All Eyes On Greece

I remain a skeptic but market sentiment continues to improve, helped by firmer data and expectations that Greece’s woes are on the path to being resolved. Greece is expected to announce further austerity measures including further spending cuts and tax hikes, which will be aimed at appeasing EU concerns and passing the March 16th test set by the EU. This could pave the way for some form of debt guarantee scheme and a better reception to a likely sale of up to EUR 5 billion in 10 year Greek bonds.

These measures will allow the EUR to recover some of its recent losses in the short term after dropping to new 2010 lows against the USD around 1.3435, but gains are likely to be limited given the many uncertainties remaining including fiscal problems in other European countries and weak growth ahead. If EUR/USD can sustain a break above the 20-day moving average level around EUR/USD 1.3630 it will put the next resistance level of 1.3747 into target, which given record short EUR speculative positioning may happen quite quickly. I suggest rebuilding short EUR positions on a move to this level.

Commodity currencies continue to be favoured and despite only a brief spike following the RBA’s decision to hike interest rates yesterday AUD/USD has managed to traverse the 0.90 level and looks well placed to build on its gains helped by a firm 0.9% QoQ reading for Australian GDP in Q4. Nonetheless, AUD/USD 0.9147 looks like a near term cap on the currency. For bullish commodity currency trades the NZD may offer a little better value and short AUD/NZD may be the way to go from here. Note that NZD positioning is below the 3-month average according to positioning data. In contrast to the RBA, the Bank of Canada left interest rates unchanged, but its statement highlighted that the prospect of quantitative easing had receded, which has effectively lifted a weight off the shoulders of the CAD.

All of this leaves the USD on the back foot, with further direction coming from the US February ADP jobs report, ISM non-manufacturing survey and Fed’s Beige Book. The ADP data and ISM employment component will give further clues to Friday’s February US jobs report for a 50k drop in payrolls is expected. Service sector Purchasing Managers’ Indices (PMIs) will also be released across the eurozone and the UK and both are likely to sustain moves into expansion territory.

The rebound in EUR/USD was a trigger for further selling in USD/Asian currencies. Asian currencies remain highly correlated with local equity market performance and have benefited from a strong return of equity portfolio inflows over recent days. Only Vietnam has registered outflows this week, with South Korea and Taiwan registering the biggest inflows. Indeed, South Korea has seen the biggest inflows of portfolio capital compared to other Asian countries so far this year, with inflows of around $933 million.

There is not much data in the region to provide direction for Asian currencies today though the South Korean industrial production report will be closely watched. Despite a small monthly drop expected, output likely expanded at very healthy 40%+ pace annually. Overall, USD/Asians are likely to remain under downward pressure in line with the general pressure on the USD, but direction will continue to come from equity markets.

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