USD weaker except versus JPY, EUR gains unsustainable

Risk aversion is creeping higher whether due to weaker data and budget concerns in the US, political uncertainty in Europe or tensions in the Korean peninsular. Central banks continue however, to do their utmost to keep monetary conditions sufficiently easy to facilitate recovery.

The Bank of Japan was the latest to do its part under the helm of governor Kuroda, with new measures including a major increase in asset purchases, delivering a positive surprise to markets while pushing the JPY sharply weaker.

Only the ECB appears to lag in terms of central bank activism keeping policy on hold last week despite weak economic conditions are ongoing austerity pain. A series of industrial production releases across the Eurozone including German February IP scheduled for release today will not change the picture materially.

The much weaker than expected US March jobs report in which payrolls increased by only 88k, concern that economic activity is following a similar pattern to previous years ie strength in Q1 followed by weakness in Q2, has intensified. I do not believe this is the case but the jury is still out.

At the least the data will embolden Fed doves who will use the data as evidence that any tapering off in asset purchases should not occur quickly. A series of Fed speeches this week including one by Fed Chairman Bernanke tonight will be listened to very closely to determine whether the jobs report has provoked further caution from the Fed. Moreover, Fed FOMC minutes will be scrutinized to determine how the Fed will adjust the flow rate of asset purchases to the changing outlook.

The overall tone to FX markets is one of broad based USD weakness, with the notably exception of the JPY where the relatively aggressive BoJ stance has provoked a bigger reaction. The EUR has taken advantage of a softer USD but is unlikely to sustain gains around the EUR/USD 1.3000 level given the political problems across the Eurozone and relatively weaker economic conditions.

Indeed, news that Portugal’s constitutional court rejected austerity measures has put at risk the ability of the country to achieve its budget targets and regain access to international bond markets. Meanwhile Cyrpus’ bail in continues to leave a sour taste among depositors across the region while Italy continues to edge towards fresh elections.

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