It was a day of surprises on Tuesday as the Bank of Japan (BoJ) not only created a JPY 5 trillion fund to buy domestic assets including JGBs but also cut interest rates to zero. Expect more measures to come in the fight against a stronger JPY and deflation. The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) also surprised markets by leaving its policy rate unchanged at 4.5% delaying another rate hike yet again despite expectations by many including ourselves of a 25bps rate hike.
The easier policy stance from the BoJ and RBA taken together with firmer service sector purchasing managers indices – including the September US ISM non-manufacturing survey, which came in at 53.2 from 51.5 – gave risk appetite a solid lift. Even the AUD which dropped sharply following the RBA decision, managed to recoup all of its losses and more overnight.
Japan’s decision could have set the ball rolling for a fresh round of quantitative easing (QE) from central banks as they combat sluggish growth prospects ahead and ongoing deflation risks. The US Fed as has been much speculated on and the Bank of England (BoE) are likely candidates for more QE. Whilst the European Central Bank (ECB) is unlikely to adopt such measures there are reports that board members are split over the timing of exit policy. The BoE decision on Thursday may provoke more interest than usual against this background although the Bank is unlikely to act so quickly. The Fed on the other hand appears to be gearing up for a November move.
Growing prospects of fresh QE looks likely to provide further impetus for risk trades. Notably commodity prices jumped higher, with the CRB commodities index at its highest level since the beginning of the year. Although there is plenty of attention on the gold price which yet a fresh record high above $1340 per troy ounce as well as tin which also hit new highs, the real stars were soft commodities including the likes of sugar, coffee and orange juice up sharply.
The main loser once again is the US dollar and this beleaguered currency appears to be finding no solace, with any rally continuing to be sold into, a pattern that is set to continue. Although arguably a lot is in the price in terms of QE expectations, clearly the fact that the USD continues to drop (alongside US bond yields) highlights that a lot does not mean that all is in the price.
The USD is set to remain under pressure against most currencies ahead of anticipated Fed QE. The fact that the USD has already dropped sharply suggests a less pronounced negative USD reaction once the Fed starts buying assets but the currency is still set to retain a weaker trajectory once the Fed USD printing press kicks into life again as a simple case of growing global USD supply will push the currency weaker.
USD weakness will only spur many central banks including across Asia to intervene more aggressively to prevent their respective currencies from strengthening. A “currency war” looms, a fact that could provoke some strong comments at this weekend’s IMF and World Bank meetings. In the meantime intervention by central banks will imply more reserves recycling, something that will continue to benefit currencies such as EUR and AUD.