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For the first time since March 2003, the Dow Jones Industrial Average broke 8000 at the open of the US markets. However just as quickly as stocks dropped 600 points, it recovered more than half of its losses in the first 15 minutes of trading and actually moved into positive territory 35 minutes into the trading session. The capitulation followed by the major short squeeze suggests that we may have seen a near term bottom. This type of volatility drove the VIX index to a record high of 70.
Currency Traders Waiting for the Buying Opportunity
Interestingly enough, we have not seen much of a reaction in the currency market. This suggests that the capitulation is only in stocks and traders are waiting for the bounce to get in. The day is early so many things can change and equities could sell off again, but for the time being, it appears that the buyers of EUR/USD, GBP/USD and USD/JPY are sitting on the sidelines waiting to get in. If stocks start bottoming out, carry trades could actually bounce today. No one will want to be short carry ahead of the G7 and G20 meeting this weekend – we expect a bounce.
Pessimism in Uncharted Territories
Pessimism in the market has hit uncharted territories with the TED spread reaching another record high. This indicates that liquidity remains a problem and unfortunately confidence in the markets is tied to liquidity. Lehman has a CDS auction today and the rumor in the markets is that governments could resort to temporarily shutting down equity trading. This seems nearly impossible by theory, but it is certainly becoming a growing possibility. There is nothing more coveted than cash right now and the continued hemorrhaging will force the G7 and G20 into action. It will be another long weekend for US Treasury Secretary Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. There is even talk that the US is considering a guarantee of bank debt.
G7 Meeting – Most Significant Since 1985 Plaza Accord
Finance Ministers have arrived in Washington for the G7 meeting while the G20 meeting is scheduled for the weekend. This will be the most significant G7 / G20 meeting since the 1985 Plaza Accord which marked a major turning point for the US dollar. The consequences of inaction are severe, so we expect a big announcement this weekend if not sooner.
In 1985, the 5 nations attending the event agreed to intervene in the currency markets and to sell US dollars to reduce the US current account deficit and to pull the US economy out of a serious recession. FX intervention is still on the table, but it remains to be seen whether even that step will enough to surprise the markets.
How Low Can Stocks Go?
The Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen to the lowest level in 5 years. Since its peak in October 2007, the Dow has fallen close to 40 percent. The worst financial crisis prior to the current one was the Wall Street Crash of 1929, which led to the Great Depression. Stocks started selling off in October 1929 with the big crash happening on October 29th of that year. Equities did not bottom out until July 1932, after the Dow lost 89 percent of its value. These are scary figures but it provides a perspective on how bad things have gotten in the past. We sincerely hope that this doesn’t happen, but the lower equities fall, the greater the decline in USD/JPY and carry trades.