Speculators bail out of USDs

Risk appetite held up reasonably well last week, with markets failing to be derailed by concerns over Ireland’s banking sector and growing opposition to austerity measures across Europe. The main loser remained the USD, with the USD index hitting a low marginally above 78.00 and speculative positioning as reflected in the CFTC IMM data revealing a further sharp drop in sentiment to its lowest since Dec 2007.

This week is an important one for central bank meetings, with four major central banks deliberating on monetary policy including Bank of Japan (BoJ), Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), European Central Bank (ECB) and Bank of England (BoE). The major event of the week however, is Friday’s release of the September US employment report. The RBA is set to hike its cash rate by 25bps, the BoJ may announced more easing measures whilst in contrast both the ECB and BoE are unlikely to alter their policy settings.

Whilst the BoJ is widely expected to leave its policy rate unchanged at 0.1%, it may announce further measures against the background of persistent JPY strength, a worsening economic outlook as reflected in last week’s Tankan survey and decline in exports. Japanese press indicate that the BoJ may increase lending of fixed rate 3 to 6 month loans to financial institutions as well as buy more short-term government debt.

The measures alongside risks of further JPY intervention may prevent USD/JPY slipping further but as reflected in the increase in speculative net long JPY positions last week, the market is increasingly testing the resolve of the Japanese authorities. Strong support is seen around USD/JPY 82.80, with the authorities unlikely to allow a break below this technical level in the short-term.

Although we will only see details of the voting in two weeks in the release of the UK BoE Monetary Policy Commitee (MPC) minutes it is likely that there was a three-way split within the MPC as reflected in recent comments, with MPC member Posen appearing to favour more quantitative easing whilst the MPC’s Sentance is set to retain his preference for higher rates. As has been the case over recent months the majority of the MPC are likely to have opted for the status quo.

GBP was a laggard over September as markets continued to fret over potential QE from the BoE. This uncertainty is unlikely to fade quickly suggesting limited gains against the USD and potentially more downside against the EUR. GBP speculative sentiment has improved but notably positioning remains short. EUR/GBP will likely target resistance around 0.8810.

In contrast to GBP the EUR has taken full advantage of USD weakness and looks set to extend its gains. Although there is a risk that speculative positioning will soon become overly stretched it is worth noting that positioning is well below its past highs according to the IMM data. EUR may have received some support from Chinese Premier Wen’s pledge to support Greece, and a stable EUR. Whilst there continues to be risks to the EUR from ongoing peripheral debt concerns such comments likely to be repeated at the EU-Asia summit today and tomorrow, will keep the EUR underpinned for a test of 1.3840.

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