Contrasting Stance

Despite some recent Fed speakers putting doubts into the minds of the many now looking for the Fed to embark on QE2 in November, the minutes of the 21 September FOMC meeting gave the green light to the commencement of asset purchases next month. Although there is clearly no unanimity within the FOMC the majority favour further easing. Incremental data dependent asset purchases will be the most likely path.

The minutes leave the USD vulnerable to further declines but extreme short USD positioning suggest that there is plenty of risk of short covering and more likely we are probably set for a period of consolidation over coming weeks before the USD resumes its decline.

Unlike the Fed, BoJ and BoE, which remain in easing mode the ECB is already veering towards an exit strategy, albeit one that is unlikely to take effect for some time. Hawkish comments by the ECB’s Weber overnight managed to give a lift to the EUR in the wake of a further widening in interest rate differentials between the eurozone and US. Indeed, interest rate differentials (2nd contract futures) are at the widest since Feb 2009, a factor that is providing plenty of underlying support for the EUR.

Further out the follow through on the EUR will depend on whether markets believe Weber’s stance is credible. Germany’s economy is doing well but it is highly likely that Southern European officials would oppose any premature tightening in policy given the parlous state of their economies. The stronger EUR will also do some damage to growth, with its recent appreciation acting as a de facto monetary tightening.

Despite the positive influence of Weber’s comments short-term technical indicators show that the trend in EUR is vulnerable, with clear signs of negative divergence as the spot rate is still trending higher whilst the relative strength indices (RSI) are trending lower. Moreover, EUR speculative positioning is at its highest in a year, albeit still well of its all time highs. Speculators may be reluctant to build on longs in the near term. A clean and sustained break above EUR/USD 1.4000 level still looks like a stretch too far though any downside is likely to be limited to strong support around 1.3895.

Unlike the perception that the ECB is highly unlikely to follow the Fed in a path of QE2 the policy stance of the BoE is far more uncertain, a fact that continues to weigh on GBP, especially against the EUR. Recent data in the UK has played into the hands of the doves, with housing market activity and prices coming under renewed pressure, retail sales surveys revealing some deterioration and consumer confidence as revealed in the Nationwide survey overnight, weakening further.

BoE MPC member Miles summarized the situation by highlighting that the UK faces “some big risks” and even hinted that the BoE may “come to use QE”. UK jobs data today is unlikely to give any support to sentiment for GBP although as per its recent trend GBP is likely to remain resilient against the USD whilst remaining under pressure against the EUR, with a move to resistance around EUR/GBP 0.8946 on the cards in the short-term

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