EUR and GBP losing ground

Safe haven currencies including JPY and CHF will be the main FX beneficiaries of the current bout of risk aversion although the USD has also edged higher in part due to some slippage in the EUR and GBP. I had noted at the beggining of this week that EUR/USD will remain a buy on dips on any decline to 1.3775. However, after hitting a high around EUR/USD 1.3916 following the European Central Bank’s inaction at its policy meeting last week the currency pair distinctly looks like it has topped out this week. Technical and positioning indicators are also looking less positive for the currency, with the RSI (Relative Strength Index) at a stretched level and speculative positioning above its three month average.

Comments by ECB Vice President Constancio that the markets had not fully taken on the message from the ECB last week that policy will remain accommodative also helped to dampen sentiment for the EUR. Further slippage to technical support around 1.3778 looks likely in the near term.

GBP has lost ground overnight too. Softer data including yesterday’s January industrial production data as well as comments from the Bank of England have weighed on the currency. As noted last week GBP/USD was looking vulnerable above 1.6700 and will face some further short term pressure, with a test of support around 1.6538 looming.

GBP/USD struggling above 1.6700

Although the Bank of England meeting is likely to be a non event today from a market perspective GBP/USD is clearly struggling to sustain a move above 1.6700. GBP/USD has breached 1.6700 12 times since mid February but only closed above this level 4 times. Over the near term strong resistance around 1.6769 will cap gains in the currency pair, with GBP continuing to look vulnerable above 1.6700. Some recent misses on the data front have not helped GBP’s cause, suggesting that caution for GBP bulls is warranted. GBP bulls may find more traction versus EUR instead of USD, with EUR/GBP set to come under further downward pressure as the EUR weakens anew. A break below 0.8200 beckons.

USD undermined, GBP supported for now

Despite its overnight bounce the USD index is trading close to its lowest levels this year undermined by a series of weaker economic data and related to this a failure of US bond yields to push higher. Alongside this relatively soft USD tone is a generally subdued and range bound tone to FX markets in general.

Even my quantitative models suggest little impetus for big moves in EUR/USD and USD/JPY. However, I expect this to change over coming weeks. Once the US economy shakes off the shackles of poor weather conditions the USD will be in a better position to recoup its recent losses.

In the near term Fed Chairman Yellen’s testimony today will garner some attention but the speech is unlikely to break the USD or FX markets out of their malaise.

GBP is holding up well, taking advantage of a subdued USD tone. As a consequence of firmer data the market appears to be gearing up for an eventual rate hike, with Bank of England members sounding more upbeat, even if it is unlikely to occur anytime soon.

Consequently over the near term GBP looks well supported although eventually we expect the currency to settle back to earth. In particular 3 month interest rate differentials with the USD appear to suggest that GBP/USD gains are overdone.

This doesn’t mean that its time to sell now but market positioning has turned more positive over recent weeks, above its 3-month average, suggesting further short term gains will be more gradual, with strong GBP/USD resistance around 1.6745.

EUR and GBP outlook this week

In Europe, the main focus will be on the preliminary estimate of Eurozone Q4 2013 GDP data which is likely to post a gain of 0.2% QoQ as most countries in the Eurozone are set to have recorded positive growth over the quarter. EUR traded more positively at the end of last week but looks like it will struggle to retain gains versus USD above its 100 day moving average around 1.3608.

Markets will also digest the decision by the German Constitutional Court to effectively defer a decision on Outright Monetary Purchases by the European Central Bank to the European Court of Justice. Although there will be some caution ahead of the March 18 final decision on OMT, EUR will find some, albeit limited relief as it seems less likely that the European Court will strike it down.

In the UK the Bank of England Quarterly Inflation Report will reveal an upward revision to growth forecasts but downward revisions to inflation and importantly an adjustment of forward guidance to a broader range of indicators rather than just unemployment. Indeed, as in the US the BoE will not give the impression that they are about to raise policy rates given the sharp fall in the unemployment rate. GBP/USD will be range bound ahead of the release of the QIR, with gains likely gapped around 1.6471.

GBP losing ground

The Bank of England is set to keep policy rates and asset purchases unchanged today This will offer little comfort to GBP following its recent falls from its highs around 1.6669 versus USD. GBP has also lost ground against the EUR but this is unlikely to persist. GPB was not helped by the lower than expected purchasing managers index (PMI) manufacturing survey in January although confidence in the manufacturing sector remains at a high level.

In the wake of a quicker decline in the unemployment rate than expected (the unemployment rate fell to 7.1% in the three months through November) the BoE is faced with the risk that their current forward guidance proves inappropriate. The BoE has set a rate of 7% at which it would consider raising policy rates and this could be hit very soon. Given that the BoE is highly unlikely to want to hike policy rates any time soon Governor Carney will need to allay concerns over the prospects of higher policy rates by altering its forward guidance.

Manufacturing and industrial production data tomorrow will give further direction, with healthy gains expected to provide some support to GBP. However, given that the policy meeting today is likely to prove to be a non event the Quarterly Inflation Report next week will quickly move into focus.

GBP/USD appears to be gravitating towards its 100 day moving average around 1.6252 but major technical support is seen around 1.6220.

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