Stressing About European Stress Tests

Equities and risk appetite were bolstered by the relative success of the Spanish bond auction on Thursday. The results of the auction in which Spain sold EUR 3 billion in 10 year notes helped to stem some of the pressure on eurozone bond spreads, which despite the generalized improvement in market sentiment over recent days, had been continuing to widen.

Another key indicator that has been suggested that all is not well moving in the opposite direction to the improvement in many risk indicators is the Baltic Dry Index which has dropped by around a third since 26th May 2010.

Perhaps more significant in terms of providing sustainable support for markets was the news that the European Union agreed to publish the results of bank stress tests, slated for the second half of July. This could turn out to be a key stepping stone towards increasing the transparency of the eurozone banking sector.

However, doubts will remain until there is some clarity on the terms of the tests such as whether they include details of sovereign debt exposure. Also, if the stress tests reveal shortcomings in the banks in question it is unclear if government funding will be provided for them. Although the publishing of stress test results is a step in the right direction until these and other questions are answered it is difficult to see markets getting too excited.

It’s not all plain sailing for equity markets despite the relatively positive news in Europe as disappointing US data in the form of a surprise jump in weekly jobless claims and a bigger than expected drop in the June Philly Fed survey weighed in on the side of those expecting both a slow and jobless recovery in the US.

The CHF has been a key mover following the Swiss National Bank policy decision. The decision to leave interest rates unchanged was no surprise, but the change in rhetoric towards a less aggressive stance towards CHF strength opens up the floodgates for CHF buyers. will look to test its all time low around 1.3720.

Another central bank that has shown concern about a strengthening currency is the Bank of Japan but unlike the SNB Japan’s central bank has not intervened for several years. The BoJ in the minutes of its May meeting noted that it will “watch if Europe’s crisis strengthens JPY”, indicating some concern about JPY strength.

This sentiment that was echoed by the Japanese government in the release of Economic Growth Strategy aimed at avoiding an excessive rise in the JPY via fiscal and monetary steps to beat deflation. The JPY barely reacted to both the minutes and the growth strategy, with market players likely sceptical until concrete measures are actually implemented.

It still look like an environment of sell on rallies for the EUR and other risk currencies, with their gains likely to run out of steam over coming days. The next key technical level for EUR/USD is around 1.2454, a level that will prove a tough nut to crack.


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