JPY hit by politics, AUD losing ground

A total solar eclipse as seen in Australia yesterday portends to a shift in market trends. Whether this is borne out by actual market movements is debatable as the major themes underlying investor psyche continue to dominate. First and foremost is the US fiscal cliff and the potential lack of resolution to this issue. Notably US and European equities slipped overnight as hopes/expectations of a solution by the end of the year continue to fade ahead of discussions between US politicians tomorrow.

In Europe, lack of progress in Spain and Greece are resulting in Eurozone peripheral bond yields creeping higher while safe haven demand continues to support core bonds. Geopolitical tensions increased following Israeli air strikes in the Gaza strip, helping to prop up oil prices. The USD remains supported against this background, but notably has failed to make much progress over recent days. All of this is not conducive to a positive environment for risks assets and as fiscal cliff talks are awaited a cautious tone is likely to permeate trading today.

The JPY took a hit following news that Japan’s Prime Minister Noda may dissolve parliament on November 16, paving the way for fresh elections. The JPY’s drop was not attributable to political uncertainty but rather the prospects that a likely opposition led LDP victory in any new election would likely lead to a more aggressive stance on policy, putting more pressure on the BoJ to ease.

USD/JPY has broken back above the 80.00 level but is susceptible to a renewed drop given the decline in US bond yields relative to Japanese bond yields. Moreover, risk aversion has intensified over recent weeks, providing another prop to the JPY. However, worsening economic news means that official pressure for JPY weakness will be maintained and regardless of the elections the BoJ has a lot further to act over coming months.

AUD extended its rally since the RBA kept policy on hold last week helped by better domestic and external data (especially in China). However, the currency has looked more vulnerable this week and my quantitative model estimates for AUD/USD and AUD/NZD highlight that AUD is looking increasingly overbought in the short term. While the models do not yet have a high conviction sell signal I suggest beginning to offload long positions around the 1.0400 level versus USD, playing for a short term pull back in the currency.

Any pull back will likely be short lived, but nonetheless, it will in my view provide better entry levels for investors looking to build medium term long positioning in AUD. Supporting my assessment is the fact that long AUD speculative positioning (IMM) is back at multi week highs, leaving the currency vulnerable to profit taking.

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