Risk appetite continues to shrink

Risk appetite continues to shrink as the ongoing nervousness over Fed tapering continues to provoke significant position adjustments across markets. Markets will have to wait for next week’s Fed FOMC meeting to find to find greater clarity over the timing and extent of Fed tapering although there will be some further input to the Fed decision from today’s US May retail sales release.

In the meantime US Treasury yields continue to move higher even as risk aversion also intensifies, revealing the extent of the shake out that is currently being felt in US bond markets. The USD which would usually be expected to rally on higher yields and elevated risk aversion, remains under pressure against most major currencies although it continues to run havoc against emerging market currencies.

USD/JPY’s decline is showing no sign of abating. The combination of elevated risk aversion and disappointment over recent policy announcements, in particular the lack of detail about Prime Minister Abe’s third arrow, has prompted ever more upside for the JPY. The impact of these factors is negating the impact of higher US Treasury yields, which would usually act to push USD/JPY higher.

As the rout in equity markets appears to be showing little sign of subsiding the JPY looks firmly supported in the near term, especially as the picture is unlikely to change ahead of next week’s FOMC meeting. Additionally, the options market looks to be expecting more JPY upside as reflected in risk reversal skews, with volatility overall continuing to look elevated.

The RBNZ policy decision overnight provided another blow to the NZD, with the central bank highlighting that economic growth is “uneven” and noting that the kiwi remains overvalued, acting as a burden on the tradables sector of the economy. Moreover, in the Q&A session governor Wheeler maintained the pressure on the currency, indicating once again the risks of FX intervention to weaken the NZD if needed.

After dropping by over 8% since its cyclical peak on early April the NZD looks set to remain under pressure in the short term amid elevated risk aversion although it was encouraging that the currency did not fall further following the RBNZ. Our valuation models show that the currency is oversold and if anything the selling pressure will abate over coming weeks.

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