Stocks fell back into negative territory following yet more soft US economic data. The 0.4% drop in US retail sales ex-autos was particularly disappointing, once again raising expectations that the Fed may need to deliver another round of quantitative easing. The rally in gold prices overnight was in part related to such expectations. Continued pressure on peripheral Eurozone debt reflects another angle of market pressure, not helped by the downgrading of Spain’s credit ratings by Moodys which effectively highlighted that Spain’s call for external help was a sign of weakness.
A further test of sentiment will be in the form of Italian bond auctions today. Perhaps more worrying is the sell off in German debt over recent sessions, indicating that investors are finally realising that Germany will not be spared from a “Grexit”. Whether this prompts Mrs Merkel into some form of action to help stem the crisis is another question entirely. Ahead of Greek elections on June 17 markets will enter into a state of limbo but the bias remains for elevated risk aversion.
FX markets are similarly rangebound, with the USD capped by hopes/expectations of more Fed QE and the EUR capped by peripheral Eurozone tensions. As a result EUR/USD has struggled to sustain break above resistance around 1.2624 and will continue to fail to the topside given the uncertainty around the Greek elections on June 17th. Bad news in the form of the Spanish debt downgrade and peripheral debt pressures, suggest that the EUR will remain under pressure over coming sessions, making it increasingly difficult to hold above the psychologically important 1.25 level.
The main focus today will be on the Swiss National Bank policy decision. While no policy action is expected attention will focus on the SNB’s stance on its 1.20 EUR/CHF floor. Upward pressure on the CHF has intensified over recent weeks as the situation in the Eurozone has worsened, and latest reserves data highlighted a big jump in reserves during May as the SNB had to buy EUR against the CHF. A shift in the EUR/CHF floor looks unlikely but the recent upward pressure on CHF could pale into insignificant compared to any upward pressure following a Greek Euro exit.