High Beta Currencies Are Ready to Roll: Strategist

Sydney Harbor Bridge & skyline
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Sydney Harbor Bridge & skyline

The euro may be grabbing headlines, but this strategist says the real action is in emerging market currencies.

Tired of trading the seesawing euro? Greg Anderson, senior currency strategist at Citigroup , has a solution: go for plan beta.

"The move in high beta currencies has been accompanied by little fanfare," he wrote in a note to clients. "Nonetheless, as we write, many EM and high-beta G10 currencies are on the verge of a move back to last year’s highs."

Many of the higher-risk currencies got a lift in 2011 after quantitative easing and other liquidity injections by central banks boosted investor confidence. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke just squashed hopes for near-term easing in the U.S., but Anderson thinks rising commodity prices will still give emerging market currencies a lift.

"Commodity inflation is still unwanted at this stage, and FX appreciation is the least painful way to mitigate it," he says. In other words, central banks may be more willing to accommodate stronger currencies if they keep inflation in check.

Anderson also argues that new Chinese PMI data could trigger a rise in high-beta currencies. He says that if the number shows a third straight month of improvement and beats expectations, "markets may take that as a trigger to bring EM equities and currencies back to the QE2 highs" of 2011. Of course, a lower number could have the opposite effect, but Anderson thinks the fundamentals are strong enough to make any dip a buying opportunity.

To take a position on a strong PMI outlook, Anderson recommends the Australian dollar. He notes that the Aussie is increasingly used as a relatively liquid proxy for the Chinese yuan, and it's also closely correlated with an index of emerging Asian currencies.

"Spot AUDUSD is still a couple of percent below its highs and we see no reason it can’t get there again over the next few weeks," Anderson says.

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