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HSBC's currency expert gives his best trades for 2018

  • Currency strength will spike in countries where central bank rates rise unexpectedly, says FX strategist David Bloom
  • He predicts Australia will see this in Q1 2018, boosting its currency against the dollar by an estimated 10 percent

There's money to be made in currencies whose central banks will make an unpredictable move next year, said David Bloom, HSBC's global head of foreign exchange strategy.

His call for 2018? Bet on the Aussie dollar. Speaking to CNBC Thursday, Bloom predicted the Australian dollar will gain around 10 percent on the U.S. dollar over the next year following a Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) interest rate hike in the first quarter of 2018.

He described many central banks' practices of forward guidance — calling their interest rate decisions weeks or months in advance — as creating exaggerated calmness and low volatility, and projected that countries where forward guidance isn't in play will be where the excitement is for 2018.

"What we're saying is, where is the central bank not going to have forward guidance? Where's the central bank just suddenly going to go 'we're going to raise rates'? Where is the central bank denying — and then going have to face — the reality? And we think one of those is Aussie."

The Australian Flag is seen on June 25, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.
Darrian Traynor | Stringer | Getty Images
The Australian Flag is seen on June 25, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.

"We saw last night powerful employment data." Bloom continued. "But the central bank is going 'ohh we're never going to raise rates, we're not going to raise rates.' If all these central banks are raising rates, at some point they're going to go, 'we're going to raise rates.' And boom, the currency will go up 10 percent or so."

HSBC is expecting the RBA to hike rates in early 2018, followed by the Norwegian and Swedish central banks in the second quarter, and then the Reserve Bank of New Zealand in the third quarter. "The market debate about the move to the exit still feels in its infancy for these central banks, which suggests there is more upside for the currencies as the theme develops … These are central banks in transition to normalization and we forecast their currencies to gain around 10 percent against the USD over the next year," HSBC analysts said in a research note.