The head of the Fed, Chairman Jay
Implied there might be a delay
In how far the Fed
Will push rates ahead
Lest policy does go astray
Meanwhile, his Euro counterpart,
Herr Draghi’s had no change of heart
He claims, come December
QE he’ll dismember
Despite slower growth in Stuttgart
In what can only be seen as quite a twist on the recent storylines, Wednesday’s US CPI data was soft enough to give pause to Chairman Powell as in two consecutive speeches he highlighted the fact that the US economy is facing some headwinds now, and that may well change the rate trajectory of the Fed. While there was no indication of any change coming in December, where a 25bp rate hike is baked in, there is much more discussion about only two rate hikes next year, rather than the at least three that had been penciled in by the Fed itself back in September. Powell mentioned the slowing growth story internationally, as well as the winding down of fiscal stimulus as two potential changes to the narrative. Finally, given that the Fed has already raised rates seven times, he recognized that the lagged effects of the Fed’s own policies may well lead to slower growth. The dollar has had difficulty maintaining its bid from the past several weeks, and this is clearly the primary story driving that change of heart.
At the same time, Signor Draghi, in a speech this morning, reiterated that the risks to growth in the Eurozone were “balanced”, his code word to reassure the market that though recent data was soft, the ECB is going to end QE in December, and as of now, raise rates next September. Now, there is a long time between now and next September, and it is not hard to come up with some scenarios whereby the Eurozone economy slows much more rapidly. For example, the combination of a hard Brexit and increased US tariffs on China could easily have a significant negative impact on the Eurozone economy, undermining the recent growth story as well as the recent (alleged) inflation story. For now, Draghi insists that all is well, but at some point, if the data doesn’t cooperate, then the ECB will be forced to change its tune. His comments have helped support the euro modestly today, but the euro’s value is a scant 0.1% higher than its close yesterday.
Adding to the anxiety in the market overall is the quickening collapse of the Brexit situation, where it seems the math is getting much harder for PM May to get the just agreed deal through Parliament. Yesterday’s sharp decline in the pound, more than 1.5%, has been followed by a modest rebound, but that seems far more likely to be a trading event rather than a change of heart on the fundamentals. In my view, there are many more potential negatives than positives likely to occur in the UK at this point. A hard Brexit, a Tory rebellion ousting May, and even snap elections with the chance for a PM Corbyn all would seem to have negative overtones for the pound. The only thing, at this time, that can support the currency is if May somehow gets her deal agreed in Parliament. It feels like a low probability outcome, and that implies that the pound will be subject to more sharp declines over time.
Pivoting to the Emerging markets, the trade story with China continues to drive equity markets, or at least all the rumors about the trade story do that. While it seems that there are mid-level conversations between the two nations ahead of the scheduled meeting between Trump and Xi later this month, we continue to hear from numerous peanut gallery members about whether tariffs are going to be delayed or increased in size. This morning’s story is no deal is coming and 25% tariffs are on their way come January 1. It is no surprise that equity futures are pointing lower in the US. Look for CNY to soften as well, albeit not significantly so. The movement we saw last week was truly unusual.
Other EMG stories show that Mexico, the Philippines and Indonesia all raised base rates yesterday, although the currency impacts were mixed. Mexico’s was widely anticipated, so the 0.5% decline this morning seems to be a “sell the news” reaction. The Philippines surprised traders, however, and their peso was rewarded with a 0.5% rally. Interestingly, Bank Indonesia was not widely expected to move, but the rupiah has actually suffered a little after the rate hike. Go figure.
Yesterday’s US data arguably leaned to the strong side with only the Philly Fed number disappointing while Empire State and Retail Sales were both quite strong. This morning brings IP (exp 0.2%) and Capacity Utilization (78.2%), although these data points typically don’t impact the FX market.
As the week comes to a close, it appears the dollar is going to remain under some pressure on the back of the newly evolving Fed narrative regarding a less aggressive monetary policy. However, if we see a return of more severe equity market weakness, the dollar remains the haven of choice, and a reversal of the overnight moves can be expected.
Good luck and good weekend