What to watch this week

Over recent days trading has been characterised by dollar weakness, stronger equities, rising commodity prices and most recently an increase in US bond yields, the latter driven by some slightly hawkish Fed comments. Whether the tone of stronger attraction to risk trades continues will largely depend on US Q3 earnings however, with many earnings reports scheduled this week.

Given the plethora of Fed officials on the wires over recent days and the mixed comments from these officials there may more attention on US CPI on Thursday than usual but the data is unlikely to fuel any concern about inflation risks. Instead there will be more interest on the Fed FOMC minutes on Wednesday which will once again be scrutinised for the timing of an exit strategy.

Over the week there is plenty for markets to digest aside from earnings reports. US consumer and manufacturing reports will garner most attention. The key release is US September retail sales (Wed) where some payback for the “cash for clunkers” related surge in sales over the last month is likely to result in a drop in headline retail sales, though underlying sales will likely post a modest rise.

Fed speeches will also be monitored and speakers include Kohn, Dudley, Tarullo and Bullard this week. Recent comments have hinted that some Fed members are becoming increasingly concerned about the timing of policy reversal and further signs of this in this week’s speeches may give the dollar some comfort but this will prove limited given that the Fed is still a long way off from reversing policy.

Even if the market believes the Fed is starting to contemplate the timing of reversing its current policy setting it is unclear that the dollar will benefit much in the current environment. Sentiment remains bearish; speculative dollar sentiment deteriorated sharply over the past week according to the CFTC Commitment of Traders (IMM) data, to levels close to the lowest for the year.

Moreover, the correlation between interest rate differentials and currencies is still insignificant in most cases suggesting that even a jump in yields such as the move prompted by last week’s comments by Fed Chairman Bernanke should not automatically be expected to boost the dollar. Once markets become more aggressive in pricing in higher US interest rates this may change but there is little sign of this yet

In contrast the euro continues to benefit from recycling of central bank reserves and recorded a jump in speculative appetite close to its highest level this year according to the IMM data. Reserve flows from central banks may contribute to EUR/USD taking aim at its year high around 1.4844 (last tested on 24 September 09) over coming days.

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