Buffer for risk trades

Firmer data, most recently in the form of the stronger than expected US consumer confidence and dovish Fed comments as reiterated in the Fed FOMC minutes will provide a buffer for risk trades, supporting the USDs role as the prime funding currency over coming weeks.  Nonetheless, any improvement in sentiment will have to push against the weight of position adjustment into year-end as investors book profits on risk trades.  The net effect could be an increase in volatility especially in thinning liquidity expected in the wake of holidays in Japan and the Thanksgiving holiday in the US.

This could make it difficult for many asset markets to sustain key psychological and technical levels.  Whether the S&P 500 can hold gains above 1100 could prove significant as could EUR/USD’s ability to hold onto gains above 1.50.  The expiry of last week’s EUR/USD 1.48/1.51 option may provoke a move out of its range but there seems to be little appetite for a sustained break above the 23rd October high around 1.5061.  Even so, an upside bias is more likely given the likely softer tone to the USD. EUR/USD looks well supported around 1.4865.

Position adjustment towards the end of the year has been particularly evident in FX markets.  For instance, the latest CFTC Commitment of Traders’ data revealed that speculative investors have sharply reduced net long EUR positions into last week whilst there was a significant degree of short covering of GBP positions.  It is worth noting however, that aggregate USD net short speculative positions actually increased, largely due to a sharp jump in net JPY positioning, suggesting that overall sentiment for the USD remains very negative.

It is difficult to see a strong reversal in USD sentiment into year-end and the Fed’s commitment to maintaining interest rates at a low-level for an “extended period” taken together with hints of extending asset purchase programmes suggests little support to the USD over the short-term unless there is a more significant increase in risk aversion and or profit taking/book closing into year-end.  It seems that the impact of improved risk appetite is winning for now, giving no respite to the USD.

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