Gold stabilizes, euro drops

The FX world has become somewhat more disturbing over 2013. Implied currency volatility has risen relatively sharply over recent months breaking its relationship with the VIX ‘fear gauge’ in large part due to the sharp drop in the JPY. Additionally the trend of improving risk appetite that was conducive to lower FX volatility has come to an end.

The inability of risk appetite to improve further has led to a declining correlation between various assets including currencies. This opens the door to other factors driving FX markets, with investor discrimination based on relative yield and growth differentials expected to take increasing prominence over coming months.

A big mover overnight was the EUR which slid on comments from European Central Bank official Weidmann that Europe’s recovery from the debt crisis may take years he hinting at a rate cut. He was joined by the ECB’s Smaghi who noted that the ECB must find ways to avoid EUR gains. EUR is likely to remain under pressure over the short term, especially on the crosses against the likes of GBP. Eventually I expect its ECB Outright monetary Transactions (OMT) threat led resilience to fade as Europe’s weak growth trajectory weighs on the currency, leading to an eventual move to EUR/USD 1.25 by end 2013.

The CHF and JPY languish at the bottom of our forecast grid in the medium term as would be expected given both their low yield and relatively lack of sensitivity to global growth. Both currencies will face pressure from relatively higher yields elsewhere given the growing attraction of yield and they are set to regain their lustre as funding currencies. In this respect the USD will begin to lose its allure as a funding currency especially as markets become increasingly nervous of a tapering off of Fed asset purchases later in the year.

The price of gold has stabilized over recent days in a USD 1365-1395 per ounce range following its sharp fall, with buyers creeping back in especially from jewelry demand, with strong purchases from India and China reported over recent days. My quantitative model suggests that the recent decline in gold prices is overdone and it may bounce back slightly. Nonetheless, the prospects for gold prices in the months ahead are still downbeat as expected strength in the USD, higher US bond yields, and expectations of a paring back in the Fed’s asset purchases weigh on the commodity.

News that Cyprus proposes selling its gold reserves over coming weeks will also fuel nervousness that other peripheral Eurozone central banks will follow suit. Finally, exchange trade funds (ETF) and speculative demand according to the CFTC IMM data continue to show a decline in investor demand. Consequently I we have revised down our forecasts for gold prices to reach USD 1350 per ounce by end 2013

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Cyprus deal reached but risk rally to fade

A deal between Cyprus and the Troika has been reached “in principle”, an outcome that will be met with relief across markets, with the EUR and risk assets rallying. Most details have yet to emerge but it appears that only depositors above EUR 100k will be hit by a levy while the country’s second largest bank will be closed. However, the levy is likely to be fairly hefty.

The bailout deal will mean that the risks of Cyprus defaulting and leaving the Eurozone will have significantly diminished. Nonetheless, the deal will still involve a huge amount of work on Cyprus’ part to find the USD 5.8 billion needed to supplement the EUR 10 billion bailout and subsequently a lot of economic pain involved. The current risk rally is likely to fade quickly as markets begin to focus on the task at hand.

Elsewhere Italy begins the formal process of forming a government this week but the prospects of a quick resolution to the political impasse in the country looks very limited, with fresh elections still a very possible outcome. Reflecting the uncertainty both around Cyprus and Italy, economic sentiment gauges in Europe will likely decline in March.

Meanwhile in the US data releases will look more impressive, with Durable goods orders set to record an impressive gain in February and Q4 GDP likely to be revised sharply higher. Although consumer confidence and new home sales will slip, this will take place from healthy levels.

EUR/USD broke through 1.3000 following the Cyprus deal but will run into resistance around 1.3135 and we expect gains to fade in the short term as markets look past the headlines. Downside risks to EUR will remain in place due to relatively unfavourable data releases and ongoing political uncertainty in Italy.

No Fed suprises, Cyprus unresolved, Kuroda weakens yen

The Fed delivered no surprises overnight, with policy settings and guidance left unchanged and only minor changes the statement. Slight downward revisions to near term growth and the unemployment rate reflected recent fiscal issues but the Fed sounded more upbeat on current economic conditions. The Fed statement helped markets retain a better mood despite the continued fluidity of the situation in Cyprus.

On this front, as Cyprus tries to renegotiate the terms of EUR 10 billion the country appears to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. Increasing the levy on higher value deposits as has been suggested threatens to infuriate Cyprus’ biggest creditor Russia but at the same time a lack of any forthcoming deal will put at jeopardy and liquidity support from the ECB to Cyprus’ banks. Markets appear to be giving the country and Eurozone officials some leeway leaving most asset markets in ranges.

Although the saga in Cyprus had helped to extend the EUR’s decline the truth is that the currency was already in decline from its 1 February high around 1.3712 in the wake of an increasingly adverse growth and yield gap with the US and Italian political uncertainty.

While market panic over Cyprus appears to have eased helping the EUR to find some stability the fact remains that no solution is on the table and once again it feels as though Eurozone officials are belatedly scrambling to find solutions before market patience runs out. EUR/USD looks supported however, around the 200 day moving average at 1.2878.

USD/JPY has been correlated most with the relative move in 10Y yield differentials between US Treasuries and Japanese JGBs. Given the prospects that the 10Y differential in terms of Treasuries versus JGBs will widen further it implies yet more gains in USD/JPY.

It is worth watching yields closely but at this point I await stronger signals that US bond yields are headed higher before contemplating a further JPY decline. In the near term USD/JPY looks supported around 94.72 as risk appetite returns and ahead of an inaugural speech by BoJ Governor Kuroda in which he is expected to announce a major policy shift aimed at bold easing according to Japanese press.

Cyprus vote awaited

The big market mover overnight was the VIX ‘fear gauge’ spiking in the wake of increased risk aversion. Follow through looks limited, however. Markets look a bit calmer as the panic following the news of levy of bank deposits in Cyprus as part of a EUR 10 billion bailout for the country, eased. No sign of bank runs elsewhere in the Eurozone and the go ahead to make the deposit levy more progressive (ie a higher levy on bigger deposit holders) while maintaining the total amount at around EUR 5.8 billion, have helped to calm tensions.

Nonetheless, today’s delayed vote in Cyprus’ parliament to approve the levy could provoke more nervousness especially as the outcome is too close to call. Attention will therefore remain firmly fixed on developments in Cyprus, with economic data taking a back seat. The highlights on the data front include likely gains in the German March ZEW investor confidence survey and US February housing starts and building permits.

Currency movements look to be limited ahead of the Cyprus vote and then the Fed FOMC outcome tomorrow. The EUR remains the weakest link, with gains in the currency likely to be sold into although support around EUR/USD 1.2876 is likely to hold unless the Cyprus vote fails to endorse the deposit levy. If this is the case, expect further sharp pressure on the EUR and a much bigger drop in the currency and risk currencies in general. European and Cyprus officials would have to back to the table but in the meantime panic would ensue.

The RBA minutes released this morning maintained that the door remains open for further policy rate cuts although they did note that the economy is responding to previous cuts with the impact having further to run. There is little in the minutes to suggest further easing is imminent. The RBA minutes are unlikely to dent the AUD which remains resilient having managed to remain well supported even despite the Cyprus panic. AUD/USD is likely to consolidate around current levels just below 1.0400 before embarking on further gains over coming weeks.

Cyprus hits EUR, GBP retracing lower, USD firm ahead of FOMC

There are plenty of events and data to digest on both sides of the pond this week. In Europe, Cyprus’ bailout will be a key focus. The decision to ‘bail in’ in bank depositors aimed at raising EUR 5.8 billion by imposing a levy on deposits will be voted on today in Cyprus. While the EUR 10 billion bailout is small change compared to other Eurozone bailouts the deposit levy could have wide ranging repercussions on Eurozone bank deposits in other peripheral countries despite Cyprus’ case being labelled as “unique”.

Meanwhile, politics in Italy remains unpredictable, with discussions tomorrow between the President and political parties to try and form a government. There is little to suggest a deal is in the offing with the risk skewed towards protracted negotiations and fresh elections.

Data in the Eurozone is expected to a little more encouraging, with gains in Eurozone manufacturing confidence (albeit still in contraction territory), German ZEW investor confidence and IFO business confidence surveys likely. Also of note this week is the Bank of England MPC minutes and UK 2013 Budget and in particularly any change to the BoE’s mandate contained within the budget.

Markets likely to tread water ahead of Fed FOMC outcome. While no change to the USD 85 billion asset purchase program is likely the Fed may actually revise slightly lower their near term growth forecasts due mainly to fiscal policy developments despite recent encouraging data. It seems unlikely that the Fed will hint at any tapering off of QE but nonetheless, it will be difficult for the Fed to ignore recent positive data. On the data front, housing data in the form of housing starts and existing home sales will reinforce evidence of recovery in the housing market.

The EUR has already come under pressure as a result of Cyprus concerns and will struggle to reverse its losses. EUR/USD 1.2876 will offer some support in the near term and the fact that the speculative market has been short EUR over recent weeks may also limit some of the downside pressure. Nonetheless, any gains are likely to be sold into.

GBP/USD is also set to retrace lower, especially if the MPC minutes reveal a more dovish bias and/or any new mandate for the BoE is perceived to enable more policy easing. All of this leaves the USD in good form, with the USD index setting its sights on the psychologically important 83.00 level.

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