Peering over the cliff

As the US edges closer to falling off the fiscal cliff budget discussions between US President Obama and Congressional leaders commencing today will garner most attention. Conciliatory signs from both sides suggest some attempt at compromise but tough starting points mean that it will not be easy to match rhetoric with reality.

Markets are clearly in nervous mood, with US stocks closing lower as risk aversion edged higher. Disappointing earnings from Wal-Mart Stores taken together with a weaker than anticipated Philly Fed survey in November and weekly jobless claims added another layer of negativity to the market. Despite the US-centric fiscal cliff risks the USD remains firm although notably its pace of appreciation has slowed, with the currency likely to make little headway in the near term.

Although unsurprising, data in Europe confirmed that the region fell back into recession, an outcome that will do little to ease tensions. Hopes of a final agreement on Greece’s loan tranche at next week’s Eurogroup meeting may however, limit any damage to Eurozone markets. The EUR has shown signs of bottoming out and may take further advantage of the respite from a more restrained USD. There is little of interest on the data front today, with Eurozone current account data, US industrial production and TICS flows the main highlights.

On the political front the dissolution of parliament in Japan is the highlight, with markets continuing to push the JPY lower as expectations of more aggressive action after elections to the weaken the currency grow. The fourth consecutive downgrade of Japan’s economic assessment by the government highlights the urgency for such action.

Asian currencies are finding a little more resistance to further gains as the appreciation of the CNY has stalled over recent days. The most sensitive currencies to the CNY including KRW and TWD will likely face most resistance to further gains. In contrast those currencies that are more USD sensitive including INR and MYR could take advantage of any pause in USD index gains.

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