Most pundits were, quite frankly, floored
That leaving the ECB Board
Was one of the hawks
Who tired of talks
‘bout QE the Germans abhorred
The dollar is stronger than where I left it Tuesday evening after a rally in yesterday’s NY session. Determining the catalyst for that rally has been difficult given the only economic data of note was New Home Sales (713K), which while quite strong are generally not seen as market moving, and the limited commentary overheard. However, there are three things that conspired, I believe, to drive the dollar higher.
First was the surprise resignation of Sabine Lautenschlaeger from the ECB Executive Board. Ms. Lautenschlaeger was one of the most ardent hawks on the ECB and was quite vocal that there was no need to resume QE at the current time. In fact, she had been proffering that message since the last meeting when Mario first hinted that QE2 was on the table. In the end, though, she was not able to garner enough support to dissuade Signor Draghi from going ahead with it, and it appears she decided that her voice was no longer taken into consideration. Whomever is chosen as her replacement is almost certain to have less hawkish views, and so the market recognized that the tone of the ECB has turned more dovish. A dovish ECB is likely to result in easier policies and correspondingly a weaker euro.
We also heard from Chicago Fed President Charles Evans, a known dove, who indicated that he saw no reason for further rate cuts this year. It appears that he was one of the dots in the middle, comfortable with last week’s cut but calling it quits then. He highlighted that if the economy deteriorated for some reason, he would not be against further cuts, but at the present time, they were not necessary. So, a Fed dove was mildly hawkish, helping cement the idea that the Fed was less likely to cut rates again this year. This can only be seen as dollar bullish.
Finally, we have the calendar as we approach quarter-end and the financing requirements necessary for banks and other financial firms when they report positions. The stricter regulatory environment that has been in place since the financial crisis means that there is an increased demand for dollars on virtually every institution’s balance sheet. That is one reason we have seen issues within the Fed Funds market with all the discussion about the Fed’s repo facility and recent activities. However, there are many institutions that simply buy dollars in order to put their balance sheet in order.
Add them all up, and you have the makings of a dollar rally, which has seen the euro decline 0.85% since yesterday morning, the pound fall 1.2% and the yen fall 0.5%. Granted, the pound has its own issues relating to Boris’s return to Parliament and the inflamed rhetoric on both sides of the aisle there leading to an increase in belief that a hard Brexit is still possible. But the tell that this is simply a dollar rally and not a risk off event is the fact that the yen fell sharply, alongside a rally in equities and decline in the bond market.
The question at this time is whether the rally continues, or if it was merely a one-day event. At this point, the evidence seems to indicate that a slow continuation of the dollar rally is the most likely outcome. Certainly, there will be nothing hawkish coming from ECB policymakers as the hawks seem more willing to quit than continue to lose their battle. Eurozone data continues to implode and another key German institute, the DIW Institute, announced its expectation that when German GDP for Q3 is released on November 14, it will show growth at -0.2%, the second consecutive decline and put Germany in a technical recession. As an aside, it is interesting to see just how crucial the idea of monetary discipline is to Germans, in general, and German bankers in particular. Despite the fact that Germany probably has the weakest growth in the Eurozone, its ECB members are amongst the most hawkish. If that ever changes, you can be sure the euro will fall far more rapidly!
As to the Fed, it seems to me that there is a clear level of comfort developing on the FOMC that two cuts were sufficient in the current circumstances to stanch any bleeding in the economy, and barring an escalation in the trade war, they seem ready to stand pat. If that is the case, then dollars will retain their relative attractiveness. And of course, the calendar is beyond all our reach, but we will need to see if Friday, when the spot value date turns to October 1, whether or not there is reduced demand for the greenback. My sense is that pressure will dissipate quickly, and possibly reverse as those dollars are seen as short-term needs. But for the rest of the day, I think the dollar has room to run a little further.
Turning to today’s session, we do get the final reading of Q2 GDP (exp 2.0%) as well as the ancillary data that comes with that report. I always look at the Personal Consumption component (4.7%) as the best measure of demand, so keep an eye there. And of course, we get Initial Claims (212K), but that series’ stability has been extraordinary and largely taken it out of the conversation. If we do start to see that rise, however, beware of weakening nonfarm numbers and a lot more dovish rhetoric from the Fed.
As to the Fed, we have six, count ‘em, speakers today with nary a hawk in sight. As such, amongst Kaplan, Bullard, Clarida, Daly, Kashkari and Barkin, I expect rationales as to why another rate cut or two makes sense, or at the very least highlights of weakening global growth and impending problems like Brexit which require easier Fed policy as a response. However, given they are all known on the dovish side, I don’t think it matters that much. For now, I don’t see anything derailing the dollar and look for a modest further increase throughout the session.