Crown seen retreating as CEE currencies gain little traction: Reuters poll

By Jason Hovet

PRAGUE (Reuters) – Hungary’s forint is likely to just drift off a record low over the next year while the Czech crown is seen giving up recent gains, a Reuters poll showed, as central European currencies find little traction in 2020.

Over the last year, the region’s currencies have struggled to gain ground, hit by global worries over trade wars, they look set to face headwinds in 2020 from slowing domestic economies and monetary policy staying on hold.

Wednesday’s poll showed the biggest-moving currencies were likely to be the crown, which climbed to its highest levels against the euro since the end of 2012 last month, and Romania’s leu.

The crown <EURCZK=> was seen easing 0.8% from its Monday close to 25.400 to the euro in the next 12 months, an unchanged forecast from a poll a month ago.

The Czech central bank has kept alive a debate on whether an interest rate hike was still needed to fight inflation pressures. However, analysts see no change when the bank meets on Thursday as crown strength has been a tightening factor.

Analysts also see a weaker economic picture.

“We don’t expect the (firming) trend in the crown to be sustainable given the cyclical moderation of the economy,” Raiffeisen financial Sebastian Petric said.

“The recent release of the manufacturing PMI points to a contraction of the manufacturing sector. Also, earlier data confirm the picture of a slowdown.”

In Hungary, the forint <EURHUF=> is forecast to tread water before firming around 0.7% to 335 per euro in a year’s time.

The forint hit a record low of 338.77 to the euro in January and has lost more than 1.5% so far in 2020, losing 3% in 2019, as Hungary’s central bank has maintained the region’s most dovish monetary policy stance.

It got a boost on Monday after the central bank rejected all bids at a weekly euro/forint swap tender. The swaps, which allow the central bank to manage forint liquidity in the banking system, have for years been an important policy tool.

Poland’s zloty <EURPLN=> was seen little moved over the next year, with the poll seeing it at 4.295 to the euro in 12 months, as risks related to Swiss franc mortgages remain, with fears the loans will be converted into the local currency on terms unfavorable to banks.

The Romanian leu <EURRON=> was forecast to lose 2.2% to 4.885 to the euro, versus 4.92 seen on a 12-month horizon in the January poll. Fiscal and political uncertainties continue to weigh on Romanian assets.

“The pressures could intensify later during the year if the government delivers only limited fiscal consolidation,” Generali Investments CEE said.

(Reporting by Jason Hovet and Mirka Krufova in Prague; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)