USD and JPY remaining firm

The USD has rebounded since 19 June in the wake of growing uncertainties and potential disappointment emanating from the EU Summit. As I previously highlighted a rally in the USD was to be expected in the wake of an extension of Operation Twist.

Looking ahead, as Bernanke and Co. also left open the option of more quantitative easing the USD is not out of the woods yet. The USD’s path will not only depend on risk but also on upcoming data releases. A further run of weak data will once again raise the spectre of more QE potentially leading to a softer USD.

Today’s US releases are unlikely to lend support to QE expectations, however. A bounce in May durable goods orders is expected while pending home sales are likely to recoup some of the sharp drop registered in April. However, markets will have to wait until next week for the release of the most important indicator, the June jobs report, before a clearer USD direction emerges.

USD/JPY remains well and truly constrained below the 80.00 level. Elevated risk aversion and a decline in the US yield advantage over Japan are acting as a restraint to any upside move in USD/JPY. Moreover, I do not expect any impact on the JPY from the passage of a bill to raise the consumption tax. Evidence that the Japanese economy is recovering may explain the lack of official enthusiasm to weaken the JPY but this assessment is prone to disappointment.

Increasingly, JPY bears are becoming frustrated by the lack of JPY downside traction. This has been reflected in the turnaround in speculative sentiment which turned positive for the first time in 15 weeks. Going forward, it will be difficult for USD/JPY to rise much unless US yields move higher. Eventually I think this will happen and look for USD/JPY to end the year around 83.00


Euro rallies on Greek election outcome but gains to be short lived

The Greek election outcome will be met with a sigh of relief across markets. However, there is still likely to be plenty of horse trading before a new government is formed and even then Greece’s fiscal/debt/growth problems will not just miraculously go away. Market pressure will resume after a brief delay.

At least for the early part of this week markets will likely find some support however, and with events including the FOMC meeting, G20 meeting and EU Summit coming up, hopes that some solutions may be forthcoming may at least prevent sentiment for risk assets from deteriorating too significantly.

The EUR garnered support following news that pro-bailout parties have gained sufficient votes to form a government in Greece. Negotiations will begin to form a coalition government between the first placed party New Democracy and third placed Pasok but the risk remains that prolonged discussions could quickly result in the EUR erasing its gains. Indeed, Pasok leaders are talking about the need to form a ‘government of national unity’, suggesting the process of forming a government will not be straightforward.

A slightly less negative shift in EUR sentiment has been apparent from the CFTC IMM data which revealed that net short positions dropped (ie there has been some short covering) even before the election outcome. The election result will encourage more short covering although data releases this week including the June German ZEW investor confidence and IFO business confidence surveys, both of which are set to decline, will caution against becoming overly bullish EUR. Short term EUR/USD resistance is seen around 1.2750 but a move back down to around 1.2515 is more likely as the week progresses.
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One of the reasons the EUR has managed to garner support over recent days has been growing speculation of Fed action to boost the economy in the wake of a rash of softer data releases. Such expectations have put the USD under pressure, with last week’s data revealing disappointing retail sales, industrial production and consumer confidence. On Wednesday the markets will find an answer to speculation of more Fed action, with the Fed FOMC policy decision.

Expectations of more quantitative easing will be disappointed but the Fed will likely increase Operation Twist buying time to evaluate incoming data releases. A combination of a relatively positive Greek election outcome together with speculation of more QE will keep the USD under pressure ahead of Wednesday’s outcome but weakness ought to prove short lived, with USD gains expected following the Fed decision not to expand its balance sheet further.

Risk assets rally, AUD jumps on strong jobs data

Risk assets rallied hard overnight overcoming, albeit temporarily, fears of a Eurozone calamity. The boost to markets appeared to come from hopes of stimulus on many fronts. Although the European Central Bank (ECB) did not cut policy interest rates President Draghi did note that he ‘stands ready to act’ if needed. This implies that rates cuts are in the pipeline very soon but any more action will require European politicians to act first. Following the G7 conference call there is also speculation that EU officials are coordinating some form of support for Spain, especially for its banking sector but details of what this will entail is lacking.

Meanwhile, speculation that the Fed will at least extend ‘Operation Twist” if not opt for a further round of quantitative easing has helped to support the uplift to sentiment. Further clues will come from Fed Chairman Bernanke’s testimony to Congress today although we don’t expect him to signal a policy shift. Markets are clearly grasping for any potential positives in the form of potential policy support but the risk of disappointment remains high, especially in Europe where policy makers have yet to reveal any fresh plans.

The USD dropped further overnight as risk currencies rallied. Market positioning had become very long USDs and some correction of long positioning / profit taking is obviously taking place Data releases did not provide any support to the currency although the Beige Book did note that the economy was continuing to grow ‘moderately’ which was perhaps less negative than it could have been. The USD may find some support from the Bernanke’s testimony today. Although the Fed chief is set to be cautious in his outlook he is unlikely to point to further stimulus at this stage.

It’s worth highlighting the Australian data this morning. Employment rose by surprisingly strong 38.9k. The details of the jobs report are even better than the headline. Full time employment was up 46.1k, while part time jobs were down 7.2k. The only slight negative is the rise in the unemployment rate to 5.1% but this was largely due to a rise in the participation rate to 65.5% from 65.2%. This is the second solid Australian reading in a row following on from the Q1 GDP data yesterday. Given today’s jump in risk assets the data will help compound AUD gains in the short term. AUD/USD will face strong resistance around 1.0021.

Euphoria fades, risk currencies weaker

The euphoria emanating from last week’s eurozone agreement will likely fade into this week as renewed doubts creep in. Details of how the EFSF bailout fund will be leveraged or how the special purpose vehicle will be utilised have yet to emerge while the firewall to protect countries such as Italy and Spain may still be insufficient given that the use of the European Central Bank (ECB) to provide unlimited support has been ruled out.

With more questions than answers markets will be hungry for further details over coming weeks and until then it is difficult to see risk appetite stretching too far. One indication of such concern was the fact that Italy’s borrowing costs climbed to euro-era highs the day after the European Union (EU) plan was agreed. The G20 meeting on 3-4 November will be eyed for further developments as well as further reaction to the EU agreement.

There are plenty of events to digest this week that could add to any market nervousness. In terms of central banks we do not expect to see any change in policy stance from the ECB, Federal Reserve or Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) this week but the decisions may be close calls. The ECB under the helm of new President Draghi will be under pressure to ease policy as growth momentum has clearly weakened but the Bank will likely hold off for the December meeting when new growth and inflation forecasts will be released.

The RBA may also take some solace from a better global economic and market climate but the market disagrees having priced in a cut this week. The Fed will look to see how ‘Operation Twist” is faring before moving again but recent indications from some Fed officials suggest growing support for purchases of mortgage backed securities.

On the data front eurozone inflation today will be the key number in Europe while the US jobs report at the end of the week will be the main release in the US. Ahead of the payrolls data, clues will be garnered from the ISM manufacturing data and ADP jobs report. The consensus is for a 95k increase in non-farm payrolls and the unemployment to remain at 9.1% maintaining the trend of only gradual improvement in the US jobs market.

Recent data releases have turned less negative, however, and at the least have helped to alleviate renewed recessionary concerns. Overall, I suspect that markets will come back down to the reality of slow growth and unanswered questions this week, with risk assets likely to lose steam over coming days.

Strengthening risk appetite hitting the dollar

Strengthening risk appetite is taking its toll on the USD, with the USD index now down around 3.5% from its 4 October peak. Although equity markets probably liked the news the USD was dealt another blow from the FOMC minutes which revealed that some Fed officials were keen on embarking on further large-scale asset purchases after recognizing that the impact of Operation Twist will not be so potent.

Earnings will have some impact on risk and in turn the USD, with Q3 earnings from JP Morgan and Google on tap today. However, risk appetite looks well supported and in a market that became long USDs very quickly, this suggests some scope for squaring long positions in the short term.

What comes next for the EUR? The currency has bounced from its lows and has made considerable ground against the USD over recent sessions. Markets quickly got over Slovakia’s initial rejection of the EFSF’s enhancement as agreement was reached by officials in the country to approve the mechanism in a second vote. However, there is not much news on the progress on issues such as European banking sector recapitalisation, ‘leveraging’ the EFSF or the any change in creditor participation in any Greek debt restructuring.

Although European Commission President Barroso gave some broad outlines of what should be done to recapitalise banks disagreement among officials meant that there was little detail. Perhaps no news is good news and in any case markets will have to wait for the delayed EU Summit for further news, but the longer the wait the greater the scepticism and attendant downside risks to EUR.

The Swiss National Bank must be content with their stance on the CHF. Since the imposition of a ceiling for CHF versus EUR at 1.2000, and after an initial sharp jump higher the currency pair has continued to edge upwards. Meanwhile, speculation that the SNB may even raise the ceiling to 1.30 has grown as domestic complaints such as those from the country’s largest telecoms operator yesterday about the ongoing strength in the currency, continue.

The SNB has not indicated that it favors such a move and may be content with a gradual decline in the CHF as is taking place now, but should the fragile market calm at present disintegrate the SNB may have another battle on their hands as appetite for the currency strengthens anew. On the top side resistance is seen around 1.2469 for EUR/CHF.

Like many other high beta currencies AUD is being influenced less by domestic factors and more by risk aversion. Even more influential to the direction of AUD/USD is the movement in commodity prices and like risk aversion this had a negative influence on AUD as commodity prices dropped sharply over September.

Due to a bounce in both risk and commodities AUD has bounced sharply from its recent lows back above parity with the USD. AUD will have found further support from the firm September jobs report today. It is difficult to go against rising risk appetite at present but there is still a significant risk that hopes of a solution to the eurozone’s woes do not materialise while growth expectations are pared back further. Against this background the AUD will remain susceptible to sharp

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