FX Update- European Politics and the UK

It will be hard for markets to get away from discussing political developments in the Eurozone this year. Friday’s risk off market, driven by what appeared to be shifting probabilities for the French election, is showing just how vulnerable the EURJPY cross has become. The Japanese investor owns 12% of the French OAT market, mostly accumulated in the past 2years. This large asset position is now at risk should volatility in this EUR bond market increase. The Japanese have been net sellers of foreign bonds since the middle of January. While Japanese lifer hedge ratios for EUR assets is generally high (82% in 3Q16), the liquidation pressure and, more importantly, sentiment, will still affect FX markets, we think. The risk of EURJPY falling has increased and so we have chosen to sell as a tactical play for our trade of the week. The next support area is around 119.30.

Markets will watch efforts of the French left combining to bring one of its candidates into the 2nd round. A possible scenario of a 2nd round vote between a hard left and a hard right candidate may increase the chance of the Front National’s Le Pen becoming President. Her agenda to leave the EU and the EUR would require Parliamentary approval and hence represents an unlikely outcome. However,a potential scenario of a hard left or hard right future French President could perhaps reduce Franco-German co-operation which could potentially disrupt EMU for years, leaving the ECB in charge, which might win time by introducing a policy of prolonged period of negative real rates and yields.

The 15 March General Election in the Netherlands could increase jitters further should the outcome point towards increasing populism. Polls over the past week show a tight race, with the PVV party (Geert Wilders) only on a narrow 3-4 point ahead of the VVD party, relative to the 9 point lead seen at the start of the month. Since 8th February,3m implied volatility for EURUSD has diverged from USDCHF, which we think needs to play catch up. The SNB’s sight deposit volumes will be watched again today.

A lot of the anticipated weaker economic data in the UK appears to be in the price for GBP.Friday’s miss on retail sales (0.2%M) showed consumers may have brought forward spending ahead of anticipated price hikes, causing GBP to weaken as markets priced out some probability of a hike by the BoE this year (currently around 3bp). The impact of UK data on GBP goes as far as that. We think that it will be loose global liquidity conditions, increased political uncertainty in the Eurozone, combined with an undervalued GBP which will drive the EURGBP pair lower. The Brexit debate will continue with the FT reporting today on Michel Barnier’s (EU’s Brexit negotiator) proposal that any trade EU-UK talks be denied until progress is made on a EUR60bn exit bill, which could make progress difficult for the UK after they trigger article 50 this quarter. We think however that GBP could be driven higher as global reserve managers start to reallocate into GBP assets.