And just like that, we are about to bid farewell to 2017! Before we say adieu to the year that was, let’s take a quick walk down memory lane to review the biggest themes that rocked the forex market then.
1. Political shakeups
Economic performance and central bank action typically take center stage in terms of fundamental analysis, but 2017 was the year that political uncertainty upstaged ’em all.
The sheer number of lineup of presidential elections for the year made keeping up with the Kardashians look like an easy feat compared to monitoring opinion polls, coalition talks, and not to mention surprise announcements.
One of the biggest political shocks was the U.K. PM May’s call for snap elections as she apparently snapped (Ha!) in the middle of Brexit squabbles within her own government. But instead of winding up with stronger political support as planned, they ended up with a hung parliament, making Brexit negotiations all the more complicated.
In another part of Europe, a narrowing lead between top contender Macron and anti-EU challenger Le Pen in the race for the French presidency brought jitters for the shared currency, even spurring “Frexit” concerns. Eventually, with the help of a coalition, Macron claimed victory and brought a huge *le sigh* of relief for the euro.But as with most narratives, a few more plot twists had been waiting in the wings for the euro zone. One of these was Catalonia’s independence bid, which got really nasty as pro-independence protests got violent and court orders were issued left and right.
Another plot twist that pulled the rug from under the euro’s feet towards the latter part of the year was political uncertainty in Germany as Chancellor Merkel failed to form a coalition after several attempts.
Over in the other hemisphere, New Zealand had its fair share of political drama. After the National Party fell short of achieving a majority in parliament, NZF decided to back the opposing Labour Party and spurred fears of a protectionist government.
2. U.S. tax reform
From the moment that The Donald started to close the gap between Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in last year’s U.S. presidential race, Wall Street has been buzzing about Trump’s proposed tax cuts and how it might influence corporate America.
Expectations were heightened as Trump took office this year, but several road bumps for the GOP such as their failure to repeal Obamacare and the ongoing investigation into the President’s ties with Russia kept dollar traders in a guessing game. Will they or won’t they?
Keep in mind that tax reform is a pretty YUUUUGE deal for the U.S. economy as this would likely accelerate business investment, consumer spending, and therefore overall growth in the months ahead. And now that Trump was able to sign the bill and tell his wealthy friends “You all just got a lot richer,” its impact would probably one of the major market themes in the year ahead.
3. Brexit negotiations
On the topic of market themes that have been going on for years, Brexit has been able to keep calm and carry on for the most part of 2017, popping up in headlines just when things seem to get a bit boring.
Even with all the ups and downs, talks of a “soft Brexit” or even a “no deal” situation, and a snap election to boot, slow but steady progress has been made. The EU has proved to be a tough counterparty in negotiations, but a deal has been reached and with a transition period, no less.
4. Crude oil turnaround
Black Crack has been on front and center of financial headlines for the better part of the last twelve months on rising U.S. production and the OPEC scrambling to keep things under control.
The commodity started the year on the back foot, prompting calls for an extension of the oil cartel’s output deal, which they granted in May. Crude oil gained more traction in the following months as Uncle Sam also reported falling stockpiles, spurred partly by hurricanes, pipeline shutdowns, and rising demand from China.
Expectations for yet another extension of the OPEC deal all the way until the end of 2018 continued to buoy the commodity higher as this would likely help the market rebalance faster.
5. Monetary policy tightening bandwagon
Most market junkies had their eyes fixed on the Fed as expectations for three interest rate hikes in 2017 had been set early on. However, other central banks, namely the Bank of Canada and the Bank of England, weren’t ones to get left behind.
In fact, the Greenback was steadily dropping for the first eight months of the year, even with actual Fed tightening and talks of tax cuts, as disappointments appeared to carry more weight and North Korea kept things interesting.
It was kind of a different story for the BOE, though, as Guv’nah Carney and his fellow policymakers scrambled to keep inflation in check. There was a hint of reluctance in their tightening announcement as it may have been a result of peer pressure from rising global interest rates.
Nonetheless, other central banks such as the RBA and RBNZ seemed ready to join the tightening bandwagon towards the latter part of the year as they also switched to a less downbeat tune.
Phew! Quite a lot of exciting events, but not much volatility this year, huh? Perhaps all the uncertainty from all these has left traders sitting on their hands more often than usual… or maybe flocking to other markets like bitcoin instead?