversal of rupee speculations as the reason for the rupee’s strength.

4. RUB: Russian Ruble (-6.98%)

No mysteries as to why the ruble is on this list! Even before Russia made its play for Crimea, the currency had been weakening on the back of poor economic data, the Fed’s tapering, and capital flight outside the emerging markets. The ruble weakened by as much as 11% against the Greenback before it leveled off to an additional 7% loss by the end of March.

5. IDR: Indonesian Rupiah (+6.38%)

After being labeled as one of the “fragile five” economies last year, the Indonesian economy bounced back with a vengeance this year. The possible presidency of Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo, slowing inflation, and easing current account deficit attracted capital flows into Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

As a result, investors put US$2 billion into Jakarta’s equities, which not only offset last year’s US$1.8 billion capital outflow, but also propelled Jakarta’s stock market into the top spot among the best performing emerging markets.