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.
For the past four trading days, the British pound has been stuck in a 200 pip range against the U.S. dollar and a 115 pip range against the Euro. However the bottom of the range in both the GBP/USD and EUR/USD have been broken, leading currency traders to wonder if the larger range will be tested as well. For the GBP/USD, this would be a break of the 1.6750 or 1.60 level and for EUR/GBP, the levels to watch are 85 and 87 cents.
Despite the 1 percent drop in the EUR/USD today, the GBP/USD has been relatively unchanged. One month GBP/USD volatilities have fallen to the lowest level since September 2008. Such a sharp contraction in volatility usually suggests that a breakout is imminent. The only question is, in which direction. Here are some sound arguments in favor of an upside or downside breakout.
Arguments for upside breakout in GBP/USD
– Housing market continues to show signs of stabilization, house prices rise for first time in 2009
– Break of 86 cents in EUR/GBP could lead to GBP buying
– Ascending triangle formation
– Moving averages are in “perfect order” which favor a new uptrend
Arguments for downside breakout in GBP/USD
**Update on 6/30/09 at 1:30pm – GBP/JPY hit an intraday high of 160.27, hopefully you were able to bank some pips on this trade. The reversal candle that we have right now suggests that we could see a deeper pullback to 156.
We have a nice upside breakout in GBP/JPY this morning that has been driven by the strong rally in equities.
Tomorrow is also the end of the month, quarter and half year which means that fixing flows could lead erratic intraday activity over the next 24 hours. Typically fixing flows are partially based upon relative performance of stock markets over the past month, but because tomorrow is the month and quarter end, we could see divergent buying patterns by fund managers. This is because on a monthly basis, the S&P 500 outperformed the German DAX and U.K. FTSE but underperformed the Nikkei. On a quarterly basis however it underperformed the DAX and Nikkei but outperformed the FTSE. If the month and quarter to date performance were in line directionally, the fixing flows would be easier to predict.
However U.K. stock markets have dramatically underperformed Japanese equities which should pave for GBP/JPY buying over the next 24 hours. First quarter GDP revisions and the current account balance are also due for release tomorrow. The trade deficit narrowed in the first 3 months of the year, which means that the current account deficit should have narrowed.
Technicals, fundamentals and flow point to the strong potential for further gains in GBP/JPY
For you technicians, hopefully you have caught the major break in GBP/JPY today.
Carry trades use to be one of the most popular trading strategies for retail forex traders, but in the past year, that has changed significantly. The Japanese have always been the biggest buyers of carry trades but having been burned significantly, they are finally starting to cut their losses. According to the latest data from the Tokyo Financial Exchange (TFX), one of Japan’s largest retail FX brokers, traders have become a net seller of GBP/JPY (Related: Japanese Retail FX Positioning).
After hitting a high above 250 in July 2007, GBP/JPY has fallen 48 percent. The positioning data suggests that the Japanese have been sitting with their long carry trade positions for as long as they can and now that interest rate differentials have compressed so significantly, they are finally bailing. At TFX, 69 percent of all GBP/JPY transactions as of Feb 3, 2009 is to sell the currency pair.
Although, many of the other yen crosses have also depreciated significantly over the past year, Japanese investors have been hesitant of shorting carry trades aggressively because they still have to pay interest on any short positions. With GBP/JPY however the interest rate differential rate differential is falling and falling fast. As the cost of shorting carry trades fall, we could see more interest from Japanese retail traders. In the meantime however, for the pairs that still have higher interest rate differentials like AUD/JPY and NZD/JPY, short positions will not be held long.