US bond yields look relatively well supported and in turn this is providing a degree of support for the USD. In this respect the firmer than consensus reading in a gauge of service sector activity, the February US ISM non-manufacturing survey (57.3 versus 56.8 in January) which contrasted with relatively weak service sector purchasing managers’ indices (PMI) in Europe, helped to maintain the healthy yield differential between the US and German bunds.
Combined with the generally ‘risk off’ sentiment pervading markets, in part due to the weaker PMI data, the USD looks to be in good form early in the week. The next market mover will be Wednesday’s ADP jobs report (a measure of jobs growth in the services sector), which will provide clues to Friday’s February non-farm payrolls outcome. In the meantime the fact that the speculative market (IMM) is positioned short USD (for the first time since September 2011) suggests that the room for further USD selling looks limited, with the USD index looking well supported above 79.00.
AUD and other high beta currencies lost more ground in the wake of the drop in the Chinese non-manufacturing PMI in February. AUD remains highly reactive to Chinese data releases given the high and growing exposure of Australia’s economy to China. Given the likelihood of a soft landing in China this year, the medium term damage to the AUD will be limited and I stil look for AUD/USD to reach 1.10 by year-end.
Over the near term however, there is scope for more AUD downside but much will depend on the outcome of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) policy meeting. Expectations of rate cuts have diminished following recently better data and a less dovish statement at the last RBA meeting. A relatively benign statement will offer the AUD little support, leaving AUD exposed to a drop to technical support to just under 1.06 versus the USD.