Risk Aversion Back With A Vengeance

Risk aversion is back with a vengeance as reflected in the rise in equity volatility (VIX), drop in equity markets and rally in US Treasuries.  European peripheral debt markets sold off despite the EU/IMF aid package for Greece, whilst EUR/USD slid below 1.3000.  Various rumours dealt a blow to markets including talk of a sovereign ratings downgrade and a EUR 280 billion bailout for Spain.   The message is clear.  This situation is becoming increasingly dire by the day.  Europe is in big trouble and the whole euro project is under threat of unravelling.  

Concerns about parliamentary approvals, implementation/execution risk, prospects for relatively weaker growth in Europe, as well as contagion to Spain and Portugal, has tempered any enthusiasm towards the EU/IMF bailout package.  In addition, despite the large size of the EUR 110 billion loan package there are growing worries that it will be insufficient to cover Greece’s funding requirements over the next three years.  All of this implies that the EUR will remain under pressure for some time yet.  I have previously spoken about a drop to around EUR/USD 1.25 but the risk is for a much sharper decline is growing.

The USD is the clear winner, spiking to its highest level since May 2009 and is looking well set to consolidate its gains over the short-term despite the fact that net aggregate USD speculative positioning has already reached its highest level since September 2008 (according to the CFTC Commitment of Traders IMM data) in contrast to EUR positioning, which is at a record low.  This is unlikely to stand in the way of further downside for EUR/USD, with the next technical support level seen at 1.2885, which would match the previous lows see in April 2009.

A combination of worries including contagion to Spain and Portugal, policy tightening in China, debt concerns in the UK and Japan, all threaten to undo the positive message from recent positive economic data including further strengthening in Purchasing Managers Indices globally.   The immediate attention remains on Greece and growing scepticism about the ability of Greece to carry out austerity measures in the face of rising domestic opposition, including a nationwide strike today. 

The rout in US and European markets will spill over to Asia, putting equity markets and Asian currencies under pressure.  Another risk currency to suffer is the AUD, which has dropped sharply following the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) meeting, in which the Bank indicated that rates were close to peaking.  Speculative positioning has dropped for the past two weeks as longs are taken off but AUD/USD weakness is set to be temporary, with buyers likely to emerge around near term support seen around 0.9001.

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