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Forex market 'on the cusp' of storm - with implications for ags

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OK, currency markets may pretty stable right now. But don't expect that to last.

And volatility ahead will have big implications for agricultural commodities.

So says Eddie Tofpik, head of foreign exchange at ADM Investor Services International in London flagging, for instance, the lack of foreign exchange market reaction on Thursday to news from the Bank of England that a further drop in UK interest rates is still on the table for later this year.

Sterling is, for instance, eases all of 0.2% against the euro, and 0.3% versus the dollar.

"But that does not mean that there is no change ahead," Mr Tofpik tells Agrimoney.com.

"In terms a farmer might appreciate, just because it does not rain today does not mean it won't rain tomorrow or the day after."

'Don't expect it to last'

And we are "perhaps not in the eye of a hurricane, but on the cusp of increased activity" in foreign exchange markets.

"Things are stable now, but don't expect it to last," Mr Tofpik says, flagging the US elections as the first, predictable "risk event".

"The market will react to whoever ends up in the White House."

Further ahead we have the triggering of Article 50 - that is the start of the UK's exit process from the European Union, which is expected early in 2017.

And then "we have to see what happens in Europe after that", with elections in Germany and France ahead to deal with too.

Big influence

However, these events turn out, the foreign exchange markets – the world's biggest – will be "the first to move".

And being "the most influential of all markets", how they react will have a big impact on prices of other assets too, including agricultural ones.

"The sugar market, for instance, is very, very responsive to the Brazilian real," he says, with the South American country' pre-eminence in producing and exporting the sweetener meaning that a rises in its currency tend to lift sugar prices too, in dollar terms.

"There are a lot of these kinds of links, the Malaysian ringgit with palm oil, for example."

Tail wags the dog

Agricultural investors mindless to currency risk can see hard-earned gains at overseas operations evaporate thanks to adverse foreign exchange movements.

Conversely, some ag traders see dealing in foreign exchange, rather than crops, as the end-game.

Mr Tofpik mentioned an, unnamed, European grain trader which bought grain from farms, and traded it between the UK and the Continent, but looked to the foreign exchange markets for profits.

"They knew all the grain prices wherever, shipping costs between the UK and Europe, but they were working the currency, because there is where they made their money."

'Can be anticipated'

This implies that foreign exchange markets, moves in which some see as notoriously difficult to forecast, are in fact predictable.

"Certainly, they can be anticipated," Mr Tofpik says.

He mentions some success in his own forecasts, made at the start of the year when, for example, as sterling was sitting at $1.45 to £1 he flagged the likelihood of weakness to come.

The 2010 low of $1.4230 "looks like being tested", he said, adding that "it seems likely we may try for" the 2009 low at $1.3673 and the 2010 low at $1.3498.

This long before the Brexit vote which sent sterling below $1.30 to its lowest in some 30 years.

'Naïve or negligent'

Was this luck?

Mr Tofpik swears by the forecasting messages which can be drawn from charts – whatever fundamental analysts, swearing by supply and demand factors, may say.

"If you do not look at the charts, and at technical analysis, you are either naïve or negligent," he says.

"You have to take it into account," and investors ignore it at their peril.

As to what the charts are predicting for currency markets, and indeed commodities, ahead, well…

Eddie Tofpik will be speaking on day two of the Agri Risk Forum.

For more information and to see the agenda visit www.agririskforum.com

By Mike Verdin

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