Risk on, risk off

The USD has lost some upward momentum as risk appetite improved but FX markets remain skittish as sentiment gyrates between ‘risk on’ and ‘risk off’. The fact that US Q1 GDP was left unrevised whilst jobless claims surprisingly increased together with ongoing Greece concerns suggests that a risk off mood may filter into markets despite positive US earnings. Although the USD has not particularly benefitted from any rise in risk aversion lately, worries about the next IMF tranche being withheld from Greece will likely play more positively for the USD.

Nonetheless, lurking in the background and helping to keep the USD restrained is the Fed’s ongoing asset purchases as QE2 remains in place until the end of June. Moreover US data disappointments points to risks that the Fed will only slowly embark on its exit strategy. Additionally any agreement towards extending the US debt ceiling appears to be far off, and threatens to go down to the wire all the way to August 2. US debt markets and the USD appear to be downplaying this issue at present but it remains a clear threat to US markets.

Continuing to limit any upside in the EUR is the fact that officials and markets continue to gyrate on whether Greece will or will not restructure its debt. Apparent divisions between the view of some officials and the ECB are adding to the confusion whilst fresh worries about the IMF withholding funding for Greece will likely keep EUR/USD capped.

Peripheral worries as well as growth concerns are clearly weighing on confidence and a broad based decline in economic and business confidence in various eurozone May measures is expected to be revealed in data today . Weaker data taken together with ongoing concerns about the eurozone periphery will likely see the EUR struggle, with the currency set to settle into a range versus USD over the short-term, with technical support around 1.3968 and resistance at 1.4210.

The loss of USD momentum has also been exhibited in USD/JPY which has turned lower following its recent upward move hitting a low around 81.09. The big news was the fact that April nationwide core CPI recorded its first YoY increase since December 2008. At the margin may reduce the pressure on the Bank of Japan (BoJ) to enact more aggressive policy measures, which in turn is positive for the JPY. A big factor contributing to keeping the JPY supported over recent weeks is the ongoing inflow of foreign capital into Japan’s bond and equity markets, with Japan recording six straight weeks of net inflows.

USD/JPY is one currency pair where the correlation with US – Japan 2-year bond yield differentials is holding up well over the past 3-months. The fact that the yield differential has dropped to its lowest level since November 2010 at around 30bps reveals the declining US yield advantage, and plays for a lower USD/JPY. Against this background the JPY is likely to remain supported in the short-term, but will find it tough to break through technical support around USD/JPY 80.15.


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