US/China Tensions Escalate

Risk appetite starts the week in poor form. The shock announcement of 5% tariffs on all Mexican exports (from June 10) to the US and an intensification of tensions with China, have fuelled growing expectations of a worsening in the global growth outlook. Safe haven assets such as JPY and CHF are likely to remain in demand while core bond yields are likely to continue to move lower, with markets continuing to raise bets on Fed rate cuts this year.  Indeed the 10y US Treasury yield has dropped by 1.1% since 8 November last year, with the fall in yields accelerating over recent weeks.

US/China tensions escalated over the weekend, with the deputy head of China’s negotiating team, Wang Shouwen, accusing the US of “resorting to intimidation and coercion”.  This coincides with the increase in US tariffs on $200bn of Chinese goods coming into effect over the weekend as Chinese shipments reached US shores, while earlier on Saturday Chinese tariffs on $60bn of US exports came into effect.  There is also growing speculation that China may curb exports of rare earth exports to the US.

Wang accused the US of abusing export controls and persisting with “exorbitant” demands and insisting on “mandatory requirements that infringe on China’s sovereign affairs”.   Meanwhile China’s defence minister Wei Fenghe, said that China will “fight to the end” on trade if needed.  China is also starting to investigate foreign companies who have violated Chinese law.  Soon after Chinese state media reported that the government was investigating FedEx for allegedly “undermining the legitimate rights and interest” of its Chinese clients.

Attention this week will be on several central bank decisions including the ECB (6th June), RBA (4th June) and RBI (6th June).  The market is fully priced in for an RBA rate cut to 1.25% this week.  The ECB is unlikely to surprise, with no change in policy likely.  Attention will be on terms of the TLTRO III while ECB President Draghi is likely to sound dovish in his press conference.  RBI is set to cut policy rates again, with Friday’s release of weaker than expected Q1 GDP adding to pressure on the Reserve Bank to boost growth amid low inflation.

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Central banks in focus this week

Several central bank decisions are on tap this week including Japan (BoJ), Switzerland (SNB), Norway (Norges Bank), Brazil (BCB) and Thailand (BoT).  Among these only the Norges Bank looks likely to hike rates.

US data is largely second tier this week, with August housing data due for release.  After a run of weak readings a bounce back in starts and existing home sales is expected.   RBA minutes in Australia and NZ Q2 macro data are also in focus.

Political events will garner most attention, with the delayed announcement on China tariffs ($200bn) possible as early as today after being delayed due to the consideration of revisions raised via public comment.  Another twist in the saga is that China is considering declining the US offer of trade talks given the recent Trump threat of fresh tariffs (WSJ).

Other political events include Japan’s LDP election and US trade negotiations (assuming China participates) at the end of the week.   A few Brexit events this week include the General Affairs Council and Informal EU Summit.

 

AUD supported but be wary of profit taking

AUD/USD broke above its 200 day moving average (0.9137) encouraged by upbeat comments about economic growth prospects from Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Stevens. The fact that AUD remains supported despite higher risk aversion overnight is encouraging.

A run of better than expected data including Q4 GDP, retail sales, trade and jobs report have underpinned the currency. Additionally bad news is good in the case of the China impact on AUD as weaker data has led to growing expectations of a stimulus package to boost China’s economy.

Against the background of some improvement in risk appetite, and low volatility, the AUD looks like an attractive bet. My view has been consistently constructive on the AUD over past months and I remain of the view that there are further gains in store although in the near term profit taking is expect to emerge around resistance at AUD/USD 0.9342.

AUD the “Teflon” currency

Despite further concerns about Chinese growth, following the release of the much worse than expected trade data over the weekend, AUD continues to hold gains above 0.90. Additionally declines in key commodities such as iron ore have done little to dent the enthusiasm for AUD. In this respect, AUD is fast becoming the new “Teflon” currency, helped by the neutral stance of the Reserve Bank of Australia and recently positive domestic data such as building approvals, Q4 GDP and January trade data.

The next major test for AUD will be Thursday’s release of the February jobs report. Clearly there has been a worsening in jobs conditions but the worst is likely over and after a decline in employment over the last couple of months some rebound is expected (our forecast +20k, consensus +15k).

AUD is set to consolidate over the near term, with technical support seen around 0.8980.

No surprises from RBA

AUD was restrained ahead of the RBA meeting overnight but the unchanged policy decision and accompanying statement are set to leave the currency unperturbed. As reflected in the uptick in the February TD Securities inflation reading yesterday to 2.7% YoY the central bank has limited room for easier policy despite weaker job market conditions. Moreover, the RBA appears to be less concerned about the level of the AUD, and despite noting that the AUD remains high by historical standards there was no comment today about expecting further declines in the currency. Overall the statement was similar to last month.

AUD has held up well even in the face of weaker Chinese data and will face little damage from today’s RBA outcome, with strong support around AUD/USD 0.8821 and resistance around 0.8990.

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AUD hit by weak jobs data

AUD has been one of the best performing major currencies so far in February. Better than expected Chinese trade data released yesterday was a boon for the AUD given Australia’s strong trade links with China. Moreover, as markets have backed away from RBA policy easing expectations AUD has gained a sound footing.

Positive sentiment for the AUD was dashed today however, following the release of January jobs data which came in worse than expected at -3.7k versus +15k consensus. The details were weak too, with the unemployment rate rising to a 10 year high of 6% and participation rate dropping to 64.5%.

The data will clearly restrain AUD in the short term, but is unlikely to spark renewed risks of further policy easing given a rise in inflation pressures. In this respect, AUD is set to continue to show some resilience over coming weeks. Near term AUD/USD support is seen around 0.8915.

AUDjobs

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RBA statement bullish for AUD

AUDIMM

AUD has held up relatively well considering the pressure on risk currencies in general. The fact that speculative positioning in AUD has already fallen to extreme levels suggests 1) scope for further downside is limited and 2) AUD could bounce strongly in the event of good news.

In the event, the RBA unsurprisingly left policy rates unchanged but focussed attention on the recent rise in inflation. The RBA highlighted in its accompanying statement that inflation has been higher than forecast. Moreover, the RBA does not appear to be actively talking the AUD down but highlighting the benefits of past AUD weakness if sustained.

Overall, the statement is bullish for the AUD especially as it appears to confirm that the policy easing cycle is over. Consequently the bounce in AUD following the rate decision is likely to be strong.

AUD/USD technical support is seen around 0.8660, with resistance at 0.8889.

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