The sell off of risk assets in the wake of the Fed’s surprisingly direct FOMC communication continues unabated. Hopes that Fed chief Bernanke would attempt to assuage market concerns about tapering have been blown apart and instead the reality of forthcoming tapering continues to bite leading to higher US yields, weaker stocks and commodities and a firmer USD. In fact the USD appears to have finally re-established its positive relationship with yields and risk aversion.
The situation hasn’t been helped by the fact that data out of China has disappointed while local money market rates had risen sharply this week. Separately Japan’s reform momentum appears to have stalled ahead of Upper House elections as Prime Minister Abe’s third arrow missed target.
In combination these factors mean that markets are bracing for the day that they no longer have steroid injections to keep them going. Instead fundamentals will become important to sustain gains in risk assets. Why should anyone be surprised? US growth is recovering and at some point tapering has to occur. Unfortunately risk assets were just not ready for this revelation.
Ongoing volatility and uncertainty is likely to persist over the coming weeks as markets transition to an environment of Fed tapering, but this will give way to a renewed improvement in risk appetite and lower volatility later in the year.
The USD index continued to rise overnight having corrected around a third of its losses since 22 May. Gains remain broad based with gains registered against major and emerging market currencies. US Treasury yield differentials with other countries continue to widen across the board leaving the USD in strong form (10 year Treasury yield has risen by close to 80 basis points since early May).
Going forward firmer US data, taken together with higher US yields, will continue to drive the USD higher against major currencies, while some improvement in risk appetite as investors become accustomed to the prospects of Fed tapering will allow emerging market currencies to recover some, but not all lost ground against the USD.
Many currencies have become highly sensitive to US yields, with the TRY, NZD and INR the most sensitive over the past three months although notably most Asian currencies are near the top in terms of sensitivities.
Against this background unsurprisingly Asia continues to register capital outflows. All Asian countries have registered capital outflows this month, with total equity outflows of $10.2 billion registered, led by South Korea and Taiwan. Obviously the bigger concern is for deficit countries including India and Indonesia, with their currencies remaining particularly vulnerable to capital outflows.
Recent market volatility has meant that the prospects of Japanese investors stepping up their outflows have diminished over the near term. The latest data released yesterday showed that Japanese investors repatriated capital for a fifth straight week.
It is only a matter of time before outflows pick up as risk appetite improves as US yields move higher. The US 10Y Treasury yield advantage has widened versus Japanese JGBs to around 153bp and I expect this to widen further to around 185bp by the end of 2013. This will be consistent with a renewed slide in the JPY versus USD.