After the storm

As last week’s volatility in Japanese markets demonstrates central banks do not have it all their own way. Unfortunately for Japan the risk remains that policy makers spur higher yields without accompanying growth, an outcome that would be highly undesirable, especially if it hits economic activity. Equity markets and risk assets in general came under pressure and safe havens found long lost bids, with core bond yields moving lower and JPY and CHF strengthening.

The heightened volatility in markets was also partly triggered by concerns about the timing of the tapering off of Fed asset purchases, with Fed Chairman Bernanke setting the cat amongst the pigeons by with commenting about the possibility of reducing asset purchases over the next few meetings. Additionally weaker than forecast Chinese manufacturing confidence data came as another blow to markets. While the market reaction looked a tad overdone in it is notable that the dichotomy between growth and equity market performance has widened over recent weeks.

This week is likely to begin on a calmer note, with holidays in the US and UK today. Data releases in the US will remain encouraging , with May consumer confidence likely to move higher although US Q1 GDP is likely to be revised slightly lower to 2.4% due an inventories hit. In Europe, while the trajectory of recovery is starting from a much lower base there will be some improvement in business confidence in May while inflation will be well contained at 1.3% YoY in May, an outcome that will maintain room for more European Central Bank policy easing. In Japan a sixth straight negative CPI reading will highlight jus how difficult the job is for the Bank of Japan to meet its inflation target.

The JPY was a major beneficiary of last week’s volatility helped by short covering as speculative positioning in the currency reached its lowest level since July 2007. A calmer tone to markets ought to ensure that JPY upside will be limited and USD buyers are likely to emerge just below the USD/JPY 100 level. In contrast the EUR has been surprisingly well behaved despite the fact that speculative EUR positioning has also dropped sharply over recent weeks. While the overall trend is lower EUR/USD will find some support on any dip to around 1.2795 this week.

AUD and NZD have been particularly vulnerable in the wake of higher risk aversion and weak Chinese data. Some calm ought to ensue over coming days, with AUD prone to short covering given the sharp drop in speculative positioning in the currency over recent weeks. Asian currencies have similarly been under pressure. Some stabilisation in risk appetite will give relief to Asian currencies this week as will a relatively firm CNY.

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