Still Buying On Dips

US stocks had a positive end to the week despite the ongoing uncertainty over a new fiscal stimulus package.  A buy on dips mentality continues to hold on any sell off in equities and risk assets in general.  Although President Trump is now calling for a much larger stimulus, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has only edged close to Democrats demands for a $2.2 trillion stimulus, by offering $1.8 trillion.  This was subsequently rejected by House speaker Nancy Pelosi.  A deal this side of the election still looks unlikely given the differences between the two sides in not just the size, but also the content of further stimulus.  Either way it’s doubtful this will stop equity markets from moving higher in the interim.

Although markets will continue to keep one eye on the approach of US elections this week – especially on whether President Trump can try to claw back some of the lead that Democratic Presidential contender Joe Biden has built according to recent polls – it is a busy one for events and data, especially in Asia.  Key US data releases include US September CPI inflation (Monday) and retail sales (Fri) while in Australia a speech by the RBA governor (Thu) and employment data (Fri) will be in focus.  In Asia monetary policy decisions by central banks in Indonesia (Tue), Singapore (Wed) and Korea (Wed) will be in focus though no changes in policy are expected from any of them. 

In Singapore, the 6-monthly policy decision by the Monetary Authority of Singapore is unlikely to deliver any major surprises.  Singapore’s monetary policy is carried out via its exchange rate and the MAS is likely to keep the slope, mid-point and width of the Singapore dollar (SGD) nominal effective exchange rate (NEER) band unchanged amid signs of improvement in the economy. Singapore’s government has announced several fiscal stimulus packages (February 18, March 26, April 6, April 21, May 26, August 17) helping to provide much needed support to the economy, with total stimulus estimated to amount to just over SGD 100bn.  Much of the heavy lifting to help support the economic recovery is likely to continue to come from fiscal spending.

In Indonesia, the central bank, Bank Indonesia (BI), has been on hold since July and a similar outcome is expected at its meeting on Tuesday, with the 7-day reverse repo likely to be left unchanged at 4%. However, the risk is skewed towards easing. Since the last meeting the economy has suffered setbacks. Manufacturing confidence deteriorated in Sep, consumer confidence has also slipped while Inflation continues to remain benign. However, BI may want to see signs of greater stability/appreciation in the Indonesia rupiah (IDR) before cutting rates further.

Chinese data including September Trade data and CPI inflation (both on Thursday) will also be scrutinised and will likely add to the growing evidence of economic resilience, that has helped to push China’s currency, the renminbi (CNY) persistently stronger over recent weeks.  Indeed, the CNY and its offshore equivalent CNH, have been the best performing Asian currencies over the last few months.  This is a reflection of the fact that China’s economy is rapidly emerging from the Covid crisis and is likely to be only one of a few countries posting positive growth this year; recent data has revealed both strengthening supply and demand side activity, amid almost full opening up of China’s economy.

Singapore revalues, Asian currencies jump

The positive tone to risk appetite is keeping the USD on the back foot and for once FX attention has turned away from events in Greece. Before elaborating further and staying with Greece, it’s worth highlighting that the outcome of Greece’s note auction was reasonably solid, with more debt than anticipated being sold. However, the cost of borrowing for Greece rose compared to the previous auction in January, which means that the Greece will still suffer higher funding costs to roll over debt.

The positive reception to the debt offering was not particularly surprising given that it followed so closely after the EU/IMF loan package announcement but it is difficult to see sentiment for Greece and the EUR for that matter, getting much of a lift. The main positive for the EUR is the fact that market positioning remains very short but EUR/USD is likely to struggle to make much headway above technical resistance around 1.3653.

More interestingly Asian central banks are continuing on the track towards fighting rising inflation pressure and Asian currencies, in particular the SGD, were boosted by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) decision to revalue its currency. Singapore has moved back to a policy of a “modest and gradual appreciation” of the SGD from a policy of zero appreciation, which obviously implies openness to further FX appreciation in the weeks and months ahead.

The rationale for the decision was clear and as revealed in the strong first quarter Singapore GDP data which revealed a 13.1% annual rise. Stronger growth is fuelling growing inflationary concern and to combat this Singapore’s MAS will allow greater SGD appreciation. The reaction in other Asian currencies was also positive, with markets (quite rightly in my view) that other Asian central banks will be more tolerant of currency strength in their respective currencies.

Moreover, Singapore’s move was pre-emptive, perhaps with one eye on an imminent revaluation in China. The recent easing in tensions between the US and China has if anything increased the likelihood that China revalues its currency, the CNY, sooner rather than later, and most likely before the end of Q2 2010. Whatever the rationale, strengthening inflation pressure across the region, will mean a less FX interventionist stance in Asia, and likely stronger currencies over coming months.

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