As summer recedes
JGB rates have collapsed
As we approach the unofficial end of summer with the Labor Day holiday weekend, it seems the BOJ is finally responding to the fact that their yield curve control policy has been dismissed by the market for basically all of August. A brief history shows that ordinary QE had lost its ability to impact the Japanese economy by September 2016, by which time the BOJ owned about 40% of JGB’s outstanding and thus destroyed any sense of it being a true market. At that point, they introduced yield curve control in an attempt to insure that 10-year yields didn’t rise prematurely. Initially they set a range of +/-0.10% around zero, where if the 10-year traded outside the range they would step in and push it back. Last year they widened that range to +/-0.20%, and up until the beginning of this month, things were working smoothly.
Then the global bond rally gathered steam and JGB’s were not exempt with 10-year yields falling to -0.30% at one point earlier this week, well below the lower bound. Remarkably, the BOJ did nothing, calling into question their commitment to yield curve control. As it turns out, last night they finally acted, reducing the quantity of bonds to be purchased monthly going forward by a significant ¥50 trillion. JGB yields did rally 3bps initially, but closed the session only 1bp higher and still well below the lower bound. As I have been writing, this is simply further proof that the central banks have run out of effective monetary policy tools. As to the impact on the yen, overnight has seen a very modest strengthening of just 0.15%. For the month, however, the increase in risk aversion has seen the yen outperform every other currency in the world, rallying 2.1% against the dollar, and more against most others. While I continue to view the dollar in a positive light going forward, I also continue to see further gains for the yen against all comers.
The hawks at the ECB fear
That not only rate cuts are near
So this week they’ve shrieked
Though rates might be tweaked
That QE has no place this year
Meanwhile, from Europe we had the third of the Three Hawksketeers in the ECB on the tape overnight, Klaas Knot the President of the Dutch central bank. In line with his German colleagues Sabine Lautenschlager and Jens Weidmann, he said that while a cut in interest rates could make sense here, there is absolutely no cause for the reinitiation of QE at this time. That is to be used in dire emergencies (perhaps like a hard Brexit?). This sets up quite a battle for Signor Draghi at his penultimate meeting next month, where other ECB members, Finland’s Ollie Rehn notably, have already called for ‘impactful’ actions implying he wants to over deliver on market expectations.
The market response to the Knot comments was muted at best with Bunds and Dutch bonds seeing yields actually fall 0.5bps in today’s trade. However, that could also be a response to this morning’s Eurozone CPI data where the headline printed at 1.0%, as expected but still miles from their target of “just below 2.0%”. Of more concern though was the core number which surprisingly fell to 0.9%, adding to the case for further stimulus, at least in the ECB’s collective modeling minds. And the euro? Well it has continued its slow and steady decline this month, falling another 0.2% and now trading at its lowest level since May 2017. It continues to be very difficult to make a case for the euro to rebound significantly anytime soon. And despite the Three Hawksketeers, I am more and more convinced that QE starts up again next month. Look for further declines in the single currency.
On the trade front, everybody seems willing to take the over on a positive outcome which has supported stocks nicely. On Brexit, there have been three lawsuits filed against PM Johnson’s move to prorogue Parliament for five weeks, but the first ruling that came down this morning went in Boris’s favor. The pound is little changed on the day, even after marginally weaker than expected house price data, but for the month it is actually a touch higher, 0.2%, which just shows that the market really was focused on a hard Brexit last month. There have been several EU officials stating that prorogation should have no impact on negotiations, and some even see it my way as a strong lever to get a deal.
For all you hedgers, consider this: a 1-year ATMF option costs a bit more than 5 cents. While that is certainly higher than it was before Brexit occurred, I would contend that October will be a binary event, with a no-deal outcome driving a quite severe decline, likely to at least 1.10, while a deal should take us back to 1.30-1.35 quickly. In either case, 5 cents seems like a reasonable price to pay. And obviously, shorter term options will cost less with the same movement available.
And that’s really it for today. The dollar continues to largely grind higher vs. its EMG counterparts, and, quite frankly, its G10 counterparts as well. Equity markets remain in their trade euphoria clouds, and bond markets seem a bit more cautious. Yesterday saw US Q2 GDP revised down to 2.0%, as expected, but the consumer spending measurement was an even stronger than expected 4.7%. This morning the BEA releases Personal Income (exp 0.3%), Personal Spending (0.5%) and PCE (1.4%, 1.6% core) all at 8:30. We also see Chicago PMI (47.5) at 9:45 and Michigan Sentiment (92.3) at 10:00. The Fed is mercifully quiet going into the weekend so barring a shocking outcome in PCE or a White House tweet, the best bet is a continued slow grind higher in the dollar.
Good luck and good weekend