Currencies

12 months on: How major currencies have fared following a year of uncertainty

An employee updates the British pound and U.S. dollar currency exchange rate on a board outside outside a foreign currency exchange bureau
Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Global stock markets have been on a roller coaster of a ride during 2016, as elections and leading central banks delivered outcomes that shook up investor sentiment. But how did currencies react?

With questions surfacing over whether some currencies will hit parity with others in the near future, CNBC takes a look at how eight major currencies dealt with 2016, and which events impacted their moves.


US dollar

A Donald Trump supporter watches the screens outside Times Square Studios as he awaits the results of the U.S. presidential election on November 9, 2016 in New York City.
Michael Reaves | Getty Images

The Federal Reserve's strategic rate path, Brexit and nonfarm payrolls data. These are just some events that rocked the U.S. dollar in 2016; yet one event in particular had a positive push for the currency.

On November 9, 2016, the U.S. voted in Republican business mogul Donald Trump as its next president causing the U.S. dollar to rally for several sessions. Despite surprising investors, the dollar rallied on hopes that Trump's administration would elevate U.S. inflation and the economy in general.

Elsewhere in 2016, Brexit's outcome pushed the dollar sharply higher against the U.K. pound, while doubts over whether the Fed would hike rates added pressure to the currency in early February. However, on December 14, the central bank decided to raise interest rates for the second time in a decade and detailed three further hikes for 2017. Consequently, the dollar climbed to a 14-year high against a basket of major currencies.

12 months on: The dollar index was up some 3.38 percent, as of December 31, 2016.
Highest point of 2016: 103.30 on December 28, 2016.
Lowest point of 2016: 92.62 on May 2, 2016.


UK sterling

Justin Tallis | AFP | Getty Images

For the first half of 2016, the pound was relatively calm despite certain spells of volatility... That is until June 24 - the day of the EU referendum result.

The U.K.'s vote to leave the European Union sent shock-waves across markets – who had priced in a vote to remain. The pound hit a more than 30-year low against the dollar, and fell further the following Monday, hitting $1.320 against the dollar. The day before the result it stood at $1.4996 during trade. Since June, sterling has continued to drop, having been struck by a U.K. interest rate cut, fears of a so-called "hard Brexit" and turbulence surrounding other political situations both in and outside of Europe.

12 months on: The pound was down some 16.17 percent against the dollar, as of December 31, 2016.
Highest point of 2016: $1.487 against USD, on June 23, 2016.
Lowest point of 2016: $1.211 against USD, on October 11, 2016.

The euro

Mario Draghi
Michele Tantussi | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The European Central Bank continued to influence the euro's moves throughout 2016. There was a Bloomberg report on the ECB's probability of winding down bond purchases, to news that the central bank would extend its bond purchasing timeline – at a scaled-back level – in December, causing euro/dollar to drop to some of its lowest levels in 2016.

Following Brexit, concerns over anti-establishment sentiment and populism weighed on the euro, with several European political events adding pressure on the currency in late 2016, including Italy voting "no" in its referendum, which caused the currency to hit a near two-year low in the days following the vote.

12 months on: The euro was down some 2.92 percent against USD, as of December 31, 2016.
Highest point of 2016: $1.15 against USD, on May 2, 2016.
Lowest point of 2016: $1.038 against USD, on December 20, 2016.


Mexican peso

Mexicans watch the presidential candidates debate in the United States on television in a restaurant in Mexico City on September 26, 2016.
ALFREDO ESTRELLA | AFP | Getty Images

For the Mexican peso, there was only one story in town in 2016: The U.S. election and Republican candidate Donald Trump. Trump's rhetoric in particular weighed on the peso, after he declared that he'd build a wall between the two countries if elected.

Markets priced in a Hillary Clinton victory and when the votes rolled in on November 9; the peso sank more than 12 percent, hitting an all-time low of almost 21 pesos per dollar, before paring some losses. While the world has yet to learn what the president-elect's policies will truly be, the uncertainty over what lies ahead for Mexico continues to add pressure on the peso.

12 months on: The peso was down some 19.71 percent against USD, as of December 31, 2016.
Highest point of 2016: 17.17 pesos per USD, on April 29, 2016.
Lowest point of 2016: 20.75 pesos per USD, on December 1, 2016.


Chinese yuan

A youth wearing a shirt that reads 'we have nothing in common' walks past a news stand advertising local Chinese magazine Global People, showing cover portraits of Sun Yat-sen (centre L), founding father of the Republic of China, and US president-elect Donald Trump (centre R
Johannes Eisele | AFP | Getty Images

Following 2015's volatile events, concerns over China's economic growth have been of key importance to the global economy. However around the end of 2016's first quarter, concerns around China started to ease, buoyed by a number of positive data releases from the country, including manufacturing and exports.

Yet storm clouds gathered near the end of 2016, as tensions grew between China and the U.S.' president-elect, following Trump's criticisms against the country on topics concerning trade, the yuan and the "One China" policy. Like the peso, concerns over what lies ahead for U.S.-China relations remains unclear.

12 months on: The yuan was down some 6.26 percent against USD, as of December 31, 2016.
Highest point of 2016: 6.448 yuan per USD, on March 31, 2016.
Lowest point of 2016: 6.957 yuan per USD, on December 16, 2016.


Russian ruble

Crude oil refining in Russia
Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In mid-December, OPEC and non-OPEC producers including Russia, agreed to their first joint output cut since 2001, with non-OPEC agreeing to cut 558,000 barrels per day for at least six months. The news elevated oil and the ruble, with the currency rising to one of its highest points in 2016.

Being a commodity-dependent currency, 2016 hasn't been the easiest ride for the ruble. In mid to late January, the ruble fell to its lowest during 2016, after oil prices hit 12-year lows on the back of ongoing supply glut concerns. This trend has been seen with other commodity-dependent currencies such as the Canadian dollar.

12 months on: The ruble was up some 15.75 percent against USD, as of December 31, 2016.
Highest point of 2016: 60.33 rubles per USD, on December 29, 2016.
Lowest point of 2016: 82.36 rubles per USD, on January 21, 2016.


Japanese yen

Kevin Winter | Getty Images

With the term "uncertainty" being thrown around a lot in markets during 2016, investors often saw the yen as a safe haven in times of trouble. Brexit, Fed rate hike jitters, and oil price volatility all weighed on market sentiment in 2016, causing the yen at times to climb.

Despite being seen as a point of refuge during turbulence, that's not to say the yen didn't have its surprises. The Bank of Japan threw the market on more than one occasion in 2016, with the central bank leaving its monetary policy steady in late April, while saying it would attempt to keep yields close to zero on its 10-year sovereign bond in September. It also adopted negative interest rates in January. All of these events were a surprise to many investors and created sharp moves in the yen.

12 months on: The yen was up some 2.14 percent against USD, as of December 31, 2016.
Highest point of 2016: 99.87 yen per USD, on August 18, 2016.
Lowest point of 2016: 121.03 yen per USD, on January 29, 2016.


Brazilian real

A man performs at a protest against Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff calling for her impeachment in front of the Brazilian National congress in Brasilia, Brazil, May 11, 2016.
Paulo Whitaker | Reuters

When it comes to the Brazilian real/U.S. dollar trade, domestic politics has definitely been a key mover and shaker for 2016.

One of the real's biggest rallies came in early March, as a corruption scandal engulfed the government and threatened to take down the President, Dilma Rousseff. Months later in August she was impeached. However, she denies any involvement in the scandal.

Aside from politics, the oil price, the Fed and concerns over Brazil's economic situation – especially with the Rio Olympics – all continued to add some volatility to the currency throughout the year.

12 months on: The real was up some 19.45 percent against USD on the year, as of December 31, 2016.
Highest point of 2016: 3.113 real per USD, on October 25, 2016.
Lowest point of 2016: 4.156 real per USD, on January 21, 2016.