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.


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