The start of this week looks somewhat better compared to the end of last week. Although nervousness will remain amidst thinning liquidity, news that the UAE central bank “stands behind” local and foreign banks and will lend, albeit at a rate of 0.5% above the 3-month benchmark rate, will reassure investors that banks have sufficient liquidity in the wake of any losses suffered due to the Dubai Holdings debacle. This will see some improvement in risk appetite.
The news will unlikely prevent stock markets in the UAE, which open today following Eid holidays, from sliding, however. Attention will turn to the suspended Sukuk bonds and also to the extent of support (and any strings attached) provided by Abu Dhabi to Dubai. The support from the central bank will help markets outside of the UAE regain a little composure and limit demand for safe haven assets but the rally may prove limited until there is greater transparency.
Nonetheless, even if there is some relief at the beginning of this week due to some containment of the problems in Dubai nerves are likely to fray going into the end of the year, with the multi-month trend of improving risk appetite faltering. There have been plenty of reasons for markets to worry lately including concerns about the shape of economic recovery in the months to come as well as renewed banking sector concerns and these will not be allayed quickly.
Data this week in the US is unlikely to help to dampen growth concerns. The main event is the US November jobs report and although the magnitude of job losses is set to decrease the unemployment rate is set to remain stubbornly high around 10.2%. In addition to an expected decline in the November ISM manufacturing index suggests that growth concerns will intensify rather than lessen. This in turn highlights that any improvement in risk appetite this week will prove limited.
The other key events this week include interest rate decisions in Europe and Australia. Although the ECB is widely expected to leave rates on hold on Thursday, there will be plenty of attention on any details of the Bank’s “gradual” exit strategy. Whether the ECB offers new loans to banks at a variable interest relative to the current fixed rate will be taken as an important sign on the path of liquidity withdrawal. We believe the Bank will stick with a fixed rate. The RBA will take a step further and announce a 25bps interest rate hike tomorrow.
FX markets are likely to be buffeted by the gyrations in risk appetite but at least at the beginning of the week the USD is set to give up its recent gains, with EUR/USD likely to try and hold above 1.5000 as markets digest the better news coming from the UAE. The JPY will be a particular focus given the growing attention of the authorities in Japan. Finance Minister Fujii is quoted in the Japanese press that they won’t intervene in the FX market, which appears to give the green light to further JPY strength though I suspect that if USD/JPY drops below 85.00 again there will plenty of FX intervention speculation and in any case these comments have since been denied.