Speculation the Fed will begin a new program of asset purchases or QE2 as soon as November is intensifying. The weaker than expected reading for US consumer confidence in September released on Tuesday has only added to this expectation as sentiment continues to be hit by job market concerns. Against this background the USD remains under strong downward pressure, with little sign of any turnaround.
The prospects of further USD debasing as well as intervention in many countries to prevent their currencies from strengthening against the USD continues to power gold prices which hit a new record high having breezed through the $1300 per troy ounce mark. In the current environment it is hard to see gold prices turning much lower although there may be some risk of profit taking in the weeks ahead.
The EUR remains a key beneficiary of USD weakness but this currency has problems of its own to contend with. Indeed, peripheral debt concerns, especially with regard to Ireland and to a lesser extent Portugal have increased, with borrowing costs rising as the yield on their debt widens against core eurozone debt. The stronger EUR will only make it harder for these countries to achieve any sort of recovery and could also damage the stronger exporting countries of Northern Europe led by Germany.
So far however, the EUR has managed to show some impressive resilience to renewed peripheral country sovereign debt concerns including comments by S&P about the high costs of rescuing an Irish Bank. Perhaps the knowledge that there is a still a huge bailout fund from the EU and IMF available if needed and also the prospect that the ECB will increase its buying of eurozone debt, has provided a buffer for the EUR.
At some point the ECB may be forced to join the battle in at least attempting to talk its currency lower but at this stage the central bank is showing no inclination to either talk down the currency or physically intervene to weaken the EUR. In the meantime, EUR/USD is likely to strengthen further despite the likely negative impact on European growth, with the currency likely to set its sights on an eventual break above 1.40.
One currency that may struggle in the wake of expectations of Fed QE2 is GBP. Uncertainty over whether the Bank of England will follow the Fed in implementing further quantitative easing could see GBP lag the gains in other currencies against the USD. Conflicting comments from MPC members Posen who noted that there may be a need for further QE in the UK to support the faltering economy were countered by Sentance who noted that there was no need for more QE. GBP/USD is likely be whipsawed as the debate continues and is set to lose further ground against the EUR.
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