US dollar weakness providing relief

The US dollar index has weakened since mid-August 2018 although weakness in the broad trade weighted USD has become more apparent since the beginning of this month.  Despite a further increase in US yields, 10 year treasury yields have risen in recent weeks to close to 3.1%, the USD has surprisingly not benefited.  It is not clear what is driving USD weakness but improving risk appetite is likely to be a factor. Markets have been increasingly long USDs and this positioning overhang has also acted as a restraint on the USD.

Most G10 currencies have benefitted in September, with The Swedish krona (SEK), Norwegian Krone (NOK) and British pound (GBP) gaining most.  The Japanese yen (JPY) on the other hand has been the only G10 currency to weaken this month as an improvement in risk appetite has led to reduced safe haven demand for the currency.

In Asia most currencies are still weaker versus the dollar over September, with the Indian rupee leading the declines.  Once again Asia’s current account deficit countries (India, Indonesia, and Philippines) have underperformed most others though the authorities in all three countries have become more aggressive in terms of trying to defend their currencies.  Indeed, The Philippines and Indonesia are likely to raise policy interest rates tomorrow while the chance of a rate hike from India’s central bank next week has risen.

As the USD weakens it will increasingly help many emerging market currencies.   The likes of the Argentinian peso, Turkish lira and Brazilian real have been particularly badly beaten up, dropping 51.3%, 38.5% and 18.8%, respectively this year.  Although much of the reason for their declines have been idiosyncratic in nature, USD weakness would provide a major source of relief.  It’s too early to suggest that this drop in the USD is anything more than a correction especially given the proximity to the Fed FOMC decision later, but early signs are positive.



US dollar buoyed by higher yields, Asian currencies hit

Efforts by the European Central Bank and Bank of England to disassociate themselves from Fed policy actions were overwhelmed by the US June jobs report which revealed a bigger than consensus 195k increase in payrolls and upward revisions to previous months. The data reinforced expectations that the Federal Reserve would begin tapering in September while the data also pushed US yields sharply higher (close to 23 basis points increase in US 10 year yields following the data) and fuelling further USD strength.

In fairness attempts by the ECB and BoE to introduce ‘forward guidance” may eventually garner some success but US yields will continue to dictate market direction, at least until the markets successfully transition to the reality of Fed tapering, which could take several weeks. During the interim expect transitional volatility to continue, with risk assets globally remaining under pressure.

Further detail on Fed policy will be looked for from within the minutes of the June FOMC meeting to be released on Wednesday although it is unlikely that there will be any real divergence from the message delivered by Fed Chairman Bernanke and a host of other Fed officials over recent weeks. Consequently the USD is likely to retain a broadly firm tone as it reacts to the sharp move higher in US yields at the end of last week.

The Bank of Japan will likely be emboldened in its ultra easy monetary policy stance following last week’s ECB and BoE announcements although no further policy action is likely at this week’s meeting as attention shifts to Japan’s Upper House elections on 21 July. The JPY in particular will remain susceptible to USD strength and widening yield differentials, with potential to test USD/JPY resistance around 102.45 this week.

European attention will centre on Greece and Portugal as the former will be the focus of discussions at the Eurogroup / Ecofin meetings today and tomorrow, with officials set to deliberate Greece’s bailout. Attempts in Portugal to resolve political differences between the main coalition parties appears to have garnered some success in a deal which could stave off fresh elections. None of this will help the EUR which is set to remain under pressure as it edges towards support levels at 1.2744 versus USD.

USD strength will also continue to be exhibited versus Asian currencies this week. Equity fund outflows continue to damage regional currencies lower. Since the end of May Asia has recorded around USD 15.4 billion in equity outflows. Total inflows this year have dropped to only around USD 3.6 billion. A renewed fall in the JPY will added pressure to more JPY sensitive currencies such as TWD and KRW but the overwhelming influence is higher US yields and capital outflows which will continue to have particularly negative impact on currencies with external funding needs, especially the INR and IDR.

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