World News

Mexico FX to stay on defensive with U.S. election campaign, coronavirus in focus: Reuters poll

By Gabriel Burin

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Mexico’s peso <MXN=> is seen vulnerable to further slumps with the U.S. election campaign in focus after ending the first quarter on a bad note due to fears over the coronavirus outbreak, a Reuters poll showed.

The currency is set to trade at 19.5250 per U.S. dollar in one year, close to its levels earlier this week, according to the median estimate of 12 strategists polled Feb. 28-March 3, before the U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates on Tuesday.

The peso was 1.3% higher after the Fed took the decision aimed at protecting the world’s largest economy from the impact of the epidemic, giving some relief to Latin American foreign exchange markets.

The Mexican currency slumped 5.5% in the second half of last month, along with other emerging markets hit by a flight to safe-haven assets, as the coronavirus spread outside China. The fifth case in Mexico was confirmed this week.

It may risk further losses resulting from potential spurts of protectionist rhetoric before the U.S. election on Nov. 3. Last week, President Donald Trump said he could close the U.S. southern border to control the spread of the disease.

“As the election cycle in the U.S. picks up speed and headline volatility increases, we expect USD/MXN to resume an upward (weaker) trend into late Q1 and early Q2,” CIBC analysts wrote in a monthly report for March, before the Fed’s move.

In the run-up to the presidential vote of 2016, the peso lost 7.6% from its strongest level that year until election day, battered by Trump’s promise to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Mexico’s poor growth and optimistic budget assumptions are also likely to weigh on the peso. “We foresee these concerns returning to the main stage … as credit rating agencies assess the country’s fiscal stance in Q2 2020,” CIBC said.

Brazil’s real outlook <BRBY> is also beset by a disappointing economy and global headwinds from the impact of the epidemic, as reflected in its one-year median estimate that was 2.4% weaker than in February’s poll.

“Positive drivers for BRL have been overwhelmed by negative pressures from stronger USD amid risk-off sentiment and from domestic growth with downside surprises in 4Q19,” BofAML analysts wrote in a report last week.

(Reporting and polling by Gabriel Burin in Buenos Aires; Additional polling by Khushboo Mittal and Sumanto Mondal in Bengaluru; Editing by Ross Finley and Matthew Lewis)