A “crisis over” mode is being adopted across markets as worries about Greece wane and economic data provides support to recovery hopes, whilst importantly allaying fears of a “double-dip”. Equities, bonds and currencies are reacting accordingly; equities are close to year highs, bond yields have risen and spreads have narrowed, whilst the USD and JPY are weaker, and conversely risk currencies are stronger. Even EUR/USD pushed higher on its way to 1.3800 as a number of stops were cleared and shorts were squeezed.
The coming weeks will be important to determine whether there is any staying power in the upward move in risk assets. A lot of the February data in the US will likely be obscured by bad weather however, including industrial production figures this week, leaving markets with little to go on. In Europe, the key release is the March German ZEW investor confidence survey, and better news in Greece, will likely prevent a sharper decline in confidence.
After both the Swish National Bank (SNB) and Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) unsurprisingly left policy unchanged last week this week sees the turn of the US Federal Reserve and Bank of Japan (BoJ). Neither central bank is likely to shift policy but the Fed statement will be looked upon for guidance on the timing of rate hikes. The comment in the FOMC statement that the Fed Funds rate is expected to remain low for an “extended period” is set to be retained, even if some FOMC members are itching to remove it soon.
The BoJ meeting will be particularly interesting. I have just returned from a week long trip in Japan and on the ground there is plenty of speculation that the BoJ will take extra action to combat deflation and weaken the JPY. Additionally comments by Japan’s Prime Minister and Deputy PM have highlighted the potential for action to weaken the JPY although the usual market hesitation to sell JPY into fiscal year end and repatriation talk may mean a weaker JPY path is not straightforward.
Greece will not move too far from the spotlight, with EU officials likely to give the official stamp of approval on Greece’s deficit cutting measures and plenty of discussion at the Eurogroup Finance Minister’s meeting and Ecofin meeting early in the week. Moreover, weekend press reports suggest that a bailout up to EUR 25 billion is close to being agreed. Other topics of conversation will include the possible formation of a European Monetary Fund, though this looks like it will be a non-starter given the many objections to it.
Overall, risk appetite is set to continue its upward trajectory, likely keeping the USD on the back foot. Some deterioration in USD sentiment was reflected in the fact that net long aggregate USD speculation positioning has turned negative again according to the latest CFTC Commitment of Traders (IMM) report. Much in terms of FX direction will depend on what the FOMC says rather than does tomorrow.
EUR/USD may take a crack at resistance around 1.3840 on improving Greek news but it is difficult to see much upside from current levels. The one to watch will be the JPY, especially if the BoJ embarks on aggressive actions at this week’s meeting, leaving USD/JPY plenty of scope to test resistance around 92.16.