The European Central Bank’s monetary policy announcement is the most important event risk on the calendar this week. Aside from the rate decision, the central bank also releases its latest economic projections which helps to shape future policy plans. ECB President Draghi is expected to remind investors that inflation is low, the economy is weak and easier monetary policy may be needed. Consumer spending has been particularly soft, manufacturing and trade activity took a hit after Brexit and most importantly, inflation remains well below target with year over year core CPI growth slipping to 0.8% from 0.9% in August. However there have also been areas of improvement namely in business confidence, German spending and German stocks. Some are hoping for more QE but at most we expect the ECB to extend its asset purchase program beyond March 2017.
As usual the EUR/USD there will be different phases to the currency pair’s post ECB reaction. First, if there is no new QE, EUR/USD will jump. Then the second and more sustained reaction of the day will depend on the ECB’s guidance and their staff forecasts – most likely these will be dovish which means weakness for the euro. However if there is no QE and Draghi stresses that they are in wait and see mode, the gains in EUR/USD will be sustained and of course if there is new QE, EUR/USD will drop to 1.11.
Tomorrow’s Bank of England meeting is one of the most important events this month. Back in July, U.K. policymakers made their plans to ease in August abundantly clear and now that the time has come, sterling has been surprisingly stable. By giving investors sufficient warning, the market had the opportunity to completely discount a 25bp rate cut and the question now is if the BoE will do more. They could cut interest rates by 50bp or they could combine a quarter point cut with renewed bond buying. Quantitative Easing was a critical part of the BoE’s monetary policy during the financial crisis but with interest rates already so low, the effectiveness of QE is in question. Many economists believe they will revive the program but not this week. Since Britain decided to leave the European Union, the Bank of England has taken major steps to stabilize the financial markets and encourage lending – and so far it has worked! Stocks are stable, yields have increased and the doomsday sentiment in the market is fading. A lot of this has to do with the U.K. government’s decision to postpone invoking Article 50 for the next year or two, reducing the immediate risk for businesses. This means the central bank can wait to ease again when there is a greater evidence of a deep contraction in the economy.
Taking a look at the table above, there’s certainly been more deterioration than improvement in the U.K. economy since the July monetary policy meeting. However wages are up, the unemployment rate is down and consumer prices are ticking higher. Second quarter GDP growth was also better than expected. Although manufacturing, services and the composite PMI indices fell sharply in July, this morning’s numbers were not revised lower after the flash release. When the Bank of England releases their Quarterly Inflation Report tomorrow, their forecasts will be grim – policymakers previously warned of a possible recession post Brexit. Governor Mark Carney won’t have anything positive to say outside of acknowledging financial market stabilization. Yet economic and financial conditions are not desperate enough for the Bank of England to rekindle their QE program.
In other words, we feel that the Bank of England doesn’t need to send a strong message to the market right now outside of a 25bp rate cut and a stern warning of more easing in the coming months. If we are right, we could see a bigger short squeeze in GBP/USD that will allow investors to reset their short positions at higher levels. The U.K. is not out of the woods, as growth will only slow further in the coming months / years because the U.K. government is simply delaying the inevitable. If they cut by 50bp or restart their bond buying program, sterling will fall quickly and aggressively.
Here are my Main Takeaways from the June ECB Announcement and Mario Draghi’s Press Conference – will update if needed.
Top Takeaways from ECB
- ECB Hikes 2016 GDP and Inflation Forecasts
- More Stimulus on the way – Corporate Bond Purchases Begin June 8, TLTRO Begins June 22
- ECB Expects Extra Impetus from Stimulus Yet to Hit
- Low Oil Prices are Helping but Q2 Growth May be Slower than Q1
- Not Seeing Significant Wage Pressures of Second Round Inflation Effects
- ECB Still in Wait and See Mode – Needs to See Full Impact of Stimulus, Maintains Dovish Bias
- BUT If Financial Conditions Tighten Significantly, they Stand Ready to Act
- Global Economy and Brexit Main Risks for EZ
May was a very strong month for the U.S. dollar and that was no surprise to our readers because we shared this chart at the beginning of the month showing how well the dollar performs in May. With last month’s gains, the positive seasonal bias continued for 7 straight years but on this first day of June, we are more interested in how seasonality affects currencies in the new month.
Which is why we updated our seasonality tables –
As you can see, there’s a negative bias for the Dollar Index in June. After strong performance in May, profit taking tends to drive the greenback lower in June. The seasonal trends are strongest for GBP/USD, EUR/USD and AUD/USD. However the gains in general are relatively modest with the dollar giving back only part of the past month’s moves.
Seasonal trends are important but with the Federal Reserve poised to make a major decision in June and the U.K. holding a referendum on E.U. membership – this year’s unique factors could easily overshadow seasonal trends. With that in mind, if the U.K. votes to remain in the European Union (and we think they will), the corresponding relief rally could drive the dollar lower against sterling and other high beta currencies.
Thursday’s ECB meeting is one of the most important event risk this week. EURO has been biding its time trading between 1.1235 and 1.1475 pre-ECB. Which end of this range breaks hinges upon Mario Draghi’s tone. If he’s concerned about the strong euro and talks about the possibility of more stimulus, then 1.1235 could give. If he simply says they need more time to see the effects of stimulus and points to recent data improvements as a sign of their easing measures working, euro could break 1.1400 and aim for recent highs.
The following table shows how the eurozone economy changed since the ECB last met – from a data perspective, the central bank has less to worry about in April vs. March when there was significantly more deterioration than improvement. So the question is whether the 3 to 6 cent rise (depending where you’re measuring from) in EURO since easing rings alarm bells for the central bank.