There was great anticipation ahead of Fed chair Powells speech in NY last night, where there were concerns that he may have attempted a tone down in the rate path going into 2019. Some will argue that this came off the back of political pressure, though some of the recent data show that aggressive USD buying to reflect economic outperformance in the US looks overstretched. Looking across the spectrum of major currencies, we can see the likes of AUD and NZD have redressed some of the excessive positioning in recent weeks, though all USD rates moved in tandem and to a similar degree in the North American session last night.
Rather than jumping in and assuming these moves would continue, we thought we would wait to gauge the reaction from liquid markets through Europe this morning. Price action this week will be heavily distorted from month-end flows, where USD demand is and was anticipated in light of rebalancing requirements after heavy losses in US stocks this month. Once the dust settles, we may have to wait until next week to get a true gauge of how current positioning will be affected by the latest Fed communication, with the benchmark 10r Note only now testing the $3.00% mark. In light of this, we would have anticipated a little more downside in USD/JPY specifically, though correlation traders will likely have been mesmerised by the relief rally in stocks which saw the Dow ramp 600pts, on par (in percentage terms) with the leading S&P. The NASDAQ regained some 200pts, though we should have anticipated the positive impact on stocks however temporary it may.
Into the weekend, fears over the Trump-Xi meeting should see some risk pairing, though it is now clear to see that equities need all the help they can get from any form of accommodation, and last night, Powell’s address proved that in spades.
In the background, the Fed is still (albeit very gradually) shrinking its balance sheet, so this slow retraction of cheap money should start to erode any near-term bonhomie seen in stocks. Eventually, we expect this to start impacting on the traditional safe havens such as the CHF and JPY, though I maintain that the latter is largely a case of repatriation risk as markets finally realise the US stocks are no longer the Golden Goose which keeps on giving. Naturally, emerging markets will even more vulnerable as USD liquidity contracts, so USD demand is also likely to hold up to some degree, but it is a matter of picking your targets. As above, we may see those currencies which have gained ground start to suffer.
More immediately, the EUR and GBP are easy targets for those looking to maintain a level of positive USD bias irrespective of the interest rate backdrop. Strength in the greenback is as much above safety as well as perceived demand from those burdened by USD based debt, so we expect to see a level of resilience in the face of some potential walk back from the Fed.
EUR/USD looks set to trade water in the 1.1200-1.1500 range in the meantime and we are far from comfortable in calling for a base in the leading spot rate as yet, with growth in Germany suffering from low export demand with the auto industry in the spotlight at the moment. Should we see the US offer an olive branch to the EU, then we could see a little more optimism here, but for now, sellers are ready and waiting to pick off rallies with pre 1.1400 a clear example this morning.
BP will remain pressured into the parliamentary vote set for next month. Few if any believe the current deal can pass in its current form, and at the very least, we expect the DUP to maintain their pressure on the PM to seek an alternative route. The threat of retracting their current confidence and supply agreement will further embolden the hardliners within the Tory party. Labour and SNP continue to argue for a second referendum as they see current membership more favourable than any proposed deal, and GBP traders smell blood once again as pressure on the 1.2660-1.2700 zone remains vulnerable, to say the least.
It is worth noting that speculative positioning seems relatively light based on the data at hand, and may explain some of the hold up seen ahead of 1.2700 in recent sessions. EUR/GBP, however, looks to be a more appealing play for a potentially bearish outcome, with growing calls for parity in the event of a disorderly EU withdrawal. Neither side wants that, no one wants that, but strong political red lines show a lack of flexibility which continues to heighten fears of a breakdown in the UK-EU relationship.