Is it going to 26? Is it going to 22? Heck, will it strengthen back into the high teens again? Nobody knows precisely, of course, where the Mexican peso is going. But everyone agrees on one thing, that president-elect Donald Trump holds all the cards.
A recent Nomura Securities survey has the peso going to 22 by year’s end and to 26 in 2017, assuming Mexico faces capital flight and competitive devaluations in light of a potential NAFTA do-over.
The peso is currently 20.4 to the dollar. It’s lost 79% of its value over the last 12 years, since it was allowed to free float back in 2004.
Mexico’s central bank is quite technocratic and independent. But no matter what they do, the Donald holds the Trump card on the peso’s future direction.
“If Trump pushes hard on trade, it will be bad for Mexico. I wouldn’t want to guess where this is going. We don’t own any pesos,” says James Barrineau, co-head of emerging market debt at Schroders in New York.
Besides the potential for some real tariffs on Made in Mexico exports to the United States, Mexico is dealing with a number of problems. All of these are headwinds for the peso. This includes deficits, importing massive amounts of natural gas from the U.S., and the wealthy hording dollars.
There is also an unappreciated security crisis in Mexico that is adding insult to injury. Despite years of stable economic growth, Mexico is facing a situation similar to that of Colombia in the 1990s. Drug cartels and corruption are another source of political and economic uncertainty that weigh on the peso.
Some investors think Trump will not take as hard a line on trade as the one he campaigned on. If that comes to pass, the peso could bounce back and ease inflation pressures. The central bank is looking to hike interest rates again, which in theory can attract capital to Mexican bonds, including foreign capital, which can help stop some of the blood-letting in the forex. They hiked last week and it had no meaningful impact on the peso.
But the market is divided on whether the weak peso is a buying opportunity. Societe Generale expects the peso to sink to 23 to the dollar this year still, according to a Reuters article last week.
There’s also the likelihood that the Fed raises interest rates in the U.S., which is never good for emerging markets like Mexico.