Pressure on the US dollar was maintained last week but there were definite signs that selling momentum is slowing. The lack of major US data releases meant that the key focus for the USD was events in Europe. This week there will be some return of attention back to the domestic front, with heavyweight releases such January retail sales, manufacturing surveys, industrial production and inflation data.
On balance the data will provide more evidence of US recovery but as we have noted previously this is not necessarily positive for the USD. Firmer US data helps to boost risk appetite, which in turn plays negatively for the USD. This could be counterbalanced if US interest rate expectations turn more hawkish but the Fed has effectively ruled out such a prospect, with its commitment to maintain easy policy.
Europe has some important data releases over coming days including the German February ZEW survey and GDP data across the Eurozone. The data will be less encouraging, especially the Eurozone GDP data, compared to the US and is unlikely to give any support to the EUR. Instead events surrounding Greece will be crucial for EUR sentiment. EUR/USD appeared to lose some traction at the end of the week but the EUR remained firm against other currencies.
Greece’s approval of austerity measures overnight will bode well for markets but the tough stance of EU officials towards Greek austerity implementation means that focus will turn to yet another extraordinary meeting of European officials on Wednesday. Even assuming that some form debt deal and second bailout package is ironed out it is questionable how much the EUR will rally as so much good news is already in the price.
The JPY for a change managed to register relatively big moves, with USD/JPY pushing higher over the past week. The revelation that ‘stealth’ FX intervention was carried out by the authorities in Japan taken together with verbal warnings threatening more intervention helped to exacerbate JPY moves.
Speculation that the Bank of Japan is pondering further easing steps at its policy meeting on Tuesday may also be contributing to the softer tone in the JPY. Such hopes may be disappointed however, as we expect the BoJ to retain its current policy settings. The biggest factor explaining the move in USD/JPY is the fact that US bond yields moved higher relative to Japan, with the yield differential ending the week at its highest so far this year.