Not so straightforward

To casual observers the global market picture look very good, reflective of an improving growth and earnings story; risk assets continue to rally as central banks keep the liquidity taps open. In reality the picture is not as black and white as the US economy appears to be doing better than most other major economies despite the impact of the sequester and tax hikes while other economies are in differing states of health.

Japan’s turbo charged stimulus measures have helped contribute to a solid GDP growth outcome in the first quarter and to the rally in risk assets but much needs to be done in terms of reforms. Indeed, the jury is still out whether growth recovery can be sustained (just look back at the growth spurts and subsequent declines following past stimulus).

Europe remains in the doldrums as the impact of austerity weighs heavily, with even the core economies facing growing economic pressures. It’s no wonder that the anti austerity backlash continues to grow. While Eurozone data this week may look a little perkier than usual, with gains in the May purchasing managers’ confidence indices and the German IFO business climate confidence survey (both good forward looking indicators) likely, the overall picture will remain one of contraction. All of this will be unhelpful for the EUR which looks set to test its year low around 1.2745 versus USD.

US outperformance is fuelling a rise in US bond yields and consequently a stronger USD as expectations that the Fed will want to taper off asset purchases sooner rather than later grows. Fed Chairman Bernanke’s testimony this week will therefore be closely regarded as clues are sought However, he is unlikely to suggest that the Fed is verging on any reduction in asset purchases. Although US data was mixed last week the recovery theme will continue this week, with housing data and durable goods orders set to record gains.

In Japan the highlight of the week is the Bank of Japan policy meeting. Given the aggressiveness of recent measures expect a pause from the central bank at this meeting although the JPY will remain under pressure as the US / Japan yield differential continues to widen in favour of the USD. Nonetheless, comments by Japan’s Economy Minister Amari emphasising the negative impact of a weaker JPY may help to slow the pace of JPY decline.

The general strength in the USD has contributed to growing pressure on many Asian currencies. Only the THB, CNY and MYR have recorded gains this year. Other currencies including the KRW, TWD, and SGD have been particularly vulnerable to a weaker JPY. A slower pace of JPY decline will help these currencies although the prospects of further monetary easing and regional tensions will dampen any upside in the short term.

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