Forex Fundamental Analysis : Financial and Sociopolitical Factors
The Role of Financial Factors
Financial factors are vital to fundamental analysis. Changes in a government’s monetary or fiscal policies are bound to generate changes in the economy, and these will be reflected in the exchange rates. Financial factors should be triggered only by economic factors. When governments focus on different aspects of the economy or have additional international responsibilities, financial factors may have priority over economic factors. This was painfully true in the case of the European Monetary System in the early 1990s. The realities of the marketplace revealed the underlying artificiality of this approach. Using the interest rates independently from the real economic environment translated into a very expensive strategy.
Because foreign exchange, by definition, consists of simultaneous transactions in two currencies, then it follows that the market must focus on two respective interest rates as well. This is the interest rate differential, a basic factor in the markets. Traders react when the interest rate differential changes, not simply when the interest rates themselves change. For example, if all the G-5 countries decided to simultaneously lower their interest rates by 0.5 percent, the move would be neutral for foreign exchange, because the interest rate differentials would also be neutral.
Of course, most of the time the discount rates are cut unilaterally, a move that generates changes in both the interest differential and the exchange rate. Traders approach the interest rates like any other factor, trading on expectations and facts. For example, if rumor says that a discount rate will be cut, the respective currency will be sold before the fact. Once the cut occurs, it is quite possible that the currency will be bought back, or the other way around. An unexpected change in interest rates is likely to trigger a sharp currency move. “Buy on the rumor, sell on the fact…”.
Other factors affecting the trading decision are the time lag between the rumor and the fact, the reasons behind the interest rate change, and the perceived importance of the change. The market generally prices in a discount rate change that was delayed. Since it is a fait accompli, it is neutral to the market. If the discount rate was changed for political rather than economic reasons, what is a common practice in the European Monetary System, the markets are likely to go against the central banks, sticking to the real fundamentals rather than the political ones. This happened in both September 1992 and the summer of 1993, when the European central banks lost unprecedented amounts of money trying to prop up their currencies, despite having high interest rates. The market perceived those interest rates as artificially high and, therefore, aggressively sold the respective currencies.
Finally, traders deal on the perceived importance of a change in the interest rate differential.
Political Events and Crises
Political events generally take place over a period of time, but political crises strike suddenly. They are almost always, by definition, unexpected. Currency traders have a knack for responding to crises. Speed is essential; shooting from the hip is the only fighting option. The traders’ reflexes take over. Without fast action, traders can be left out in the cold. There is no time for analysis, and only a split second, at best, to act. As volume drops dramatically, trading is hindered by a crisis. Prices dry out quickly, and sometimes the spreads between bid and offer jump from 5 pips to 100 pips.
Getting back to the market is difficult.