The Trump Team's Evolving Currency-Market Rhetoric: A Timeline

  • Dollar soared after Nov. 8 as Trump inspired reflation trades
  • Greenback has fluctuated since January ‘too strong’ comments

Donald Trump continues to be perhaps the biggest single influence over the dollar, more than three months after his shock election victory.

While policy pledges drove the greenback’s 3.9 percent gain in November, its best rally in more than two years, pronouncements on the currency, and its peers, from him and his administration have whiplashed traders over the past six weeks.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has also helped muddy the waters at times, either on his own or in combination with his boss. Mnuchin injected an element of calm Thursday, signaling the administration won’t rush to label China a currency manipulator. Trump’s own take a few hours later -- reading from his campaign-trail rhetorical playbook -- was less nuanced.

“It’s unusual in the U.S. for the president to talk as much about the currency as this president has chosen to, usually they leave that to the Treasury Secretary,” said Sean Keane, an Auckland-based analyst at Triple T Consulting and the former head of Asia-Pacific rates trading at Credit Suisse Group AG. “There’s also an unusual level of confusion generated because Trump seems to feel free to say whatever he wants, while leaving the actual policy execution to his appointees. The outcome is that the president can take the credit for a good outcome, whilst others take the blame if things go wrong.”

Certainly the president and the U.S. currency are more in the news now than they were under Trump’s predecessor.

The following is a compilation of remarks from President Donald Trump and his officials regarding currencies:

Feb. 23
Trump Calls China ‘Grand Champion’ at Currency Manipulation
CONTEXT: Interview with Reuters, click here for story
  • Earlier same day said need to do something about China trade deficit
Feb. 23
Mnuchin Sees No Urgency to Brand China Currency Manipulator
CONTEXT: Interview with Bloomberg, story here
  • Says he’s had “very good conversations” with his Chinese counterparts
  • Dollar fell earlier same day when Mnuchin told Fox Business that fiscal
    stimulus effects on the economy this year may be limited.
Feb. 22
Mnuchin Says Strong Dollar Reflects Confidence in Economy: WSJ
CONTEXT: Interview with WSJ, story here
  • Reiterated that strong dollar is a good thing in longer term -- a “reflection of the confidence” people have in the U.S. economy
Feb. 18
Mnuchin Tells China U.S. Seeks ‘More Balanced’ Relationship
CONTEXT: Trump administration statement after phone calls; story here
  • Mnuchin held calls with officials including People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan, Finance Minister Xiao Jie
  • Underscored that he looked forward to fostering strong U.S.-China engagement; emphasized importance of achieving a more balanced bilateral economic relationship
Feb. 10
Trump Vows ‘Level Playing Field’ for U.S., Japan, China Currency
CONTEXT: Meeting with Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; story here
  • “As far as the currency devaluations, I have been complaining about that for a very long time,” Trump said, didn’t detail how it could be achieved
  • Later says he and Abe: “have a very, very good bond -- very, very good chemistry. I’ll let you know if it changes, but I don’t think it will.”
Jan. 31
Trump Says Other Countries Take Advantage by Devaluation
CONTEXT: Comments came as he met drugmakers; story here
  • China and Japan “play the money market” and “we sit there like a bunch of dummies”
  • Dollar dropped after comments
  • Earlier same day FT reported Trump adviser Peter Navarro as saying Germany using a “grossly undervalued” euro
Jan. 23
Mnuchin Says Excessively Strong Dollar May Hurt U.S. Economy 
CONTEXT: A written response to a senator’s question about the implications of a hypothetical 25 percent dollar rise; story here
  • While strength can reflect faith in economy, “from time to time, an excessively strong dollar may have negative short-term implications on the economy”
  • Noted greenback currently “very, very strong”
  • Mnuchin also reiterated intention to review “the issue of Chinese currency manipulation”
Jan. 19
Mnuchin Backs USD Strength, Tagging China FX-Manipulator If Needed
CONTEXT: Senate confirmation hearing; story here
  • Dollar’s “long-term strength -- over long periods of time -- is important”
  • Greenback currently “very, very strong, and what you see is people from all over the world wanting to invest in the U.S. currency”
  • Mnuchin said “I would” when asked by Senator Robert Casey on Thursday whether he would recommend naming China a manipulator
Jan. 18
Trump Trade Chief’s Remarks Rattle Mexican Peso, Canadian Dollar
CONTEXT: Commerce Secretary nominee Ross at confirmation hearing
  • Mexico’s peso sank to record low and Canada’s dollar posted biggest slide since June after Ross signaled new talks with those countries will begin quickly
  • Ross also called China the “most protectionist” major country
Jan. 16
Trump Says Dollar Was Already ’Too Strong’
CONTEXT: Interview with WSJ, story here
  • Trump said part of problem is because China holds down its currency
  • “Our companies can’t compete with them now because our currency is too strong. And it’s killing us”
  • Yuan is “dropping like a rock”; recent Chinese actions to support the currency were done simply “because they don’t want us to get angry.”
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