The USD was already under pressure ahead of the Fed FOMC decision last night, with the EUR benefiting in particular from successful debt auctions in Ireland and Spain. The Fed statement resulted in a further lurch lower for the USD index as it fell through the 81.00 level on its way to testing the August low of 80.09. EUR/USD broke important technical resistance levels moving above its 200-day moving average (1.3215). In contrast, gold prices continued to surge hitting a new record high whilst 2-year Treasury yields fell to an all-time low.
The US Federal Reserve confirmed that it was ready to ease if needed. Although the decision to leave the Fed funds target rate at 0% to 0.25% unchanged and commitment to maintain exceptionally low levels of the rate for an “extended period” came as no surprise there was a subtle change in the language of the statement regarding further easing. The Fed noted that it was “prepared to provide additional accommodation if needed” a shift from the previous wording that it “will employ its tools as necessary”.
It appears to be a case of not if but when the Fed embarks on further quantitative easing and/or other policy accommodation. Once again the Fed offered no guideposts to determine the timing of easing and the decision will ultimately be data dependent. Nonetheless, the bias has clearly shifted towards more balance sheet expansion.
We expect core inflation to decline further over the coming months although we do not forecast a drop to as low as 0.5%. Nonetheless, declining core CPI could lead to the Fed’s disinflation concerns intensifying. Indeed, providing further rationale for the Fed’s conditional easing bias was the particularly dovish stance on inflation in the FOMC statement.
If it wasn’t obvious before it has become increasingly clear now that the USD will not relinquish its role as the ultimate funding currency for a long time to come. Although interest rate differentials are not yet the main driver for most currency pairs, with risk aversion retaining this role for now, there is a very high correlation between certain high yielding currencies and their respective interest rate differentials against the USD.
For instance, there is a high and significant correlation between interest rate differentials between Japan, Australia, Canada and the US and their respective currency pairs. AUD/USD is one to watch as the currency hit a fresh 25 month high overnight. Although the AUD looks rich at current levels, the shift in relative yield with the US overnight provides a further underpinning to the currency, with parity being talked about once again.
Even USD/JPY moved lower in the wake of the Fed statement dropping just below 85.00 although the threat of further official Japanese FX intervention will likely prevent a sharp drop in the currency pair. It will be interesting to see how far the market is prepared to go, with further threats of FX intervention by Prime Minister Kan overnight. Despite the threats the narrowing in US / Japan bond yields overnight suggests more downside pressure on USD/JPY and a fresh challenge for the Japanese authorities.