EUR capped, NOK strength overdone

The positive reaction to the Greek bailout deal failed to gain traction leaving risk assets under a degree of pressure. The fact that the deal was highly expected played a role in the unenthusiastic reaction but markets may also be cautious given the major tasks that still like ahead including a tough reform timetable for Greece, parliamentary approvals in various countries and implementation of the debt swap.

EUR looks stretched. The lack of follow through in terms of EUR upside suggests that the currency will struggle. The news of the deal came as a relief to markets but after so many days of negotiations failure to agree would have been inconceivable. However, the aftermath has seen renewed doubts creep into the market especially given the short time horizon (just nine days) for Greece to implement reform measures.

Market positioning suggests that there is still scope for some EUR upside but I doubt that the deal will be sufficient to prompt a big wave of short covering. Eurozone fundamentals remain weak and if anything the exercise in forming an agreement about Greece has revealed various splits within the Eurozone. Superior US growth expectations plus relatively higher US bond yields suggest EUR will struggle to extend gains in the medium term. Short term EUR/USD gains are likely to be capped at 1.3322.

EUR/NOK has dropped sharply over recent weeks, with NOK strength accelerating in February. The currency has been the second best performer versus EUR so far this year much to the chagrin of Norwegian officials who feel that the strength in the currency will weigh on the economy. Such concerns should be taken at face value. The NOK is highly overvalued according to various measures of ‘fair value’ but I do not expect the strength in NOK to persist over the short term.

Last week, warnings from Norway‘s central bank that they are ready to act to curb NOK strength may provoke some hesitation to enter long NOK positions especially as weakening economic growth will only strengthen the resolve of officials to prevent excessive currency strength. The NOK is sensitive to risk aversion and any correction in the recent rally in risk appetite could render the NOK highly vulnerable to renewed weakness.

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