USD, AUD and GBP view

The USD is struggling to make much headway, continuing to be capped in the wake of lower US Treasury yields following Fed Chairman nominee Yellen’s comments last week. There appears to be little clarity as markets continue to second guess the timing of Fed tapering while Fed officials appear to be giving conflicting signals. However, some clarification will be sought from Fed Chairman Bernanke’s comments later tonight. Meanwhile, the large increase in USD speculative positioning as revealed in the CFTC IMM data give further reason to be cautious on further USD appreciation in the short term. Alongside likely weaker data US releases including October retail sales over coming days, it suggests limited upside USD potential.

The AUD may take advantage of a pause in the USD’s appreciation trend, helped by the release of the November 5 RBA meeting minutes. The minutes confirmed that the central bank is in no hurry to ease policy rates further. Although they did note that the AUD remains uncomfortably high there was nothing new in such comments. It increasingly looks as though the RBA has reached the bottom of its easing cycle, something that will likely help to provide the AUD with some support over the coming months. In the near term AUD/USD will attempt to take a crack at resistance around 0.9421 although a speech by governor Stevens on Thursday will give further direction, and could hold risks to AUD especially if he attempts to talk the currency lower.

GBP has been relatively resilient in the wake of some positive UK economic data releases. Attention will turn to tomorrow’s Bank of England MPC minutes which will be scrutinized for clues to a possible change in the 7% unemployment rate threshold. Already it appears that the BoE is closer to hiking policy rates than previously thought as indicated in last week’s Quarterly Inflation Report. GBP/USD may benefit from some general USD consolidation although its gains will be restricted ahead of the MPC minutes. Near term support GBP/USD is seen around 1.6080, with risks of profit taking on recent GBP gains likely to restrict upside potential in the currency.

Gyrating expectations for Fed tapering

Gyrating expectations for Fed tapering have left FX markets in somewhat of a limbo. Just as markets had shifted expectations for Fed tapering to next month or January 2014 Fed Chairman nominee Yellen managed to add a dovish spin on things by indicating strong support for ongoing Fed quantitative easing. The USD hasn’t been harmed too much as policy expectations in Japan and the Eurozone has also taken a more dovish slant leaving the EUR and JPY exposed to downside pressure. In contrast, GBP has benefitted from the Bank of England’s revisions to growth and employment expectations.

Yellen’s comments last week and some likely softer economic data releases this week including subdued CPI inflation, declines in retail sales and existing home sales, will likely cap US Treasury bond yields and the USD. Fed FOMC meeting minutes will have some bearing on market direction. Nonetheless, as noted above any pressure on the USD is set to be limited given the relatively dovish policy stances in other countries. Indeed, weak Eurozone and Japan Q3 GDP released last week have led to expectations of more monetary policy action from both the Eurozone Central Bank and Bank of Japan. Consequently EUR/USD will struggle to sustain any recovery above 1.3500 and USD/JPY will find a stronger footing above 100.

GBP/USD has retained a degree of composure but GBP bulls are better taking a long position against EUR where further GBP gains are likely given revelations in the BoE quarterly inflation report that the unemployment threshold will be hit sooner than expected, indicating higher policy rates earlier than forecast. Although the EUR may find some solace from better data this week in the form of flash manufacturing surveys and increases in the German ZEW investor confidence and IFO business confidence surveys any EUR upside will likely remain limited given expectations of further monetary easing by the ECB in the wake of very subdued inflation pressures.

JPY, AUD and Asian FX

Risk appetite remains relatively well supported, with US and Asian equities edging higher and the VIX ‘fear gauge’ moving lower. There is a lack of first tier data releases today, with only German and UK CPI inflation data on tap as well as the US NFIB small business optimism index. Attention will instead centre on various Fed and ECB speakers for further policy clues.

Indeed, markets will look for any hints of reinforced forward guidance by ECB speakers and further insight into the timing of tapering from Fed officials. ECB speakers include Angeloni, Weidmann, Nowotny and Asmussen while Kocherlakota and Lockhart are scheduled to speak from the Fed. There will also be plenty of interest in speeches by the Fed’s Yellen and Bernanke on Thursday.

The JPY appears to be finally succumbing to the pressure of a generally firmer USD and higher US yields although the currency has yet to break out of its recent ranges and correlations suggest that the JPY has not been as sensitive as other currencies to either factor. I remain bearish on the JPY.

While the JPY has not been as sensitive as other currencies to yield lately it has still faced some pressure and will continue to do so if we are correct in our view that US yields will push even higher against Japanese JGBs. Firmer US data has helped to shift expectations of Fed tapering to around December or January. In contrast the BoJ is showing no sign of pulling back from its balance sheet expansion and in our view could even extend asset purchases next year in order to sustain its inflation around its 2% inflation target. This remains a recipe for more USD/JPY upside.

Having rallied by around 9% since its end August low AUD has been unable to hold onto gains. Fortunately for AUD the recent rise in Australian bond yields has acted to mitigate against some of the potential pressure from rising US bond yields; since the USD began its recent rally around 28 October Australia’s yield advantage has narrowed by only 3 basis points. However, the strengthening in the USD has wreaked havoc on many currencies and the AUD has not escaped.

While AUD may face headwinds from a firmer USD, Australia’s relative yield attraction will give it some scope for recovery into year end. Indeed, if yield appetite continues to strengthen in an environment of improving risk appetite and low volatility AUD should prove to be a key beneficiary. In the near term AUD/USD will find some technical support around 0.9280.

Asian currencies have gained a little respite from general USD strength but remain vulnerable to a stronger USD over the coming weeks. Deficit currencies have renewed their position as the biggest underperformers over recent weeks, with the IDR and INR under most pressure followed by MYR. The least vulnerable to USD strength and higher US yields are North East Asian currencies especially TWD and KRW.

Reflecting renewed tapering fears most Asian countries have experienced renewed equity portfolio outflows month to date. The RMB continues to buck the trend although its relative strength may reflect the timing of China’s 3rd plenum which ends today.

USD and EUR contrasts

Finally markets appear to be reacting rationally to economic data. There was always a risk that strong US data releases would prompt renewed Fed tapering fears and result in a sell off in risk assets as has been the case in the past. However, the reaction to Friday’s much stronger than expected US October jobs data (+204k + upward revisions to previous months) was what would be normally be expected. US equities rallied, US yields rose and the USD strengthened.

While the US data added further weight to the potential for Fed tapering in December or January it was also recognised as evidence of a growing economy, and one that barely flinched in the wake of the government shutdown. This week’s US data is unlikely to detract from this view, with the November Empire manufacturing survey and October manufacturing production likely to have shown further improvements. This should ensure that the USD remains firmly supported over coming days.

In Europe, the opposite is true. Faced with very low inflation (this is an issue across most major economies) the European Central Bank cut policy rates last week and looks set to intensify its dovish shift with other policy measures to reinforce its forward guidance. Consequently the EUR sold off sharply and is set remain under pressure.

This week’s Eurozone data releases will add more weight to the argument for further policy actions, with Eurozone GDP set to barely expand in Q3 while inflation likely to be confirmed at 0.7% YoY in October. Meanwhile industrial production is set to have declined in September (-0.4%). Given the contrasts in data releases and in policy stance, EUR/USD is set to decline further, with initial support seen around 1.3295.

In the UK, there will be attention on the Bank of England’s Quarterly Inflation Report, with jobs data and retail sales also on tap. Faced with mounting evidence of firming growth, the BoE will likely have to revise its assumptions upwards. Consequently this bodes well for GBP and while gains against the USD are likely to be limited, EUR/GBP is set for a further downward correction, with a break 0.8300 on the cards shortly.

EUR firmer, AUD weaker, Asian currencies helped by softer USD

Central banks will set the tone ahead of tomorrow’s US October employment report. Both the European Central Bank and Bank of England are scheduled to deliver policy decisions. Neither is expected to change policy settings although there is an expectation that the ECB will open the door to a December ease in the wake of very soft inflation data. ECB President Draghi may hint at such a move in the press conference Q&A session. In Asia Bank Negara Malaysia is also unlikely to move on policy rates today.

However, sources quoted overnight highlighted that the ECB would not ease policy this month and could be too divided to do so in December, pointing to a potentially less dovish outcome than many expect. The EUR rallied following the news story hitting a high of around 1.3549 versus the USD and the currency is likely to remain supported in the short term just below the 1.3500 level especially given the risks to today’s ECB meeting.

There is even less likelihood of easing by the BoE given recently firmer data and the upcoming Quarterly Inflation Report next week. Additionally, there are risks for above consensus readings for both German industrial production data and US Q3 advance GDP today. All in all, there appears to be little on tap to dent the enthusiasm for risk assets although there will be hesitancy to take directional trades ahead of the US jobs data tomorrow.

AUD took a hit this morning in the wake of disappointing jobs data. Employment rose a paltry 1.1k, with full time jobs falling 27.9k. The outcome would have been worse was it not for the 28.9k increase in part time jobs. The unemployment rate was 5.7% in October but the participation rate dropped to 64.8% while the September unemployment rate was revised higher. The data provoked AUD selling and may also result in a return of RBA rate cut talk. AUD/USD will however, find some strong technical support around its 1 November low at 0.921.

Asian currencies may take advantage of a slightly softer USD tone in the wake of capped US Treasury yields. THB may find some relief from political tensions following the news that Senate is likely to reject the Amnesty Bill. The PHP may be sidelined as a super typhoon approaches. The INR has maintained a weaker trajectory, with limited equity inflows so far this month, suggesting that some caution may be reappearing towards Indian assets. IDR has been an underperformer but despite some slowing in GDP in Q3 news that Indonesia will allow more foreign investment may help to stabilise the currency.

Risk appetite still supported

Relatively subdued trading yesterday ended with stocks higher and US bond yields lower. Our risk barometer is currently around its lowest since February 2011, signifying still strong appetite for risky assets, as also reflected by the drop in the VIX “fear gauge”. After a sharp 30+% drop since early October the Baltic Dry Index has also turned higher while gold prices are holding in a relatively tight range around its 100 day moving average at USD 1320.

There are a few releases and events to give direction to markets, with the RBA policy meeting, European Commission autumn economic forecasts, and service sector confidence surveys from the UK and US, all on tap today. Overall, there will be little to dent the positive risk bias but caution will intensify ahead of the ECB Council meeting and US employment report towards the end of the week.

Following last week’s USD rally the currency is likely to consolidate its gains over the short term ahead of Friday’s US October employment report. A dip in US yields helped by a softer US factory orders report took some of the steam out of the USD as caution crept in. A series of Fed speakers overnight did little to clarify the picture regarding the timing of tapering and thus provided little direction for the USD.

Nonetheless, despite some near term consolidation the USD looks set to gain further over the coming weeks helped by the fact that the market had already squared a lot of long positions over past weeks. A renewed increase in US yields accompanied by better economic data will help the USD’s cause but much will depend on when there is greater clarity regarding the timing of tapering. Expectations of a March 2014 may yet prove off the mark, leaving the USD plenty of scope for further recovery.

AUD benefitted from the robust September retail sales report yesterday but faces another hurdle today in the form of the RBA policy meeting. Although AUD remain a loser year to date, the currency has registered impressive gains from the beginning of September, much to the chagrin of the RBA.

Although a policy rate cut is highly unlikely today (I believe the RBA is at the bottom of its easing cycle), Governor Stevens is set to warn that the strength of the currency could warrant further policy easing in the months ahead. However, such warnings may sound hollow given worries about house price inflation and recently firmer data. Given some likely restraint in the USD ahead of the US employment report, AUD/USD will find some any losses limited to support around 0.9430.

Data and central banks in focus

Risk sentiment remains positive although there will be a test of the market’s optimism this week, with a heavy slate of data releases and central bank policy meetings on tap. A Japanese holiday today may start the week off on a quieter note but central bank decisions by the European Central Bank (Thu), Bank of England (Thu), RBA (Tue) and speeches by various Fed speakers will help stir things up.

While none of the central banks are expected to alter policy settings this week there will be plenty of attention on the ECB to see whether they open the door to further policy easing in the wake of softer data including CPI inflation last week. The rout in the EUR over recent days has reflected the expectation of a shift in ECB stance, with the currency likely to continue to edge lower as the meeting approaches.

On the data front, US numbers have looked somewhat perkier, including the ISM manufacturing survey at the end of last week which beat expectations, helping US 10 year Treasury yields to edge back above 2.6%. This in turn has boosted the USD and will likely help to keep the currency supported in the short term.

However, there will be some caution ahead of Friday’s October employment report, which is likely to look decidedly weaker. The expect the impact of the government shutdown to manifest itself in particular in the unemployment rate, which is set to increase to move higher. Aside from the jobs data, US Q3 GDP and October Michigan confidence are on tap.

In Europe, the European Commission will release its Autumn economic forecasts, with deficit forecasts for peripheral countries a particular focus.

In Australia a slate of releases including retail sales, which revealed a much stronger than expected 0.8% monthly increase in September are on tap. The sales data provides more support to the view that the RBA will be disinclined to ease policy further although the relative strength of the AUD will still give the central bank some cause for concern. September trade data and October jobs data are also scheduled for release this week. AUD will find some support from the sales data this morning but will face headwinds from a generally firmer USD.

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