Renewed caution

Risk appetite is struggling to make any headway, with equities losing ground overnight. The positive impact on markets and adjustment to growth expectations following the US jobs report has given way to renewed concerns. Caution increased as Fed Chairman Bernanke introduced a dose of reality to markets talking about “formidable headwinds” to growth. As a result, bonds gained some lost ground and markets pared back expectations of interest rate hikes, leaving the USD vulnerable.

Eurozone risk factors continue to dampen market enthusiasm too, with ECB President Trichet warning of further bank writedowns and S&P downgrading the outlook for Greece and Portugal. The release of German factory orders data revealing a sharp 2.1% fall in October fed into concerns and played against strengthening recovery hopes in the region. EUR/USD failed to close below 1.4820 suggesting some alleviation of downside pressure. FX markets are likely eye stocks for further direction, with various EUR negative specific factors set to limit the upside.

The delayed release of additional stimulus measures in Japan will be the main focus of attention in Japanese markets assuming that an agreement is reached within the coalition. In the meantime markets will digest news that the current account surplus narrowed in October but was still up 51.4% from a year earlier. Additionally loan growth continued to slow, for the 11th straight month in November, adding further evidence that the injections of liquidity into banks are not finding their way into the economy.

GBP has come under growing pressure over recent days and bulls will be disappointed by the BRC retail sales data. The 1.8% YoY rise in like-for-like sales according will come as another disappointment for GBP. The gain was the slowest since August and below forecasts and as noted by the BRC looks even weaker when considering that the year ago figure was very weak. The sales data may fuel concerns about the recovery in consumer spending, especially going into the all important Christmas season. Attention will turn to the release of November Halifax house price data and October industrial production data later today and the pre-budget report tomorrow. GBP/USD looks likely to track EUR/USD for now and looks supported above 1.6390.

Although the USD has slipped as markets pare back expectations of rate hikes, the currency appears to be in a win-win situation and will likely see limited downside as risk aversion creeps back. Lingering concerns about Dubai as well as short covering towards year as well as other factors pushing risk aversion higher will likely see the USD retaining some support into the end of the week ahead of the US retail sales and Michigan confidence data

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