All Eyes on Greece

The USD is in a lose-lose situation courtesy of the Federal Reserve’s ultra easy stance. Positive economic data releases have been met with USD selling pressure as the data helps to fuel a rally in risk appetite. Although the USD benefited from the better than expected US January jobs report gains will prove fleeting as it is does not change expectations of more Fed quantitative easing (note the drop in the participation rate).

Following the jobs report, there is little on the data front over coming days (only December trade data for which a widening is likely and February Michigan confidence where a gain is expected) to shift USD direction. At best the USD will consolidate giving USD bulls some time to nurse their bruises.

A disaster in the Eurozone (e.g. Greek disorderly debt default) could help the USD but it appears that markets have become resilient to bad news giving officials in the region the benefit of the doubt. In particular, the ECB’s 3-year LTRO has calmed nerves somewhat.

The lack of a final deal on Greek debt restructuring has failed to dent the EUR although notably EUR/USD failed to extend gains above 1.32 and has drifted lower. EUR/USD will remain on tenterhooks ahead of a midday deadline today set by Greek PM Papademos for party leaders to accept strong terms to qualify for a second bail out.

In the absence of agreement prospects of a disorderly debt default will loom large especially given that there is a EUR 14.5 billion bond repayment on March 20. Such an outcome will undoubtedly derail the EUR. Moreover, a meeting of Eurozone Finance ministers this week will give some direction to the EUR while the ECB’s likely status quo on Thursday suggests that there will limited EUR reaction following the meeting.

The risk of JPY intervention has increased significantly as USD/JPY brushes the psychologically important 76.0 level. However, the feeling on the ground is that USD/JPY will need to broach 75.0 before intervention is actually seen. Jawboning by Japanese officials has intensified suggesting increased official concern.

However, in the short term the ability of the authorities to engineer a sustained drop in the JPY is limited given the compression in US – Japan bond yields. This appears to be outweighing even the drop in risk aversion, which in theory should be playing for a weaker JPY. USD/JPY will struggle to make any headway, with strong multi day resistance seen around 77.49.

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