The Reserve Bank of Australia also has a monetary policy announcement and the majority of economists surveyed expect the RBA to cut interest rates by 25bp but we feel that a rate cut is not a done deal. The last time we heard from the RBA they sounded open to the idea of easing if data supports it but since the last meeting in July, manufacturing activity accelerated, consumer prices increased, full time job growth rebounded, business confidence improved and the participation rate is up as shown in the table below. Granted consumer confidence is down and the unemployment rate ticked up, we’re not sure if this is enough for the RBA to pull the trigger on easing in August. The AiG Performance of Manufacturing Index rose to 56.4 vs. 51.8 previous. Chinese PMI numbers were mixed. The official manufacturing PMI showed a decline from 50 to 49.9. The Caixin Manufacturing PMI reading registered an increase in activity, coming in at 50.6 vs. 48.9 expected. Australia’s trade balance and building approvals report will be released pre-RBA but the rate decision will be key. If the RBA cuts, AUD/USD will drop below 0.75 cents quickly but if they hold rates steady, we should see Monday’s high of 0.7615 recaptured.
Taking a look at the day to day change in the U.S. dollar, it may seem that there was very little consistency in the performance of the greenback ahead of Wednesday’s monetary policy announcement. However if we isolate the price action to the U.S. session, the dollar moved higher against most of the major currencies. This morning’s U.S. economic reports were mostly better than expected with consumer confidence beating expectations and new home sales rising sharply. Service sector activity slowed according to Markit Economics and house prices dropped slightly but that was not enough to deter investors from buying dollars pre-FOMC. During a time when central banks around the world are actively talking about and planning for easing, the Federal Reserve’s hawkish bias will shine a bright light on the dollar. Many feared that the Fed would give up on the idea of tightening after Brexit but as we have seen U.S. markets and the U.S. economy have proven to be fairly resilient.
The following table shows more improvements than deterioration in the U.S. economy since the June Fed meeting. Retail sales increased, non-farm payrolls rebounded strongly with job growth rising 287k in June, the housing market is chugging along, manufacturing and service sector activity are on the rise. U.S. stocks also hit record highs while plunging U.S. yields provide support to the economy. The currency has strengthened across the board but the strongest gains were against the British pound. We’ve also heard from a number of FOMC voters since Brexit and they still seemed to support the idea of tightening. The FOMC statement generally reflects the views of the Fed leadership (Yellen, Fischer and Dudley) and it is likely to recognize the improvements in the economy since June. Of course, there will still be notes of caution and everything will be “data dependent” but we expect the main takeaway to be that a 2016 rate hike remains on the table. The Fed needs to move forward with policy normalization and they can’t wait around for the U.K. to invoke Article 50 which could take up to 2 years. So we expect the dollar to trade higher into and after FOMC. There won’t be fireworks but there could still be some quick trading opportunities.
Over the past few trading days we have seen a very nice breakout in USD/JPY. The move was driven entirely by expectations for this week’s Bank of Japan meeting. There are reports that the BoJ could introduce negative lending rates to complement negative deposit rates.
With the Japanese economy struggling under the weight of a strong Yen and slower global growth and speculators holding a record amount of long yen positions, the chance of easing by the BoJ is high. Take a look at how Japan’s economy changed since the March meeting in the table below.
The Japanese avoided intervening in the currency market when USD/JPY dipped below 108 because they prefer monetary intervention and their next opportunity to help the economy comes next week. With traders so aggressively short USD/JPY, this news could lead to more aggressive short covering ahead of and on the back of the BoJ rate decision.
Between an emergency Fed meeting, the Bank of England and Bank of Canada monetary policy announcements, US retail sales, Chinese GDP, Australian employment, UK consumer prices and a host of other tier 1 event risks, there are no shortages of events that could drive big moves in currencies.
However, the #1 driver of FX flows this week will be risk appetite. That could be driven by the swings in commodity prices, the volatility in equities, Chinese and/or US data. At the end of this week on Sunday there’s a production freeze meeting in Doha and we are already beginning to see headlines about some producers refusing to cut production. One of the main reasons why commodity prices are performing so well this morning is because crude oil is above $40 a barrel.
Chinese data will also be important. Consumer prices were released last night and the stronger report propelled AUD/USD above 76 cents. Tuesday evening, Wednesday morning local time Chinese trade numbers are scheduled for release and on Thursday evening / Friday morning, Chinese industrial production, retail sales and Q1 GDP numbers are due. We are beginning to see signs of stabilization in the world’s 2nd largest economy but according to China Premier Li, the downside pressure on the economy remains.
And of course there’s Wednesday’s U.S. retail sales report – the market detests dollars but a blowout report could help to turn things around.
Keep an eye on the VIX:
Top Forex Themes for 2016
Since the next two weeks are generally the quietest periods in the financial markets, we want to take this opportunity to think longer term and share with you our currency forecasts for 2016. We’ll start with an initial review of the top themes and explore them in further detail as the week progresses in our outlook for each of the major currencies.
But first – 2015 has been a big year for the foreign exchange market. Divergences in monetary policies led to strong moves in currencies with the U.S. dollar as the best performer. The U.S. saw its first rate hike in nearly a decade while other major central banks in the Eurozone, China, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan eased. In response, the greenback climbed to multiyear highs and this strength translated into significant weakness for many major currencies along with a collapse for commodities. These are some of the milestones reached in currencies this year:
The greatest risk for the financial markets and the global economy in the coming year is the feedback loop from the dollar and Fed policy.
While the quarter point hike in December represents only a nominal increase in U.S. rates, the Federal Reserve expects to tighten 4 additional times next year which will have broad ramifications for currencies, equities and commodities. In mid-December, we published a piece outlining the Consequences of a Strong Dollar and a lot of these issues will return to focus in 2016.
The first few months of the year should be good for the dollar as long as Fed officials don’t backtrack on their hawkish views.
There will be more hawks voting on the FOMC in 2016 than 2015 so the balance swings in favor of continued tightening. Between the warm El Nino weather and gas prices below $2.00 a gallon in some states, consumer spending should also rise in the first quarter. So while the dollar is rich, the path of least resistance is still in higher. However our outlook changes in the second half of 2016 as we believe rate hikes and the strong dollar will force the Fed to slow tightening makring the top for the greenback and the bottom for other major currencies.
Here are some of the themes that we are looking for in 2016: