US Economic Data Disappointments

Risk gyrations continue, with a sharp shift back into risk off mood for markets driven in large part by yet more disappointing US economic data as the May ADP jobs report came in far weaker than expected at 38k whilst the ISM manufacturing index dropped to 53.5 in May, its lowest reading since September 2009. This was echoed globally as manufacturing purchasing managers indices (PMI) softened, raising concerns that the global ‘soft patch’ will extend deeper and longer than predicted.

The market mood was further darkened by news that Moodys downgraded Greece’s sovereign credit ratings to Caa1 from B1, putting the country on par with Cuba and effectively predicting a 50% probability of default.

The resultant jump in risk aversion was pretty extensive, with US Treasury yields dipping further, commodity prices dropping led by soft commodities, and equity volatility spiking although notably implied currency volatility has remained relatively well behaved.

Global growth worries led by the US have now surpassed Greek and eurozone peripheral country concerns as the main driver of risk aversion, especially as it increasingly looks as though agreement on a further bailout package for Greece is moving closer to being achieved. Moreover, it seems as though a ‘Vienna initiative’ type of plan is moving towards fruition involving a voluntary rollover of debt.

The lack of first tier economic data releases today suggests that it will be a case of further digestion or perhaps indigestion of the weak run of US data releases over recent weeks and the implications for policy. For instance, it is no coincidence that QE3 is now being talked about again following the end of QE2 although it still seems very unlikely.

Bonds may see some respite from the recent rally given the lack of data today although this may prove short-lived as expectations for the May US jobs report tomorrow are likely to have been revised sharply lower in the wake of the weak ADP jobs data and ISM survey yesterday, with an outcome sub 100k now likely for May US non-farm payrolls.

Meanwhile, FX markets are caught between the conflicting forces of higher risk aversion and weaker US data, leaving ranges to dominate. On balance, risk currencies will likely remain under pressure today and the USD may get a semblance of support in the current environment.

This may be sufficient to prevent EUR/USD from retesting its 1 June high around 1.4459 as markets wait for further developments on the Greek front. Once again the likes of the CHF and to a lesser extent JPY will do well in a risk off environment whilst the likes of the AUD and NZD will suffer.

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