Markets have found it hard to decide whether to sell the USD due to weaker economic data or buy it on higher risk aversion, but the moves overnight were clear; the USD sold off sharply in the wake of a run of soft data releases. Four separate US releases came in below consensus yesterday, with the June ISM, jobless claims, pending home sales and domestic vehicle sales, all disappointed to varying degrees, especially pending home sales, which dropped an astonishing 30% in June.
The news could have been much worse today, with the release of the US June jobs report. Following the 13k increase in the June ADP employment count the consensus forecast for nonfarm payrolls looked way too optimistic; consensus expectations were for a 130k drop in payrolls according to Bloomberg, with estimates ranging from 0 to -250k. In the event payrolls dropped by 125k and the unemployment dropped to 9.5%, an outcome that was not as bad as feared.
It was not just the US ISM that slipped, but a host of global purchasing managers indices (PMIs) weakened in June including China and India, supporting the view that economic activity will lose momentum in H2 2010. Before we all get too carried away it is worth noting that most manufacturing surveys are coming off a high level.
Nonetheless, for once it wasn’t European concerns that sparked an increase in risk aversion as eurozone banks borrowed less than feared from the ECB, and the Spanish bond tender passed off relatively well, factors that helped EUR/USD jump above 1.25000. Although I remain bearish on the prospects for the EUR over coming months, there may be some further near term upside, with EUR/USD 1.2675, the next resistance level in focus.
As a consequence of US double-dip fears, risk aversion remains at a high level, with US bond yields and commodity prices dropping sharply, leaving commodity currencies sharply lower. In the current environment the USD is likely to be sold on rallies.
On the commodity currency front, AUD/USD may find some relief from the news of a compromise on a proposed mining tax, but the weight of risk aversion will limit any rebound, with my preference to play AUD upside versus NZD. The main concession from Australian Prime Minister Gillard reduce was to reduce the tax to 30% for iron and coal, whilst retaining the 40% tax for oil and gas projects. The agreement likely increases the chance of an election in Australia in the next couple of months as Gillard capitalises on a popularity bounce. Fresh elections could be another factor that limits AUD upside over coming weeks.