Euro pressure mounts

The effects of eurozone peripheral bond concerns are cascading through eurozone markets and hitting risk appetite in the process. The EUR is a clear casualty having dropped further against the USD and versus other currencies. EUR/Asian FX remains a sell in the current environment. Contagion outside Greece, Portugal and Ireland had been limited but Italy and Spain have also seen a growing impact on their bond markets. Having broke below support around 1.3734, EUR/USD will target 1.3508 support.

Speculation that Ireland will be forced to follow Greece in seeking international financial support has intensified. Although Ireland has sufficient funds to last until next spring, yields on its debt are already higher than Greek debt before it received funds a few months back. Attention is firmly fixed on the country’s budget on 7 December and the prospects of an agreement between the government and opposition in its austerity plans.

Not helping is the fact that the Irish government has a very slim majority. Even if the budget is passed there is no guarantee that sentiment will improve given the negative impact of even deeper fiscal tightening announced last week will have on economic growth. Moreover, Germany’s insistence that the cost of any Greek style bailout should be borne mostly by private investors has only added to market tension. Even the European Central Bank is unlikely to provide much support, with ECB member Stark suggesting that ECB bond purchases will remain limited.

This leaves eurozone markets in a precarious state and the EUR continues to look heavy as further downside opens up. Moreover, the problems in peripheral Europe are beginning to have a broader impact on risk appetite, with equity markets slipping, although some of this was related to a weaker sales forecast from Cisco in the US. Nonetheless, spreading risk aversion could also dampen sentiment for Asian currencies, which is why selling EUR/Asian FX looks a better bet than selling USD/Asian FX over the short term.

In contrast sentiment for the US is undergoing an improvement. Data releases over recent weeks have generally beaten forecasts and there is even growing speculation that the Fed’s calibrated asset purchases may end up being smaller than planned. Such speculation has boosted the USD but it is premature to suggest that the Fed is on the verge of scaling back asset purchases even as the program of purchases gets going. Although there are clearly some FOMC members who are opposed to significant asset purchases the probability that the Fed remains set to carry out its full $600 billion of planned purchases.

Attention today will focus squarely on day 2 of the G20 meeting and any resolution to disputes over trade imbalances and currencies. Unfortunately none is likely to be forthcoming. Despite a reported 80 minute meeting between US and Chinese leaders little agreement was reached, with plenty of finger pointing remaining in place. It appears that the mantra of moving towards “market-determined exchange rates” and efforts at “reducing excessive imbalances” as agreed at the G20 meeting of finance ministers and central bankers will be as far as any agreement reaches. As a result markets will be left with very little to chew on.


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