Central bank decisions and US payrolls in focus

The USD’s troubles are far from over. Data and events this week will do little to stop the rot. As US Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke made clear last week the Fed is committed to completing its asset purchase programme by the end of June though there is plenty of debate about what comes after. Reduced growth forecasts and the Fed’s view that price pressures are “transitory” have been sufficient to keep the USD on its knees.

The weaker than expected reading for Q1 US GDP growth at 1.8% QoQ clearly did nothing to alleviate pressure on the USD even though it is widely believed that the soft growth outcome will prove fleeting, with recovery set to pick up pace over the coming months. In truth much will depend on the trajectory for oil prices, especially as petrol prices in the US verge on the psychologically important $4 per gallon mark. Even higher energy prices could dent growth further but lower or stable prices will keep the recovery on track.

The highlight in this holiday shortened week for many countries this week is the US April jobs report at the tail end of the week. Estimates centre on around a 200k gain in payrolls but forecasts will be refined with the release of the ADP private sector jobs report and ISM manufacturing survey earlier in the week. The unemployment rate may prove sticky and will likely remain at 8.8%, a disappointment to those looking for a quicker recovery. The elevated unemployment rate will only reinforce expectations that the Fed will not be quick to reverse policy, with the USD continuing to suffer as a result.

Central bank meetings will be plentiful this week, with the European Central Bank (ECB) and Bank of England (BoE) likely to garner most attention. Recent data in the Eurozone has provided further evidence of growth divergence between North and South, but the EUR has remained resilient to this as well as to increased concerns about the periphery. This make the ECB’s job even tougher than usual when it meets this week and it is unlikely that the Bank will hike rates again so soon, especially given the strength of the EUR. Nonetheless, Trichet will continue to sound hawkish, limiting any damage to the EUR (if any) of no move in policy rates.

Similarly the Bank of England will also remain on the sidelines though this should come as little surprise in the wake of disappointing data recently and a surprise drop in inflation, albeit to still well above the BoE’s target. GBP has made up ground against a generally weak USD but judged against other currencies it has been an underperformer as expectations of monetary tightening have been pared back. Finally, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) is set to remain on hold, but a hike over coming months remains likely even with the AUD at such a high level. Quite frankly although the USD is looking increasingly oversold there is nothing this week that would suggest it will recover quickly.

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