US dollar restrained, Swiss franc too strong

Better than expected March US new home sales, stable consumer confidence and firmer than consensus earnings, all contributed to boost markets overnight. In Europe, decent demand for Dutch, Spanish and Italian debt auctions helped to reassure markets in the region. Apple earnings added to the good news, contributing to more than 82% of S&P 500 companies topping estimates so far for Q1 2012 earnings.

Despite encouraging news on the data and earnings front US equities only registered small gains, failing to echo the larger gains in European equity markets, suggesting that investors remain cautious. Ahead of the Fed FOMC outcome today trading is likely be relatively restrained, with the risk rally struggling to make much headway.

The Fed FOMC rate decision will be critical to determine USD direction over coming sessions. Assuming that the Fed does not alter its policy setting but instead only tinkers with its economic forecasts, the USD will escape any further selling pressure. Any reference or hint to further quantitative easing would play negative for the USD but I do not expect this to occur.

If anything I expect the USD to edge higher over coming sessions as risk aversion continues to rise. An expected drop in March durable goods orders today will not give the USD much help, however. I don’t expect the FOMC outcome to mark an end to speculation of more QE, and in this respect the USD will continue to be restrained until there is more clarity on the economy and in turn Fed thinking.

EUR/CHF continues to flat line close to the 1.20 line in the sand implemented by the Swiss National Bank (SNB). Renewed tensions in the Eurozone have if anything renewed the appeal of the CHF, making the job of the SNB even more difficult. The fact that risk aversion has been rising suggests CHF demand will remain firm in the short term. CHF demand is occurring in the face of speculation of a shift in FX stance.

Although the SNB has not hinted at any change in the level of the EUR/CHF floor, market speculation that the SNB will move it higher, possibly to around 1.30 from 1.20, has intensified. The problem for the SNB is that the CHF is substantially overvalued and this in turn is fuelling persistent deflationary risks as reflected in six straight months of declining CPI. Against this background it would not be surprising if the EUR/CHF floor is lifted.

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