Risk On / Risk Off

Risk was firmly back on over the past few days as the majority of earnings came in stronger than expected; around 80% of S&P 500 companies have beaten expectations so far. Data releases in the US have also continued to beat forecasts, the latest of which was the September industrial production report. The dollar stood little chance of a recovering against this background and continues to languish around 14-month lows.

Sterling has been the star performer, perhaps a reflection of the fact that the market was extremely short (CTFC IMM data revealed record net short sterling positions last week) and some hints that the Bank of England may not extend quantitative easing was sufficient to provoke a short covering rally. Still the pound’s gains may prove short-lived until there are clearer signs of economic recovery and of a turn in the interest rate cycle.

There will be some key events and data over the coming week that will give further direction to sterling including a speech by BoE Governor King, MPC minutes, retail sales and preliminary Q3 GDP data. Overall, the data are unlikely to deliver much of a boost to the pound even though both retail sales and GDP are likely to deliver positive readings. Sentiment for the pound continues to swing in a wide range and though a lot of negativity was in the price a sustained recovery is far off. The risks remain that GBP/USD will push back towards support around 1.5902.

I still believe that there is little positive to be said for the euro too. The currency benefits from a weaker dollar but is hardly supported by fundamentals especially as a stronger euro damages one of the main engines of eurozone growth, namely exports. EUR/USD will struggle to make headway through 1.50 though once through here it could easily be carried higher. The most positive factor supporting the euro is the continued recycling of central bank intervention flows here in Asia and this may be sufficient to propel EUR/USD through 1.50 before hitting a wall of resistance around 1.5084.

The dollar itself may be given a lifeline from what looks like a softer tone to markets at the end of the week but overall sentiment remains very bearish despite attempts by various US officials to talk the dollar higher this week. The Fed’s Fisher hit the nail on the head when he said that the dollar’s long term value depends on policymakers “getting it right”. In the short term however, it’s all about risk and increasingly it will be about interest rate differentials, both of which will play negatively for the dollar.


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