Euro and yen downside risks

The lack of progress on a second bailout for Greece will keep markets nervous, leaving risk assets vulnerable to further slippage. The USD will be a beneficiary in this environment. Weak Eurozone GDP data for Q4 2011 released today will contrast with relatively firm data including industrial production and the Empire manufacturing survey in the US, leaving the story of US economic outperformance intact.

EUR has lost steam and looks vulnerable to a further correction lower. The fact that EU finance ministers have cancelled a meeting due to be held today means that markets will have to prolong their wait for an agreement on a second bailout package for Greece.

News that Greece’s political leaders will send a commitment to European officials today that they will implement further austerity measures will give some reassurance that things are moving in the right direction but a looming deadline for debt redemption in March will mean heightened nervousness.

Admittedly the market is still short EUR but positioning has moved close to its 3-month average suggesting a less potential for aggressive short covering. Following the downgrade of ratings of several Eurozone countries yesterday and a likely drop in Q4 2011 Eurozone GDP today, caution will be the prevalent theme today, leaving EUR/USD on the back foot and opening the door for a test of technical support around 1.3026.

The Bank of Japan’s decision to increase its asset purchase program and set an inflation goal had an immediate negative impact on the JPY. A sharp drop in GDP growth in Q4 last year, persistent deflation pressures and more aggressive action from other central banks pushed the BoJ into action.

Will there be any follow through on the JPY? USD/JPY had already been under some upward pressure in the wake of the widening in US bond yields versus Japan. The move by the BoJ will result in even more of a widening in yield differentials especially given that the BoJ actions means there will be an increase in official purchases of Japanese government bonds, helping to suppress JGB yields.

In the near term USD/JPY has broken above its 200 day moving average level, paving the way for a test of the 31 October 2011 high around 79.55. Further out, our bond forecasts show that both US and Eurozone 2-year bond yields will increase relative to Japanese yields over the coming months, supporting our forecasts of USD and EUR appreciation versus JPY.

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