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The Tell: Analysts lower euro forecasts as currency tanks

NEW YORK (MarketWatch)—Analysts on Friday lowered their forecasts of the euro’s value at the end of 2015 as the currency’s sudden depreciation surprised even the most bearish among them.

The euro tumbled more than 2.5% against the dollar in the past two sessions, after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said Thursday the bank will buy 60 billion euros ($ 69 billion) of public- and private-sector debt every month from March through September 2016 and left the door open for more easing.

HSBC and Bank of American Merrill Lynch lowered their forecasts in research notes published Thursday and Friday. HSBC now expects the euro to hit $ 1.09 by the end of the year, down from $ 1.15, while Bank of America Merrill Lynch anticipates the euro at $ 1.10 in December, down from $ 1.20.

Camilla Sutton, chief foreign-exchange strategist at Scotiabank, said she would likely soon lower her own forecasts.

“The speed and pace of the declines has been far more violent than people expected because the fundamental picture has shifted,” Sutton said. “We’ll likely see waves of lower forecasts.”

On Dec. 31, the consensus estimate for the euro’s 2015 year-end value was $ 1.18, according to Bloomberg data. As of Friday, the consensus had sunk to $ 1.15. The euro hit an 11-year low at $ 1.1115 Friday morning before recovering to $ 1.1236. It has lost nearly a fifth of its value vs. the dollar in the past 12 months.

Central-bank policy has been perhaps the largest contributor to the “shift” Sutton mentioned, most notably the Swiss Central Bank’s surprise move to eliminate its exchange-rate floor for the euro. By eliminating the peg, the Swiss central bank essentially ended what had become a daily series of interventions to prop up the euro.

To prevent speculators from selling the euro and buying the Danish kroner, Denmark’s central bank has cut its interest rate twice in the past week, most recently lowering its deposit rate to minus 0.35%, from minus 0.2%.

Several analysts, including the team at Goldman Sachs, say they expect the euro to be at or near parity with the dollar by December 2016, but if the euro continues to depreciate at its current rate, there could be a one-to-one ratio for the currencies much sooner.

Net-short positions held against the euro increased by 5% to $ 26.1 billion as of Tuesday, according to data released by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission Friday. Camilla Sutton, chief foreign-exchange strategist at Scotiabank, said next week’s reading will likely show a dramatic increase in the number of euro short-sellers because it will include positions placed after Thursday’s ECB announcement.

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