More Concerned

More pressure has lately been felt
In China, despite Road and Belt
As growth there is slowing
And Xi Jinping’s knowing
He must change the cards he’s been dealt

So last night, the news that we learned
Was both sides have grown more concerned
Thus trade talks would start
While traders took heart
And short-sellers of yuan got burned

While the Turkey situation has not disappeared completely, the central bank there appears to be regaining some control over the lira through surreptitious rate hikes. Cagily, they have stopped offering one-week liquidity, which theoretically could be had for ‘just’ 17.75% and instead are forcing banks to fund at the more expensive overnight window. This amounts to an effective 300bp rate rise and has been a key reason, along with yesterday’s announced moves regarding short positions, as to why the Turkish lira has rebounded so sharply from its worst levels. This hasn’t changed the macroeconomic picture, nor can it address the ongoing political row between the US and Turkey, but it has been effective in cooling the ardor of traders to short the lira. We will continue to monitor the situation, but it appears, that for now, TRY will no longer be the primary topic in FX markets.

Which allows us to turn our attention to China, where last night it was announced that low level trade talks between the US and China would start later this month in Washington. That is clearly the best news we have heard on the trade front in months, and although the process for further tariffs continues apace in the US, and it seems highly likely that next weeks imposition of tariffs on $16 billion of Chinese goods would go ahead, traders took the news very positively. The FX response was to reverse the renminbi’s recent decline, which prior to the news had seen it trade above 6.95 and perilously close to the 7.00 level many analysts have targeted as critical in PBOC deliberations. But this morning, USDCNY has fallen 0.75%, quite a large move for the currency pair, as fears of further escalation in the trade war seem to have abated slightly. There is certainly no guarantee that these talks will amount to anything or bring about further discussions, let alone a solution, but for now, they have been extremely well received by markets. Not only did the yuan rally, but also the Shanghai Composite reversed its early weakness, having fallen 1.8% at the open, and closed lower by only 0.65%. Hong Kong shares, too, rebounded from early weakness to close only marginally lower. It is important to remember that one of the drivers of the Shanghai market had been much weaker than expected earnings from Tencent, the Chinese internet firm that owns WeChat, China’s answer to Facebook. But there is no question that the news about trade talks was a critical factor in the rebound.

With these two stories as the lead, it is not surprising that the dollar has ceded some of its recent gains and is a touch softer overall this morning. Other EMG currencies that had seen significant pressure like ZAR (+0.1%), MXN (+0.5%), and RUB (+0.3%) have at least stabilized, if not reversed course. Fear of contagion remains rampant amongst emerging market investors and I expect that they will only return to markets slowly. And of course, it is entirely possible that the measures taken by the various authorities will turn out to be insufficient to address what in many cases are structural problems, and the currency rout will resume. But for now, it feels like a modicum of calm has been restored.

Meanwhile, G10 currencies are also mildly firmer this morning, although the dollar remains near its recent highs. For example, while the euro is higher by 0.3%, it is still trading with a 1.13 handle. There has been very little Eurozone data to drive markets, but there have been several articles discussing the ongoing trauma in Italy and how concerns over the new government’s fiscal policies may still turn disastrous.

Looking toward the UK, Retail Sales data there was quite strong, rising 0.7% in July, well above expectations for a 0.2% rise. However, the benefit to the pound has been minimal, with it rising just 0.1% on the news. Brexit remains a huge cloud over the currency (and the economy) and every day there is no positive news means that there is that much less time to create a solution. You all know I foresee a hard Brexit, not so much on principle as much as because I fear the May government simply cannot decide how to proceed and is not strong enough to impose a decision.

The last noteworthy piece of news in this space comes from Oslo, where the Norgesbank left rates on hold, as expected, but also essentially cemented the idea that they will be raising rates in September, joining the growing list of countries that are beginning to remove the excess accommodation put in place as a response to the financial crisis. After all, the tenth anniversary of the Lehman bankruptcy, the time many hold as the starting point to the crisis, is coming up in less than a month!

This morning’s US data brings Housing Starts (exp 1.2M), Building Permits (1.28M), Initial Claims (217K) and Philly Fed (22). Yesterday’s data was pretty strong, with the Empire Mfg print higher than expected and productivity growth showing its highest outcome since Q1 2015. In all, there is nothing in the data that suggests the Fed is going to change its tune, and if the trade situation eases, it is even more likely the Fed remains steady. All in all, despite modest softness this morning, the dollar remains the best bet going forward.

Good luck
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A Torch Song

As summer meanders along
Two stories are still going strong
In China the yuan
Is just hanging on
While Brexit’s become a torch song

Last night was yet another session of modest activity in foreign exchange as market participants’ focused on the same two stories that have been hogging the headlines for months; Brexit and its fallout on the pound; and China and the deteriorating trade situation. In fact, there is one other story that gets some press, the collapsing Turkish lira, but given the fact that TRY is a relatively inconsequential currency in the broad scheme of things, it is sufficient to know that the problems there are unlikely to get better soon, but also unlikely to have a wider impact on markets.

Let’s start with China today. Last night’s trade data showed that their surplus shrank substantially, to $28B, as imports surged more than 27% while export growth was a more modest 12%. At the same time, their surplus with the US fell only slightly, from $28.9B to $28.1B. It is the latter data that has been driving the current US trade policy, and the modest improvement seems unlikely to change anything. Already, tariffs on the next $16B are set to be put in place in two weeks’ time, and the list of products for the following grouping of $200B is being finalized and tariffs could be imposed as soon as September 6th. The Chinese have not yet blinked, but by all accounts, the situation in the Chinese economy is starting to get a bit more concerning.

The PBOC has flooded the market there with liquidity as evidenced by the fact that Chinese interest rates across the curve have fallen to the lowest levels seen in more than three years. (If you recall three years ago was when the PBOC instituted their ‘mini-devaluation’ in the yuan, which led to massive capital outflows and forced them to spend in excess of $1 trillion of reserves defending the yuan.) Regardless of the fact that those capital controls remain in place, it is pretty clear that money is flowing out of China right now. The question is, will those flows increase to a more troubling level forcing more aggressive PBOC action? Interestingly, a recent survey of traders and economists showed a strong belief that the PBOC will be able to contain CNY weakness and there is limited expectation for the currency to weaken beyond 7.00. Adding to this view, last night the PBOC called the major banks into a meeting and ‘encouraged’ them to insure their clients don’t become caught up in the “herd behavior” of selling yuan. This verbal suasion is in addition to their recent re-imposition of excess capital requirements for short CNY forward positions as well as the PBOC’s significantly increased activity in the FX swaps market, where they have sold so many dollars forward that the points have fallen to a discount, despite the fact that a pure interest rate calculation would put them at a substantial premium. As powerful as the PBOC is, and as much control as they exert over the currency, the market is still bigger than they are. If the Chinese population fears that the yuan is going to weaken further, they will find ways to get their money out of China, and it will be a self-fulfilling event. The benefit for hedgers is that with one-year USDCNY forwards at a discount, hedging assets and receivables is now very cost effective.

Turning to the UK and the ongoing Brexit story, there actually seems to have been little new in the way of news overnight. However, just before NY walked in, the pound extended its losses and is now down more than 0.5% on the day and trading at one year lows. The problem for the pound is that as the timeline leading to Brexit shrinks, no news is no longer good news. The lack of activity is an indication that the probability of a no-deal Brexit is growing, and as I have written several times recently, if there is no deal, the pound is likely to fall sharply. In fact, at this point in time, there is probably a short-term risk that the pound can move sharply higher in response to something positive in this process. For example, if the EU were to soften its stance, or make a serious accommodation, the pound could easily rise a few percent on the news. However, that doesn’t seem very likely, at least based on anything that has been reported in the past several weeks.

Beyond those stories, though, there is precious little to discuss. Yesterday, as expected, the JOLTs report showed that there are many jobs available in the US, 6.66M to be exact, which is simply in line with the strong employment situation that we all know exists. Today, however, there is no new data to absorb, and really, until Friday’s CPI, the FX market will be looking elsewhere for catalysts. My sense is that the trade story will remain the single biggest driver, and that it still points to a stronger dollar for now. Keep that in mind as you look ahead.

Good luck
Adf

Turning To Fearing

The deadline for Brexit is nearing
And hoping is turning to fearing
No deal’s yet in sight
But both sides delight
In claiming that they’re persevering

This morning, the two stories that have captured the FX market’s attention are Brexit and its impact on the pound and Chinese policy changes and their impact on the yuan.

Starting in the UK, the pound is under pressure this morning, down 0.55%, as comments from International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, have rattled traders. According to Fox, the odds that there is no Brexit deal have now risen to 60%, certainly enough to qualify as “uncomfortably high”, Governor Carney’s description last week in his comments following the BOE meeting. It appears that both sides remain committed to their positions and there has been very little movement from either London or Brussels of late. Meanwhile, in the UK, the politics of the situation has resulted in the new favorite pastime of guessing who will replace PM May when she finally loses a no-confidence vote. And while March 31 is the technical deadline, the reality is that if there is no agreement in place by October, it is likely to be too late. Remember that once an agreement is reached, it needs to be enacted into law by all the nations in the EU as well as the UK, with any one of them able to derail the process. Last year I posited that the odds of reaching a deal were extremely low. I believe this is exactly what is playing out now.

The consequences for the pound are unlikely to be pretty. I expect that we will see pressure continue to increase as it becomes clear that there is no deal forthcoming. So unlike the market action right after the initial Brexit vote in June 2016, where the pound fell more than 10% overnight, and shed another 10% in the ensuing four months, I expect that this will be steady downward pressure, although the net 20% decline cannot be ruled out. After all, there will be no announcement that talks have ended, merely a lack of progress to be seen. Consider that a further 20% decline from here will put the historic low level of 1.06, set back in 1985, on the radar. And while that may well be too pessimistic, it remains extremely difficult to make a bullish pound case at this time. Unless we see a negotiating breakthrough in the next month or so, hedgers need to be prepared for a much lower pound over time.

Turning to China, late Friday night the PBOC imposed a new restriction on FX trading by reinstituting a 20% reserve requirement against short yuan forward positions. The idea here is that Chinese banks will not be willing to allocate the funds necessary to maintain those positions, and therefore will not allow clients to sell CNY forward. In 2015, during the last CNY devaluation, when capital outflows really gathered pace, this was one of the tools that the PBOC employed to stem the yuan’s weakness. What this tells me is that despite the rhetoric from the government about the trade situation and their willingness to tough it out, there is growing concern that if USDCNY reaches 7.00, citizens will start to become much more aggressive in their efforts to reduce their exposure to the yuan, and flee to other, safer currencies. Ironically, given what has started this process, this includes the dollar as well as the yen and Swiss franc. As is typical of the Chinese, they announced this change late Friday night when markets were closed. And while the initial market reaction to the news in China’s morning was for the yuan to strengthen a bit, that strength has reversed and USDCNY is now higher by 0.25%. If 7.00 is truly the pain point, I fear we are going to see some fireworks before the end of the summer.

Beyond those two stories, the dollar is firmer overall, but there is less specificity than it simply being a strong dollar day. The euro is lower by 0.25% after German Factory Orders fell a much worse than expected -4.0%, taking the Y/Y level negative for the first time in two years. But given the breadth of the dollar’s strength this morning, I would argue the euro would have declined no matter the number. As the trade rhetoric continues apace, I expect the dollar to remain well bid against all comers.

Turning to the data this week, it is far less interesting than last week’s onslaught, but we do end the week with CPI.

Tuesday JOLT’s Job Openings 6.646M
  Consumer Credit $16.0B
Thursday Initial Claims 220K
  PPI 0.2% (3.4% Y/Y)
  -ex food & energy 0.2% (2.8% Y/Y)
Friday CPI 0.2% (3.0% Y/Y)
  -ex food & energy 0.2% (2.3% Y/Y)

Beyond the inflation data, we have only two Fed Speakers, and given the continued strong run of data, it remains hard to believe that we will hear any new dovishness by anyone. I am hard-pressed to derive a scenario that leads to significant dollar weakness in the short run. Until the US data turns, I believe that the Fed will continue to tighten policy and that the dollar will benefit. And that seems likely to last through at least the end of the year.

Good luck
Adf

Uncomfortably High

Said Carney, exhaling a sigh
The odds are “uncomfortably high”
More pain will we feel
If there is no deal
When England waves Europe bye-bye

Yesterday the BOE, in a unanimous decision, raised its base rate by 25bps. This outcome was widely expected by the markets and resulted in a very short-term boost for the pound. However, after the meeting, Governor Carney described the odds of the UK leaving the EU next March with no transition deal in hand as “uncomfortably high.” That was enough to spook markets and the pound sold off pretty aggressively afterwards, closing the day lower by 0.9%. And this morning, it has continued that trend, falling a further 0.2% and is now trading back below 1.30 again.

By this time, you are all well aware that I believe there will be no deal, and that the market response, as that becomes increasingly clear, will be to drive the pound still lower. In the months after the Brexit vote, January 2017 to be precise, the pound touched a low of 1.1986, but had risen fairly steadily since then until it peaked well above 1.40 in April of this year. However, we have been falling back since that time, as the prospects for a deal seem to have receded. The thing is, there is no evidence that points to any willingness to compromise among the Tory faithful and so it appears increasingly likely that no deal will be agreed by next March. Carney put the odds at 20%, personally I see them as at least 50% and probably higher than that. In the meantime, the combination of ongoing tightening by the Fed and Brexit uncertainty impacting the UK economy points to the pound falling further. Do not be surprised if we test those lows below 1.20 seen eighteen months ago.

This morning also brought news about the continuing slowdown in Eurozone growth as PMI data was released slightly softer than expected. French, German and therefore, not surprisingly, Eurozone Services data was all softer than expected, and in each case has continued the trend in evidence all year long. It is very clear that Eurozone growth peaked in Q4 2017 and despite Signor Draghi’s confidence that steady growth will lead inflation to rise to the ECB target of just below 2.0%, the evidence is pointing in the opposite direction. While the ECB may well stop QE by the end of the year, it appears that there will be no ability to raise rates at all in 2019, and if the current growth trajectory continues, perhaps in 2020 as well. Yesterday saw the euro decline 0.7%, amid a broad-based dollar rally. So far this morning, after an early extension of that move, it has rebounded slightly and now sits +0.1% on the day. But in the end, the euro, too, will remain under pressure from the combination of tighter Fed policy and a decreasing probability of the ECB ever matching that activity. We remain in the 1.1500-1.1800 trading range, which has existed since April, but as we push toward the lower end of that range, be prepared for a breakout.

Finally, the other mover of note overnight was CNY, with the renminbi falling to new lows for the move and testing 6.90. The currency has declined more than 8% since the middle of June as it has become increasingly clear that the PBOC is willing to allow it to adjust along with most other emerging market currencies. While the movement has been steady, it has not been disorderly, and as yet, there is no evidence that capital outflows are ramping up quickly, so it is hard to make the case the PBOC will step in anytime soon. And that is really the key; increases in capital outflows will be the issue that triggers any intervention. But while many pundits point to 7.00 as the level where that is expected to occur, given the still restrictive capital controls that exist there, it may take a much bigger decline to drive the process. With the Chinese economy slowing as well (last night’s Caixin Services PMI fell to 52.8, below expectations and continuing the declining trend this year) a weaker yuan remains one of China’s most important and effective policy tools. There is no reason for this trend to end soon and accordingly, I believe 7.50 is reasonable as a target in the medium term.

Turning to this morning’s payroll report, here are the current expectations:

Nonfarm Payrolls 190K
Private Payrolls 189K
Manufacturing Payrolls 22K
Unemployment Rate 3.9%
Average Hourly Earnings (AHE) 0.3% (2.7% Y/Y)
Average Weekly Hours 34.5
Trade Balance -$46.5B
ISM Non-Manufacturing 58.6

Wednesday’s ADP number was much stronger than expected at 213K, and the whisper number is now 205K for this morning. As long as this data set continues to show a strong labor market, and there is every indication it will do so, the only question regarding the Fed is how quickly they will be raising rates. All of this points to continued dollar strength going forward as the divergence between the US economy and the rest of the world continues. While increasing angst over trade may have a modest impact, we will need to see an actual increase in tariffs, like the mooted 25% on $200 billion in Chinese imports, to really affect the economy and perhaps change the Fed’s thinking. Until then, it is still a green light for dollar buyers.

Good luck and good weekend
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No Tariffs For Now

Herr Juncker and Trump had their meeting
And what they both claimed bears repeating
No tariffs for now
As both sides allow
The current regime with no cheating

Whew! That pretty much sums up the market reaction to yesterday afternoon’s hastily arranged press conference with President Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Both were all smiles as they announced that there would be no tariffs imposed at this time while the US and EU begin more serious trade negotiations with an eye toward reducing trade friction in manufactured goods. In addition, Europe would be seeking to purchase more US soybeans and LNG in a good faith effort to reduce the current trade imbalance. And finally, they would be addressing the current US tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Europe. It can be no surprise that the market reacted quite positively to this news, with equities in the US finishing higher and European markets all performing well this morning. It should also not be that surprising that the euro jumped immediately upon the news, rising 0.25%, although this morning it has given back those gains after both French and German Consumer Confidence data extended their trend declines amid disappointing outcomes.

While it is still anybody’s guess how this will ultimately play out, the news is certainly an encouraging sign that there can be movement in a positive direction on the trade front. The same appears to be true regarding NAFTA negotiations with both Canada and Mexico reconfirming that a trilateral deal is the goal, and apparently making headway toward achieving those aims.

However, the same optimism is nowhere to be found regarding trade relations between China and the US, with no indication that the situation has shown any positive movement. In the meantime, China continues to respond to signs of weakening growth on the mainland, this time by further reducing capital requirements for banks’ lending to SME’s. While the PBOC has not specifically cut rates, generally seen as a broad monetary policy step, these targeted capital requirement and reserve ratio cuts can be very powerful tools for the targeted recipients, allowing them to expand their loan books and driving profits in the banking sector. But no matter how the easing of monetary policy is implemented, it is still easing of monetary policy and will have an impact on both Chinese equity markets and the renminbi’s exchange rate. While the currency weakened, as would be expected, falling 0.5% overnight, the Shanghai composite fell as well, which is somewhat surprising. Although, in fairness, the Shanghai exchange has rallied nearly 8% over the past two weeks, so this could simply be a case of “selling the news.” In the end, especially if the trade situation between the US and China remains fraught, I expect that USDCNY has further to run, and 7.00 remains on the radar.

The other big story this morning is the anticipation of the ECB meeting results, not so much in terms of policy changes, as none are expected, but in terms of the follow-on press conference where Signor Draghi will be asked about the timing of interest rate increases and the meaning of the term “through the summer” which was inserted into the last statement. Analysts have been debating if that means rates could be raised in August or September of next year, or if it implies a longer wait before a rate move. The futures market doesn’t have a full 10bp rate hike priced in until January 2020, significantly past the summer. The other question of note is how the ECB will handle reinvestment of their current portfolio, and whether they will seek to smooth the reinvestment program or simply wait until debt matures before purchasing more. The reason this matters is that their portfolio has a very uneven distribution of maturities, which could lead to more volatility in European Government bond markets if they choose the latter path.

In the end, given that Eurozone data continues to disappoint on a regular basis, it seems that whatever path they choose for rate hikes and reinvestment, it will seek to maintain as much support as possible for now. Other than the Germans, there does not appear to be a strong constituency to aggressively tighten monetary policy, and there are nations, like Italy and Greece, which would much prefer to see policy remain ultra accommodative for the foreseeable future. While the euro has been range trading for the past two months between 1.15 and 1.18, I continue to look for a break lower eventually.

Away from those stories, things have been less interesting. Most of the G10 is trading in a fairly narrow range, with Aussie the laggard, -0.4%, on the back of weaker metals prices. EMG currencies have similarly been fairly quiet with limited movement overall.

Yesterday’s US data showed that the housing market is starting to suffer a bit more consistently as New Home Sales fell to 631K, well below expectations and the lowest level since last October. Adding this to the miss in Existing Home Sales on Monday shows that the combination of still rising house prices and rising mortgage rates is starting to have a more substantial impact on the sector. This morning we see Durable Goods data (exp 3.0%, 0.5% -ex Transport) and the weekly Initial Claims data (215K), which continues to show the strength of the job market. However, regarding US data, all eyes remain on tomorrow’s first look at Q2 GDP, where the range of expectations is broad, from 3.8% to 5.2%, and traders will be trying to parse how the data will impact the Fed’s activities.

In the meantime, US equity futures are mixed this morning with the NASDAQ pointing lower after some weaker than expected earnings guidance from a FANG member, while Dow futures are pointing higher on the back of relief over the trade situation. As to the dollar, I expect that it will see modest weakness overall as positions continue to be adjusted ahead of tomorrow’s key GDP release.

Good luck
Adf

 

Tired

Speculation’s rife
Kuroda is tired of
JGB support

For the fifth consecutive session, the Japanese yen is rising amid growing speculation that the BOJ, when it meets next Monday and Tuesday, is going to adjust monetary policy tighter. During that run, which also included President Trump’s harangues on currency manipulation around the world, the yen has strengthened nearly 2%. My point is that the dollar has suffered somewhat overall during that period, so this movement is not entirely due to the BOJ story. But, as the meeting approaches, that is becoming the hottest topic in the market.

A quick look at the Japanese economy shows that inflation remains quiescent, with the latest core reading just 0.2%, a far cry from the 2.0% target the BOJ has been aiming for during the past five years. In addition, last night’s PMI data, (printing at 51.6, well below expectations of 53.2) has to give Kuroda and company pause as well. In other words, while Japan is not cratering, it doesn’t seem like there is any danger of overheating there either. However, with the Fed actively tightening, the BOE widely expected to raise rates in early August and the ECB highlighting its plans to end QE this year with interest rate increases to follow next year, the BOJ is clearly feeling somewhat left out of the mix. Apparently groupthink is a strong emotion for central bankers.

At any rate, whether justified or not, the story that is getting play is that they are going to tweak their operations, perhaps allowing (encouraging?) the long end of the JGB yield curve to see higher yields, although they will likely keep control of the 10-year space and below. But all the market needed to hear was that QE was going to be reduced and the reaction was immediate. JGB yields in the 10-year space jumped from 0.03% to 0.09%, at which point the BOJ stopped the movement by stepping in with an unlimited bid for bonds. Remember, they already own 42% of all outstanding JGB’s, and liquidity in that market is so thin that there have already been six days this year where there were absolutely zero trades in the 10-year JGB. The FX market was not going to be left out and seeing the prospect for less QE immediately added to the yen’s recent gains. It remains to be seen whether Kuroda-san will be able to actually implement any policy changes given the combination of slackening growth and still low inflation, especially with the prospects of a trade war having an even more deleterious impact on the economy. However, the market loves this story and is going to continue to run with it, at least until the BOJ announcement next Tuesday. So I would look for the yen to continue to trade slowly higher during that period.

The other big story overnight was the PBOC injection of CNY502 billion of liquidity into the market as part of their ongoing policy adjustments. It is becoming increasingly clear that the Chinese economy is having trouble dealing with the simultaneous deleveraging demanded by President Xi for the past two years and the increased trade issues that have arisen quite rapidly of late. Of course, the PBOC is no wallflower when it comes to taking action, and so having already cut reserve requirements three times this year; they decided that direct injection of funds into the market was a better method of achieving their goals. In addition the government created tax incentives for R&D, encouraged more state infrastructure spending and told banks to offer more credit to small firms. The market impact of these measures was immediate with the Shanghai Stock Exchange rallying 1.6% while the renminbi fell as much as 0.6% early, before retracing somewhat and now standing just 0.2% lower on the day.

When considering the CNY, the opposing forces are that a weaker yuan will certainly help support short-term growth due to the still significant reliance on exports by the Chinese economy. However, there is a feared tipping point at which a weak yuan may encourage significant capital outflows, thus destabilizing the Chinese economy and Chinese markets. We saw this play out three years ago, shortly after the PBOC surprised markets with its mini (2%) devaluation of the yuan. The ensuing global market sell-off was significant enough to prevent then Fed Chair Yellen to hold off on raising rates, despite having signaled that the Fed was ready to do so. However, it is not clear to me that Chairman Powell sees the world the same way as Yellen, and my take is that he would not be dissuaded from continuing the Fed’s current trajectory despite some increased global volatility. Of course, the Chinese instituted strict capital controls in the wake of the 2015 situation, so it is also not clear that the contagion can even occur this time. In the end, though, this is simply further evidence of the diverging monetary policies between the US and China, and continues to underpin my views of USDCNY moving to 7.00 and beyond before the year ends.

Away from those two stories, the dollar is modestly softer this morning despite mixed to weaker Eurozone PMI data (Germany strong, France weak, Eurozone weak), and US Treasury yields that gained nearly 10bps yesterday after the BOJ story broke. Yesterday saw weaker than expected Existing Home Sales (5.38M), which is the third consecutive monthly decline. While there is no important data today, we do see the critical first look at Q2 GDP on Friday, and of course, the ECB meets Thursday, so there is ample opportunity for more opinion changing information to come to market. But right now, the dollar remains largely trapped between the positive monetary policy story and the negative political story, and so I don’t anticipate it will be breaking out in either direction in the short run. However, as long as US monetary policy continues on its current trajectory, I believe the dollar has further to run. We have not yet evolved to a point where other issues are more important, although that time may well come in the future.

Good luck
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I’m Not Thrilled

Said President Trump, “I’m not thrilled”
With how Chairman Powell’s fulfilled
Both job and price mandates
By raising Fed Fund rates
‘Cause soon the Dow Jones could get killed

“I’m not thrilled. I don’t like all of this work that we’re putting into the economy and then I see rates going up. I am not happy about it. But at the same time I’m letting them do what they feel is best.” So said President Trump in an interview on CNBC yesterday afternoon. It should be no surprise that the FX market response was immediate, with the dollar reversing earlier gains.

While this is not the first time that a US president has tried to persuade the Federal Reserve to cut rates (they never want higher rates, I assure you!), it is the first time since George H.W. Bush pushed then Chairman Greenspan to reduce rates more quickly in 1992 (he didn’t). This is a situation fraught with serious consequences as the independence of a nation’s central bank is seen as one of the keys to a developed economy’s success. For instance, recall just several weeks ago when Turkey’s President Erdogan essentially took over making monetary policy there, and how the market has behaved since, with TRY already significantly weaker.

As long as the Fed remains on course to continue raising rates, and despite the Trump comments, Fed Funds futures showed no change in the probability for two more rate hikes this year, I see little reason to change my stance on the dollar’s future strength. However, the bigger problem is if the Fed, independently, decides that slowing the pace of rate hikes is justified by the data, it could still appear to be politically motivated, and so reduce whatever credibility the Fed still maintains. This will remain a background story, at the very least, for a while. So far, there is no indication that Chairman Powell is going to change his stance, which means that policy divergence remains the lay of the land.

In the meantime, the other big FX story comes from China. We discussed yuan weakness yesterday and in the overnight session, the PBOC fixed the onshore currency at its weakest point in more than a year, which in fairness is simply following the dollar’s overall strength, but then when USDCNY made new highs for the year above 6.83, a large Chinese state-owned bank was seen aggressively selling dollars. This tacit intervention helped to steady the market and worked to support the Shanghai Stock Exchange as well, which ultimately rose 2.0% on the day. It is, however, difficult to follow all the twists and turns in the US-China relationship these days, as literally minutes ago, President Trump raised the ante yet again, by saying that he is “ready to go” with regard to imposing tariffs on $500 billion of Chinese goods. That represents all Chinese exports to the US and is considerably larger than ever mentioned before.

Tariffs and protectionism have a very poor history when it comes to enhancing any country’s economic situation, but it is very possible that this continuous ratcheting of pressure may actually be effective at achieving policy changes in this situation as China has plenty of domestically created economic problems already. Recall, President Xi has been on the warpath about excess leverage and the PBOC had been tightening policy in order to squeeze that out of the system. However, growth in China has suffered accordingly, and the recent data indicates that it may be slowing even more. With that in mind, a full-scale trade war with the US would likely be disastrous for China. The last thing they can afford is to see reduced production numbers, as well as loss of access to critical component and technology imports. It is not impossible that Xi blinks first, or that the two presidents recognize that a face-saving deal is in both their interests. It may take a little while, but I have a sense that could well be the outcome. However, until then, look for USDCNY to continue to rally sharply, with a move to 7.00 and beyond very viable. This morning, despite the intervention overnight, it has subsequently weakened 0.4% and shows no signs of stopping.

Finally, one last story has returned from the past to haunt markets, Italy. There appeared to be a push by Five-Star leader, Luigi di Maio, to have the Finmin, Giovanni Tria, removed from office. You may recall that back in May, things got very dicey in Italy before the current government was finally formed as President Mattarella rejected the first proposed cabinet because of the Euroskeptic proposed for the FinMin post. Tria was the compromise selection designed to calm markets down, and it worked. So, if he were forced out, and it has been denied by the Finance Ministry that is the situation, it could lead us right back into a euro area crisis. This is especially true since the populist coalition of the League and Five-Start has gained further strength in the interim. While Italian bond markets suffered on the news, it was not sufficient to impact the euro much. However, we need to keep an eye on this story as it could well resurface in a more malevolent manner.

And that is really today’s situation. Overall the dollar is mildly weaker, but given its performance all week, that has more to do with profit taking on a Friday than other news. Clearly the Trump comments undermined the dollar to some extent, but until policies are seen changing, I think that will only be a temporary situation. With no data due this morning, and no speakers on the agenda, it has all the feelings of a quiet day upcoming. It is, after all, a Friday in July, so the summer doldrums seem appropriate.

Good luck and good weekend
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