By Fergal Smith
TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's dollar will rally this year, but much of the upswing will have to wait until a period of uncertainty passes for the domestic and global economies following aggressive tightening by central banks in 2022, a Reuters poll forecast.
The loonie will edge 0.6% higher to 1.35 per U.S. dollar, or 74.07 U.S. cents, in three months, according to the median forecast of currency analysts. That matches December's forecast.
It was then expected to strengthen to 1.30 in a year, which is a gain of 4.5%. In 2022, the loonie weakened 6.8%, its first decline since 2018.
"We expect to see some mild CAD weakness in the first half of 2023 ... as last year's rate hikes work their way through the economy and lead to a mild recession," said George Davis, chief technical strategist at RBC Capital Markets.
The Bank of Canada, along with the Federal Reserve and most other major central banks, has raised interest rates at a rapid pace to tackle soaring inflation.
At 4.25%, the BoC's benchmark rate is at its highest since 2008. Money markets see a 60% chance the central bank would hike by a quarter-percentage-point when it next meets to set policy on Jan. 25 and anticipate the policy rate will peak at about 4.60% in April.
Canada's economy is likely to be particularly sensitive to tighter monetary policy after households borrowed heavily during the pandemic to participate in a red-hot housing market.
"In the second half of the year we look for stabilization and a mild recovery in growth - not only in Canada but globally," Davis said. "A more positive economic cycle would bode well for commodities and CAD as well."
Canada is a major producer of commodities, including oil.
Another potential tailwind for the loonie would be the end of the U.S. dollar's dominant performance in global currency markets since 2021.
A "weaker dollar story" could emerge if the Fed moves to end quantitative tightening (QT), said Bipan Rai, global head of FX strategy at CIBC Capital Markets.
QT is a process central banks use to shrink the size of their balance sheets.
Fed QT "is probably going to come to an earlier than expected stop given the fact that liquidity risks are now developing in the banking system", Rai said. (For other stories from the January Reuters foreign exchange poll:)