USD/JPY bracing for a rebound

In the post below I look at the arguments for JPY weakness in the weeks and months ahead.

A combination of elevated risk aversion and a narrowing US / Japan yield differential have been the major contributors to the strengthening in the JPY over January resulting in safe haven JPY demand and repatriation flows. The sensitivity of the JPY to both factors has been especially strong and it will require a reversal of one if not both of these to spur another wave of JPY selling.

Improving risk appetite required
If there is not a metamorphosis of the current bout of pressure into a full blown crisis as seems likely, risk appetite will improve and the upward pressure on the JPY will abate. Any improvement in risk appetite will however, be gradual and prone to volatility, especially in an environment of Fed tapering. It may therefore require more than simply improving risk appetite to weaken the JPY anew.

Japanese equity performance will be eyed
Of course associated with any improvement in risk appetite has to be a reversal of the recent negative performance of Japanese equities. Although Japanese equities will continue to be hostage to the fortunes of global risk sentiment, assuming that “Abenomics” continues to deliver results and growth in Japan continues to pick up (our forecast this year is 2% YoY GDP growth) further fallout in the Japanese equity market may be limited.

Flows will need to reverse
Over the past several weeks Japan has registered net inflows of capital in large part due to repatriation by Japanese investors. JPY has faced upward pressure from such inflows over recent weeks. Looking ahead assuming that risk appetite improves and US yields increase net capital outflows are expected to resume, which will put further downward pressure on the JPY.

Yield differentials will be particularly important
The extra dose of JPY pressure and important determinant of renewed weakness will be a re-widening of the US / Japan real yield differential. Eventually US bond yields will resume their ascent, driving the yield differential with Japan wider, and putting upward pressure on USD/JPY. The same argument will apply for EUR/JPY, albeit to a lesser degree.

Speculation positioning more balanced
The recent short covering rally has likely resulted in a market more evenly balanced in terms of positioning, providing a solid footing for the next leg lower in JPY. Indeed, compared to the three month average, JPY positioning has bounced back and is susceptible to a rebuilding of JPY shorts over coming weeks, driving the JPY lower.

Model points to renewed JPY weakness
Combining the factors above (except positioning) and adding in forecasts for US bond yields, risk aversion and conservative estimates for a recovery in Japanese equity markets over coming months, my quantitative model for USD/JPY highlights the prospects of a major rebound in the currency pair.

Untimely end to the Flappy Bird

Flappy_Bird_logo

I have a confession to make. Over the last few days I have become adicted to Flappy Bird. The idea of the game is to tap the screen and fly a bird through sets of pipes. I am clearly no good at it as my high score is a measly 6 but I continue to perservere in order to better my score. Sadly or perhaps fortunately for would be Flappy Bird addicts the game will no longer be available as an app. According to the FT the Vietnamese creater of the mobile game which topped the app charts has said that it “ruins my simple life” and therefore he removed the app from sale. The good news is that those who have already downloaded it won’t lose it so my Flappy Bird adiction can continue unabated.

EUR and GBP outlook this week

In Europe, the main focus will be on the preliminary estimate of Eurozone Q4 2013 GDP data which is likely to post a gain of 0.2% QoQ as most countries in the Eurozone are set to have recorded positive growth over the quarter. EUR traded more positively at the end of last week but looks like it will struggle to retain gains versus USD above its 100 day moving average around 1.3608.

Markets will also digest the decision by the German Constitutional Court to effectively defer a decision on Outright Monetary Purchases by the European Central Bank to the European Court of Justice. Although there will be some caution ahead of the March 18 final decision on OMT, EUR will find some, albeit limited relief as it seems less likely that the European Court will strike it down.

In the UK the Bank of England Quarterly Inflation Report will reveal an upward revision to growth forecasts but downward revisions to inflation and importantly an adjustment of forward guidance to a broader range of indicators rather than just unemployment. Indeed, as in the US the BoE will not give the impression that they are about to raise policy rates given the sharp fall in the unemployment rate. GBP/USD will be range bound ahead of the release of the QIR, with gains likely gapped around 1.6471.

A more constructive start to the week

Following a period of heightened volatility markets ended last week on a more positive note. Despite another soft reading for US non farm payrolls in January which revealed jobs growth of 142k following a gain of 74k in the previous month, markets took some comfort from a drop in the unemployment rate to 6.6% which for a change was not related to a drop in the participation rate. The participation rate rose to 63.0% in January.

Against this backdrop Fed Chairman Yellen will be giving her first testimony to Congress this week and while there is likely to be little change to the Fed’s policy outlook there will need to be some reassessment of the Fed’s forward guidance, especially given the surprisingly quick drop in the unemployment rate. The USD index slipped last week but we expect a slightly firmer tone to ensue over coming days in line with higher US yields.

Markets will kick off the week much as they left off last week, with a calmer and more constructive tone likely. Aside from Yellen’s speeches, US data will be soft on the whole, with January retail sales likely to post a small decline, while industrial production will record a gain and Michigan sentiment will fall, with consumer confidence weighed down by weaker equity markets.

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