US dollar surges through key levels

Demand for risky assets continues to strengthen as reflected in various indicators including my Risk Aversion Barometer which has moved deeper into risk loving territory while equities remain on an upward trajectory. Central banks are providing the main source of support for investor risk appetite, with a combination of lower policy rates and quantitative easing providing a major fillip.

Additionally various central banks appear to be talking down their currencies and/or intervening (note RBNZ and Riksbank) adding to the downward pressure versus USD. In Japan’s case the G7 appeared to give its blessing to Japanese policy over the weekend, aiding in the decline in the JPY.

Usually the USD would not benefit in times of improving risk appetite but it is finding plenty of support from the fact that Fed policy is set to diverge with other central banks, with the currency breaking key levels against major currencies including EUR (below 1.30), JPY (above 100) and AUD (below 1.00). The surge in US Treasury yields is underpinning the USD helped by firmer US economic data in particular on the jobs front.

According to a Wall Street Journal article over the weekend the Fed is already formulating an exit strategy from QE although the timing is still being debated, another factor supporting the USD at the beginning of this week. Various Fed speeches over coming days will likely provide more clues on any timing or plans for an exit policy. Meanwhile, higher US yields and a firmer USD continue to pile on the pressure on gold prices.

There may be a little caution in pushing the USD higher this week as US data releases are likely to look softer, with retail sales, industrial production and housing starts set to record declines. Nonetheless, any pull back in the USD or yields may simply provide better levels for investors to go long the USD and short Treasuries especially as data elsewhere will not look much better. Indeed, while in Europe there will be a likely bounce in the German ZEW investor confidence index in May, Q1 Eurozone GDP will record a contraction for the sixth consecutive quarter.

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