As usual the G7 meeting will leave markets with little to chew on. G7 officials maintained their commitment to stimulus measures and timely exit strategies but there was little of note for FX markets aside from the usual comments about wanting to avoid excess FX volatility. There was certainly know step up in pressure on China to strengthen though a report prepared for the meeting did push for countries with inflexible currencies to make adjustments. Meanwhile US officials mouthed the usual “strong dollar” mantra.
Where does this leave markets this week? Well I must admit my bullish view on risk currencies is clearly suffering after a positive start to the year. The pullback in high beta currencies (those with the highest sensitivity to risk aversion) has been dramatic. I have highlighted many of the factors weighing on sentiment in previous posts and whilst I still think the US dollar will find itself under renewed pressure over coming months the current environment remains conducive to more USD and JPY buying and selling of currencies such as the AUD, NZD, CAD, GBP, NOK, SEK, ZAR etc.
Ironically the US and Japan have arguably more severe deficit/debt concerns than some of the European countries under pressure but as most of Japan’s debt is held domestically there is little worry of a collapse in JGBs. Unlike Japan foreign investors hold over half of US debt but are not yet losing confidence with US Treasuries though this may not last unless there is some tangible sign that the burgeoning US budget deficit is being reduced. For now, attention remains firmly focussed on Greece, Spain, Portugal and to a lesser extent Italy.
Like the G7 meeting the US January jobs report released at the end of last week will give little direction for markets. Although the 20k drop in payrolls and revisions to past months were slightly disappointing the surprise drop in the unemployment rate was better news. This week’s data highlights include the January US retail sales report and December trade balance. The sales data is likely to help allay some concerns about faltering economic recovery, with retail sales forecast to rise over the month despite a likely pull back in autos spending.
How will this play out for currencies this week? Overall, the risk off tone is set to continue though the moves are looking increasingly stretched. The USD, JPY and CHF will remain on the front foot whilst risk currencies will remain under pressure. The EUR is set to continue to struggle against the background of eurozone deficit concerns and after its dive through 1.40 last week 1.35 now looms large. Meanwhile, the AUD may also struggle following the recent reassessment of interest rate expectations after the recent Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) meeting in which interest rates were left unchanged.
UK markets will focus on the Quarterly Inflation Report from the Bank of England though the political situation may hold some interesting implications for GBP if polls continue to show that the gap between the governing Labour party and Conservative opposition continues to narrow. Prospects of a hung parliament will hardly hold any positive implications for GBP, a prospect which could limit any potential for GBP to recover ahead of May elections. The drop below 1.60 for Cable (GBP/USD) could extend further, especially as the BoE has kept the door open to further asset purchases if needed.