FX outlook this week

Direction in FX markets will largely hinge on developments at the beginning of the week in Europe but a US holiday (Presidents’ Day) will mean a subdued start. US data has continued to beat expectations as revealed by the recent gains in core retail sales, manufacturing surveys, jobless claims and industrial production. US recovery is taking shape and the USD is finally showing some signs of perking up on the news.

Rising US bond yields have provided the USD with some support although the impact has been muted by higher bond yields elsewhere. Nonetheless, despite ongoing speculation of more Fed quantitative easing the USD looks set to be on a slightly firmer footing over coming days. In a relatively light week of data releases housing data will be the major focus of attention.

Assuming approval for a second Greek bailout goes ahead (after much procrastination) the week will at least begin on a positive note for the EUR. Whether the EUR will extend gains will partly be determined by the release of flash February purchasing managers’ indices (PMI) and the German IFO business confidence survey. Our forecasts of weak service sector readings but firm manufacturing indices will be a mixed blessing for the EUR but overall data will remain consistent with mild recession.

Failure of EUR/USD to sustain a move below the psychologically important 1.30 level suggests a bit more resilience over coming days. Nonetheless, speculation of a Greek euro exit will not fade quickly and markets will likely gyrate between ‘risk on’ and ‘risk off’ depending on the latest comments from Greek or European officials. All in all, the EUR will continue to struggle to move higher.

For a change one of the bigger movers in currency markets over recent days has been the JPY. Its decline following more aggressive monetary policy action by the Bank of Japan has extended further. The move by the BoJ helped to suppress Japanese government bond yields (JGBs) allowing USD/JPY to move higher in line with relatively higher US yields. This week’s release of January trade data will support the case for more JPY weakness given the deteriorating trend.

The data will also strengthen the resolve of the Japanese authorities to intervene in FX markets should the JPY strengthen anew. Immediate focus will be whether USD/JPY can break through the psychologically important 80 level where JPY weakness will be met by plenty of exporters offloading USDs. I suspect the upside momentum in USD/JPY will fade over coming days unless US bond yields continue their ascent.

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