It’s most definitely turning into a “risk on” week. On the earnings front both JP Morgan Chase and Intel beat forecasts whilst data releases did not disappoint either. In particular, US retail sales came in much stronger than expected. The Fed’s Beige Book also gave markets some good news to chew on. The reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts noted that economic activity “increased somewhat” since the March 3rd report.
The positive tone will continue today with the release of the March industrial production data, expected to show a strong gain over the month (consensus 0.7%), whilst both the Empire State and Philly Fed manufacturing surveys are set to post small gains in April, consistent with strengthening manufacturing activity in the months ahead.
Fed speakers have also been helpful for market sentiment. Fed Chairman Bernanke sounded a little more upbeat on the economy but highlighted the “significant restraints” remaining in the US economy. Bernanke maintained the “extended period” of low rates statement despite some speculation that the Fed was verging on removing this. The net impact of the testimony, improved data and earnings and firmer risk appetite is to keep the USD on pressure. In contrast, commodity currencies including AUD, NZD and CAD, will benefit, both from firmer risk appetite and an upturn in commodity prices.
Despite the positive reception to Greece’s debt auction there is not a lot of faith in the ability of Greece to weather the storm. Reports that Greece will need far more funding than has been initially promised by the EU/IMF – potentially as high as EUR 90 billion over coming years – together with worries about selling the loan package to the public in Germany and other eurozone countries, as well EU comments that Portugal will need further fiscal consolidation, have not done much good for confidence. Technically EUR/USD will see plenty of resistance around 1.3692.
After Singapore’s move to tighten monetary policy via the SGD revaluation, and following close on the heels of India, Malaysia and Vietnam, attention has turned to who’s next in line. South Korea must be a prime candidate, especially following data yesterday revealing a drop in the unemployment rate. Of course, China is very much in the spotlight and is set to embark on monetary tightening measures as well as CNY revaluation soon.
India is set to move again as early as next week, with inflation data today likely to seal the case for another hike (consensus 10.37% in March). The risk remains however, that many Asian central banks are moving too slowly to curb building inflation pressures and may find that they ultimately need to tighten more than they otherwise would have done.
China’s heavy slate of data released will if anything fuel greater expectations of an imminent CNY revaluation as well as monetary tightening. China’s economy grew a very strong 11.9% in Q1, above already strong consensus expectations, whilst CPI rose 2.4% YoY in March.
The growth data alongside further evidence of accelerating real estate prices highlight the risks of overheating in the economy and the need to act quickly to curb inflation threats. Given this expectation, firm risk appetite, and more follow through from Singapore’s FX move, the outlook for other Asian currencies remains positive.