USD edges higher

There appears to be some prevarication over possible military strikes on Syria resulting in less angst in markets over an imminent strike. Consequently risk appetite edged higher overnight while US Treasury yields also rose. Potential military strikes have also led to firming oil prices. Pressure on vulnerable emerging market assets has continued unabated however, with tapering worries and domestic vulnerabilities resulting in ongoing capital outflows.

In Asia the INR and IDR remain under considerable pressure. However, INR forwards recovered somewhat overnight and the spot rate strengthened in the wake of the introduction of a forex swap window for Indian oil firms. The measure will help to alleviate some of the demand/supply pressures for USDs but is however, unlikely to arrest the decline in the INR for long. In Indonesia the central bank may increase policy rates by 50bps today which ought to help the IDR in the short term.

The USD gained a little ground as US yields rose. The USD may benefit as markets fret about possible military action against Syria resulting in an attendant rise in risk aversion. Nonetheless, a series of negative data surprises over recent days contrasting with positive surprises in Europe leaves the USD rather vulnerable against major currencies. In contrast the USD is set to continue to remain firm against many emerging market currencies given the ongoing outflow of capital in the wake of higher US yields and tapering fears.

AUD’s tentative recovery in early August has proven to be an abject failure. Like many other high beta currencies AUD has suffered as risk aversion has intensified recently. Additionally speculation of further policy easing has also dampened the AUD. Consequently speculative sentiment remains weak. In reality, further rate cuts may depend on whether the AUD can rally following an over 15% fall since April. Any failure for the AUD to gain ground may stay the hand of the RBA. Although it has found some support today, further downside pressure is likely with a breach of the 5 August low at 0.8848 expected.

GBP underwent some volatility in the wake of BoE governor Carney’s speech. Initial weakness was bought into as shorts were covered however, leaving the currency back where it started. Carney’s speech was interpreted as dovish, with the governor noting that the BoE was read to loosen policy if higher market rates impacted the economy. Nonetheless, there was little immediate implication for policy. Overall GBP is likely to be constrained around resistance at 1.5590, with gains limited ahead of the BoE policy meeting next week.

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Euro resilience

The disappointing reading for US July durable goods orders released yesterday following on from the surprisingly large drop in new home sales at the end of last week has added further uncertainty about the timing of Fed tapering. Although the next meeting in September remains most likely as reflected in various Fed comments over the weekend it is by no means a done deal.

US Treasury yields slipped in the wake of the data but equities failed to sustain gains as Syria tensions escalated a factor that could cast a shadow over risk assets today, with rhetoric in the US strengthening and expectations of action growing. Further US data disappointment is likely today, with the August consumer confidence survey set to decline in contrast to a likely increase in the German IFO business confidence survey.

EUR resilience has been impressive over recent weeks. Despite all efforts at trying to sell the currency, investors have has their fingers burned. Today is also not a day to sell EUR. Although the growth trajectory looks firmer in the US, the propensity to surprise in a positive direction has come from Eurozone data releases.

Today expect a further positive surprise, with a likely further rise in the IFO German business survey which will contrast sharply with the drop in headline July US durable goods orders. It’s not all bullish for EUR, however. Technical indicators suggest that upside EUR/USD momentum is fading while Greek jitters could return as the Troika returns on September 16. Moreover, speculative market EUR positioning has risen to its highest since early February, leaving no more scope for short covering.

Although USD/JPY has crept higher over recent weeks it is still a long way off the 22 May high of 103.74. JPY bears have not yet given up hope, with JPY short positioning at around its 3-month average. Nonetheless, despite the rise in US Treasury versus Japanese JGB bond yield differential USD/JPY has failed to budge. Although this is likely to be a temporary phenomenon, yield differentials are clearly not impacting USD/JPY at present.

Eventually, the widening yield gap between the US and Japan will see increased capital outflows from Japan. Perhaps more details about Prime Minister Abe’s third arrow of reforms will prompt some downside for the JPY but unless risk appetite improves markedly it is unlikely that the JPY will fall far in the near term.

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Respite for Asian currencies

Pressure on policymakers in developed economies to orchestrate more predictable exits from unconventional monetary policies has intensified as reflected in comments at the Jackson Hole symposium the wake of the intense volatility in emerging market assets over recent weeks. While it is unlikely that a crisis is looming there is no doubt that mixed messages and lack of clarity over exit policies is having a demonstrable impact on EM assets.

Such clarity is unlikely to come this week. However, a pull back in core bond yields from recent highs will likely contribute to a calmer tone to markets at the turn of the week and some further near retracement in a positive direction for risk assets. Whether this lasts will depend on the clarity of the message from central bankers and in this respect speeches by four Fed officials over coming days, ECB’s Weidmann today and BoE governer Carney on Wednesday, will be scrtutinized.

The data slate is not particularly heavy but looks skewed towards relatively more positive Eurozone releases. In the US a likely drop in July durable goods orders today and pull back in consumer confidence tomorrow will provide little support to US asset markets including the USD while the trend of positive data surprises in Europe including likely gains in August economic sentiment indices and German IFO will add further evidence that growth will turn positive in Q3.

In Japan labor market data will reveal relative strength, with a low unemployment rate, helping to support the consumer. Inflation is set to rise further too, suggesting that policy measures are garnering some success. However, the upward trend in inflation is by no means guaranteed and ultimately renewed aggressiveness on the JPY will be needed as inflation tops out.

How will this leave currency markets? The USD is likely to continue to fare poorly against the EUR and GBP especially given the less than impressive data releases expected this week while the JPY is likely to remain on the back foot, pressured in part by firmer risk tone.

On the Asian currency front, further short term retracement is likely, especially for those currencies that have been beat up the most, namely INR and IDR. However, gains will likely prove limited, with tapering concerns and capital outflows showing little sign of reversing. Additionally, a likely disappointing Q2 GDP release in India at the end of the week will be unhelpful for the INR.

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