US dollar and equity gyrations

Although there appears to be some consolidation at present the USD remains on a steady downward path and is likely to continue to face a combination of both cyclical and structural negative forces.  Cyclical pressure will come from the extremely easy monetary policy stance of the Fed as well as the ongoing improvement in risk appetite. The structural pressure on the USD continues to come from the diversification of new FX reserve flows (mainly from Asian central banks) as well as concerns about the reserve value of the USD in the wake of massive US fiscal and monetary stimulus.

Although risk aversion is no longer as correlated with the USD as it was a few months ago there is no doubt that the USD is still highly sensitive to equity market movements. Correlations between the USD index and the S&P 500 are consistently high (and negative) over 1M, 3M and 6M time periods. The relationship reveals just how closely the fortunes of the USD are tied to the gyrations in equity markets.  

Much will therefore depend on the shape of US Q3 earnings. The fact that the majority of earnings released so far have beaten expectations has provided equities with more fuel whilst the USD has come under greater pressure. Should as is likely the trend in earnings continue to beat forecasts the USD is likely to weaken further, pushing through key resistance levels.   In particular, a sustained break above EUR/USD 1.50 could see a swift move substantially higher, with little in the way of technical resistance on the way up to 1.60

The real test will come when the lofty expectations for economic recovery match the reality of only sub-par growth in the months ahead. In the meantime, the firmer tone to global equity markets may encourage capital outflows from the US into foreign markets by investors who had repatriated huge amounts of capital during the crisis.

As risk appetite improves, the hunt for yield will intensify. The USD has easily taken over the mantle from the JPY as funding currency of choice for investors, pointing to further pressure on the USD. The timing of monetary policy reversal in the US will be crucial for the USD but it is highly unlikely that the Fed will hike rates next year.

As would be expected in this hunt for yield interest rate differentials are beginning to show a growing influence in driving currencies as the influence of risk appetite begins to wane.  The prospect of US interest rates remaining at a low level for a long time does not bode well for the USD, at least until markets begin to price in higher US rates which is at least a few months away.


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