The USD index is set for another positive year over 2012 but it will not be a star performer.
The USD has been a clear beneficiary of the crisis in the eurozone and will continue to find sustenance unless there are signs of a concrete resolution on the horizon. My forecasts still see the USD index rising to 82.5 by the end of 2012. This would be well below the highs reached during the height of the financial crisis in March 2009 around 89.
While economic recovery is expected to continue over 2012 it will be a tepid one, with prominent downside risks. Therefore, one of the factors likely to hold the USD back is the likelihood that the Fed embarks on a fresh round of quantitative easing which I believe will take place sometime in H1 2012, specifically aimed at mortgage backed securities.
I am not bullish on the EUR but it is clear in my view that there is an underlying degree of support for the currency. In 2012 I expect more downward pressure on the currency. News on the economic front will become more negative and the region is set to slip into recession, albeit a mild one (with downside risks). In contrast, the outlook for the US looks somewhat better even if the recovery will look tame compared to past growth.
Relatively weak growth will maintain the pressure on the ECB to ease monetary policy and further interest rate cuts are likely in the months ahead. Easier policy will be another factor that undermines the EUR. Even if the there was some progress on a resolution to the eurozone debt crisis I doubt that the stress on markets would be relieved overnight. While the crisis has and will not deliver a death blow to the EUR it will mean that investors, even official ones, take a much more cautious view on the currency going forward. I look for EUR/USD to fall to around 1.26 by end 2012.
The JPY has been one of the most well behaved currencies over past months, remaining within a relatively tight range. Unfortunately for the Japanese authorities and for the economy the JPY has failed to build on any negative momentum caused by intervention. I expect USD/JPY and EUR/JPY to edge higher over coming months but the upside for both currency pairs is likely to be gradual over 2012.
Much will depend on whether risk appetite improves and more importantly on yield differentials between Japan and other countries. My end 2012 forecast for USD/JPY and EUR/JPY remain at 85 and 107, respectively but its worth noting that I now expect a firmer JPY in March 2012 against both USD and EUR than previously forecast due to the likelihood of prolonged uncertainty and elevated risk aversion over Q1 2012.
Mitul is the author of the forthcoming Gyrating Currencies.