Risk Appetite Puts Dollar On The Back Foot

Markets look somewhat calmer going into this week helped by comments by Fed members who noted that the discount rate hike did not signal a shift in monetary policy, something which is likely to be repeated by Fed Chairman Bernanke in his testimony to Congress on Wednesday and Thursday.  A tame US January CPI report last Friday helped too, giving further support to the view that the Fed will not hike the Fed Funds rate for some time yet; a rate hike this year seems highly unlikely in my view.  

Data this week will be conducive to a further improvement in risk appetite and despite the lingering concerns about Greece the EUR may find itself in a position to extend gains.  In Europe all eyes will be on the February German IFO survey and eurozone sentiment indicators, which following the surprising strength in the manufacturing Purchasing Managers Indices (PMIs), are likely to reveal solid gains. 

The main highlights in Japan this week includes January trade data and industrial production. The trade numbers will be particularly important to determine whether the rebound in exports due in large part to robust Asian demand, has continued whilst the bounce back in exports will be a key factor in fuelling a further gain in industrial output. 

In the US aside from the testimonies by Fed Chairman Bernanke there are plenty of releases on tap including consumer confidence, new and existing home sales, durable goods orders and a likely upward revision to Q4 GDP.  For the most part the data will show improvement and play for a further improvement in risk appetite. 

FX direction will depend on whether markets focus on the potentially positive USD impact of a reduction in USD liquidity or on the likely firmer tone to risk appetite this week.  Given expectations of firmer data and the soothing tone of the Fed, risk currencies will likely perform better, with crosses such as AUD/JPY favoured.  The USD will likely be placed on the back foot, especially given the very long market positioning in the currency.

The EUR will be helped by the fact that speculative market, according to the CFTC IMM data, holds record short positions in the EUR (as of the week ended 16 February) giving plenty of potential for short-covering.   The more timely Tokyo Financial Exchange (TFX) data also reveals that positioning in EUR/JPY has continued to be scaled back.  

CFTC Commitment of Traders (IMM) data – Net EUR speculative positioning

EUR/USD bounced smartly from its lows around 1.3444 on Friday, partly reflecting some short covering and the drop in FX volatility suggests the market is more comfortable with EUR/USD around these levels.  A positive IFO survey and improved risk appetite could see EUR/USD test resistance around 1.3774, its 20 day moving average, over coming days.  Ongoing Greek concerns suggest that any EUR bounce will be limited, however. 

USD/JPY looks well supported and although data this week will suggest that exports are improving despite JPY strength, the relatively more aggressive stance of the Fed compared to the BoJ, long JPY positioning, and improved risk appetite, give plenty of scope for the JPY to extend losses, with technical USD/JPY support seen around 91.28.

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