It is becoming apparent that as the end of the year approaches market players are squaring FX positions rather than putting new risk on. The USD has failed to show any sign of sustaining a recovery over recent weeks but may be benefiting from short covering into year end, with the USD index pivoting around the 75.00 level. Supportive comments from US officials and international calls for the US to act to prevent the currency from being debased may also be helping on the margin.
Nonetheless, the USD’s outlook is still mired by a combination of both cyclical and structural concerns and it will fail to recover on a sustainable basis until it loses the mantle of preferred funding currency. This is unlikely to happen soon given the repeated commitment by the Fed to keep interest rates low for long as repeated this week by Fed Chairman Bernanke.
USD/JPY continues to gyrate around the 89-90 level and is showing little inclination to move either side though a run of positive economic surprises and the move in interest rate differentials (versus US) suggest that the JPY will trade on the firmer side of 90 over the short term; USD/JPY has been the most highly correlated currency pair with interest rate differentials over the past month. JPY speculative positioning is not particularly onerous at present, suggesting some room for an increase in JPY positioning.
The EUR continues to struggle to make any headway and is likely not being helped by European policy makers’ attempts to talk the USD higher. ECB President Trichet repeated his comments that a strong USD is in the world’s best interest though by now such comments are nothing new. It will need a clear break above 1.5061 in EUR/USD to renew the uptrend in the currency. For now, a reported 1.48-1.51 option expiring on Friday suggests range trading, with EUR/USD looking heavy on the top side.
GBP is set to remain firm despite the slightly dovish November MPC minutes. GBP looks resilient against the EUR against which it has benefited from a favourable move in interest rate differentials as a well as an adjustment in positioning where the market has decreased its GBP short positions and also decreased EUR long positions. EUR/GBP has been leading the way, and like USD/JPY this currency pair has become increasingly correlated with interest rate differentials, which has played positively for GBP. This has helped it to pivot around the 200 day moving average around 0.8871, a level that will prove important to determine further downside potential in EUR/GBP.