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Risk On and Risk Off sentiments in Currencies with a Current Market Overview


The terms “risk, on”. Risk off” are commonly used in the market specifically in relation to currency trading. These terms refer to the sentiment of risk in the market. Are also known as “RORO”. When it comes to a “risk off” environment traders and investors tend to decrease their exposure to investments. Instead focus on safeguarding their capital. This sentiment is often triggered by pessimism regarding the outlook or unexpected news that raises uncertainty about developments. In situations market participants tend to sell assets with risk levels and instead invest in safe haven assets. Typically safe haven assets include U.S. Treasuries, bunds, the U.S. Dollar, Japanese yen and the Swiss franc. Additionally during a “risk off” period gold prices usually rise while government bond yields drop.

Conversely a “risk on” sentiment is observed when market participants feel optimistic about the outlook. In this scenario they tend to increase their investments in assets. Riskier assets may include stocks from industries that heavily rely on growth rated but higher yielding corporate and sovereign issues, commodity currencies such as AUD (Australian dollar) NZD (New Zealand dollar) CAD (Canadian dollar) and NOK (Norwegian krone) as well as emerging market currencies, like MXN (Mexican peso) ZAR (South African rand) TRY (Turkish lira) and BRL (Brazilian real).
Understanding risk sentiment is crucial, for traders as it encompasses the behavior and willingness of traders and investors to take on risks. It serves as an expression of their emotions, fear and greed which drive decision making in markets. Risk sentiment can undergo rapid shifts. Markets can be in a “risk on” state for periods only to swiftly transition to a “risk off” mode. The extent of the shift in risk sentiment depends on the significance of the news or events. Risk spillovers occur when shocks experienced by one market have repercussions on markets. For example during the COVID 19 as the severity of the crisis increased there was an escalation in risk across financial markets such as stocks, bonds, crude oil and foreign exchange. These risk spillovers were also closely linked to investor panic levels over both term and long term periods.

During episodes of risk off sentiment certain currency markets tend to follow recurring patterns. Specifically currencies like the yen, Swiss franc and U.S. Dollar tend to appreciate against G 10 currencies as well, as emerging market currencies. The way these movements occur can be understood by considering a mix of factors including the interest rate, the international investment situation, exchange rate discrepancies well as market liquidity aspects, like bid offer differences and limitations on global capital flows.

Risk on and Risk off Sentiments in the Current Market Environment

Risk-On Sentiments:

Factors Influencing Risk-On Sentiments:

– Economic Data & Central Bank Statements: Positive economic data and dovish central bank statements can boost investor confidence. The US Fed’s restraint and the anticipation of hawkish ECB activity suggest optimism.

– Trade Developments: Positive advancements in global trade scenarios can lead to a risk-on environment.

Currency Impact:

– Major Currencies: The Australian Dollar (AUD) and New Zealand Dollar (NZD) often appreciate as these are considered high-yield currencies.

– Emerging Market Currencies: Often appreciate as capital flows into these markets seeking higher returns.

– Safe-Haven Currencies: Such as the Japanese Yen (JPY) and Swiss Franc (CHF) tend to weaken as investors look for higher returns elsewhere.

 Risk-Off Sentiments:

Factors Influencing Risk-Off Sentiments:

– Geopolitical Tensions: Events like the Middle East conflict create uncertainty.

– Economic Uncertainty: The slipping of UST yields, stocks sliding, and a sinking Chinese market indicate negative sentiments.

– Political Instability: Developments like British PM Rishi Sunak’s by-election defeat can contribute to a risk-off environment.

Currency Impact:

– Major Currencies: The AUD and NZD often depreciate due to their linkage to global commodity prices and China’s economy.

– Emerging Market Currencies: Usually depreciate as capital is pulled out in favor of safer assets.

– Safe-Haven Currencies: The JPY and CHF often strengthen as investors seek safety in times of uncertainty.

Implications on Major Currency Pairs:

– USD/JPY: The pair’s movement near the 150 mark and the shift in US Treasury yields influence its trajectory. It’s a barometer of the risk sentiment with the USD often acting as a safe haven and JPY’s dual role as a funding and safe-haven currency.

– EUR/USD:The pair’s limited downside suggests a mix of risk sentiments, influenced by both European and US economic indicators.

– AUD/USD: The pair, influenced by US Treasury yields and geopolitical tensions, reflects the broader risk sentiment given Australia’s significant trade ties with China.

Global currency markets remain highly sensitive to shifts in risk sentiment. Whether it’s geopolitical tensions, central bank policies, or economic data, each factor can swiftly change the risk landscape, leading to significant currency movements. It’s crucial for investors and policymakers alike to remain vigilant and adaptable in these dynamic market conditions.

Chairman Powell's Speech:

Fed’s Chairman, Jerome Powell, has made several statements emphasizing the uncertainty in understanding the exact impacts of monetary policy decisions and their lags. He acknowledged that the market has been trying to anticipate Fed’s moves. Powell stressed that the extent of additional policy firming would be data-dependent and that despite current policy stances, there might still be further tightening. He also highlighted that inflation remains a concern, and the strong economy might still necessitate rate hikes. Powell called for patience to witness the effects of the rate hike, assuring that the current policy doesn’t feel overly restrictive. Lastly, he noted that the bond yield rise is not necessarily tied to expectations of the Fed’s future rate moves, but higher bond yields leading to significant financial tightening can influence future policy decisions.

Powell’s acknowledgement that markets have been “front running” Fed policy changes suggests that traders and investors are trying to predict the Fed’s actions. This can lead to increased volatility as markets react to both real and anticipated policy changes.Powell’s emphasis on data, outlook, and balance of risks as the guiding factors for future policy actions indicates the Fed’s commitment to a responsive approach. Currency traders will need to keep a close eye on economic indicators as they can influence the Fed’s decisions and, consequently, currency valuations.

With Powell acknowledging that inflation is “still too high,” it underscores the Fed’s commitment to containing inflation. If inflation remains a concern, the Fed might adopt a hawkish stance, potentially strengthening the USD against other major currencies.

Powell’s statement that a strong economy might still require rate hikes implies that the current rate might not be the peak. If the Fed does increase rates, it can lead to a rise in the value of the USD as higher rates often attract foreign capital inflows.The fact that Powell acknowledges the impact of rising bond yields on financial conditions signifies that the bond market’s movements are closely monitored by the Fed. A surge in bond yields can tighten financial conditions, potentially leading to a policy response. If bond yields continue to rise and the Fed reacts by either slowing down its tightening or adopting an even more hawkish stance, it can lead to significant currency market movements, especially in the USD.

Given the dominant role of the USD in global finance, Powell’s statements will have broad implications. A hawkish Fed can lead to a stronger USD as higher rates attract foreign investments. Conversely, if the Fed decides to pause or reverse its tightening, it might result in a softer USD. Emerging market currencies might face pressure if the USD strengthens significantly, as a stronger dollar can lead to capital outflows from these markets.

Powell’s statements reflect a cautious and responsive Fed, emphasizing data-driven decisions and the need for patience. Currency markets, particularly the USD, will be significantly impacted by the Fed’s actions, influenced by inflation concerns, economic data, and bond market movements. Traders and investors need to be vigilant and agile, factoring in the potential implications of Powell’s insights and the Fed’s future policy directions.


The intricate interplay between “risk on” and “risk off” sentiments plays a pivotal role in shaping global currency markets. Factors such as geopolitical events, economic data, and central bank decisions contribute significantly to these shifting sentiments. For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic exemplified how an event can instigate risk spillovers, affecting various financial markets simultaneously. Meanwhile, China’s actions and its economic relationships underscore its importance in global currency dynamics. A crucial aspect of this landscape is the influence of the U.S. Federal Reserve, particularly Chairman Jerome Powell’s pronouncements. As the statements underscore, the Federal Reserve’s data-centric and adaptive approach has far-reaching implications on the USD and, by extension, global currency valuations. For investors and traders, staying attuned to these ever-evolving factors is imperative for navigating the complexities of the global currency ecosystem.

Disclaimer: This is not an Investment Advice. Investing and trading in currencies involve inherent risks. It’s essential to conduct thorough research and consider your risk tolerance before engaging in any financial activities.