AUD supported but be wary of profit taking

AUD/USD broke above its 200 day moving average (0.9137) encouraged by upbeat comments about economic growth prospects from Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Stevens. The fact that AUD remains supported despite higher risk aversion overnight is encouraging.

A run of better than expected data including Q4 GDP, retail sales, trade and jobs report have underpinned the currency. Additionally bad news is good in the case of the China impact on AUD as weaker data has led to growing expectations of a stimulus package to boost China’s economy.

Against the background of some improvement in risk appetite, and low volatility, the AUD looks like an attractive bet. My view has been consistently constructive on the AUD over past months and I remain of the view that there are further gains in store although in the near term profit taking is expect to emerge around resistance at AUD/USD 0.9342.

What now for the CNY?

News that China doubled its currency band (to 2% from 1% in relation to its daily mid point) will have reverberations across markets but the reality is that China has been building up to this for several weeks and now that it has happened there may be little incentive to push for more currency weakness.

The net result will probably be less volatility after an initial knee jerk reaction and some relief in markets that the China has actually gone ahead with the move after so much speculation. The reaction of the CNY is set to follow the same script as April 2012, with volatility set to ease once the initial reaction fades.

The weakness in the CNY had been engineered to incite more two way risk to a currency that for many months had been on a one way path of appreciation. China had been forcing the CNY weaker over recent weeks in order to deter speculators who had taken significant long positions in the currency playing for further currency strength.

CNY depreciation versus the USD (around 1.5%) since mid February may also have been a reflection of weaker economic data, with China releasing a series of data releases that had missed consensus forecasts, especially recent trade data.

Already both implied and realized USD/CNY volatility has been trading well in excess of past moves (as reflected in statistical significant readings in our Z-score analysis). Additionally risk reversal skews (3 month, 25 delta) have been flirting with its 2 standard deviation band indicative of the view that the options market holds an extreme view of CNY downside risks.

The main imponderable is what China does now. The band widening is clearly a further step along the road of freeing up the currency on the road to capital account convertibility. However, the reality is that the Peoples Bank of China (PBoC) still sets the daily fixing and the movement in the CNY will still largely depend on where this fixing is set.

Ultimately a move towards a more market based currency will need to allow the market to determine the level and movements in USD/CNY. This may still be a long way off. In the meantime it seems unlikely that the authorities will intervene as aggressively to weaken the CNY as they have done in recent weeks, with a breach of USD/CNY 6.15 likely prove short lived.

China’s still healthy external position and likely resumption of capital inflows will mean that appreciation pressure on the CNY will return and a move back to around 6.00 by end 2014 remains on the cards.

Euro treads water ahead of ECB decision

EUR/USD has been treading water in a relatively tight range ahead of the European Central Bank meeting later today but the currency looks vulnerable to further slippage in the days ahead. Having dropped from its high around 1.3898 on 27 December the EUR has failed to sustain any bounce.

The ECB is unlikely to offer any support to the currency especially given that there is a small chance that they may even trim policy rates at today’s meeting. If the Bank does not cut rates today, the ECB is set to open the door to a cut in March, something that would undermine the EUR further.

Either way, the EUR is losing support and our quantitative models highlight the potential for further downside moves in the currency. Other measures such as short term interest rate differentials also highlight risks to EUR.

EUR/USD is set to edge lower to technical support around 1.3477 in the near term.

US dollar speculative positioning had increased prior to its sell off

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US dollar stable, yen primed for weakness, Aussie dollar slips

The USD index looks to have settled at a relatively weak level around 79.00 aided by the stabilisation of US Treasury yields (10 year around 2.5%). Upside for the USD will be restricted given a likely run of softer economic releases this week including September retail sales, and October consumer confidence today.

The data may help to support expectations that Fed tapering may not take place until March / April next year although the Fed FOMC decision later this week will hopefully give more clues on this front. In any case the USD may already have priced in softer data and delayed tapering expectations, suggesting that the risk / reward will increasingly turn more USD positive over the coming weeks.

USD/JPY looks set to move higher over coming weeks breaking out of its recent range. Relatively higher US Treasury yields versus Japanese JGBs yields, improving risk appetite and improving technicals (USD/JPY remaining above its 200 day moving average) will be supportive for renewed upside in the currency pair.

While the Bank of Japan is unlikely to act this week on policy the risks of further action will only increase over the coming months as it becomes apparent that reaching and sticking to its 2% inflation target will not be possible given current settings. In turn, the JPY is set for further downward pressure.

Does the slippage in AUD over recent days presage a strengthening in the USD? AUD and USD (index) have registered a strong negative correlation over the past three months, with the former benefitting from weakness in the latter. Over recent days the USD appears to have stabilised while AUD has lost steam, with pressure intensifying in the wake of comments by RBA Governor Stevens who attempted to talk the currency down.

I doubt the AUD will fall much from current levels but the absence of key domestic data (only private sector credit growth and building approvals on tap this week) will focus attention on external factors, namely the Fed FOMC outcome and in particular Chinese manufacturing confidence at the end of the week.

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