Global FX, DXY strength, China and AUD
The DXY is expected to gain further from here, with the overnight FOMC statement helping to restore USD optimism. Our probability of the Fed hiking rates on 14th June has risen to 80%+ after the Fed called the slowing in growth during the first quarter as ‘likely to be transitory’ and that the fundamentals for consumer spending ‘remained solid.’
Today will see US releases on trade, initial jobless claims and factory orders. Initial jobless claims may have been distorted by the Easter holidays; hence we will not pay too much attention to a potential rise in claims. Weak productivity data is a reflection of the past and the natural consequence of the rising labour/capital ratio witnessed in the US over the past years. Factory orders have improved substantially over recent months, seeing orders ex transportation now gaining 7.5%Y, representing its best expansion for more than 5 years. March trade data should be looked at in terms of activity, with rising imports and exports pushing the USD higher. US trade is now in a better position compared to previous occasions when the US was aiming for higher growth rates. Previously, better US demand acted as a magnet for imports, driving the trade deficit swiftly higher. Nowadays, the increasing output of the US energy sector reduces energy imports and likewise increases energy exports, helping to keep the trade deficit stable for longer.

USDJPY has reached 112.89 overnight and will now need to overcome the 112.90/113.10 resistance to open upside potential to 116.50. Our bearish JPY call requires markets to stay confident on the global reflation outlook. The Fed expressed this confidence yesterday, but commodity prices have come off sharply over recent days, suggesting USDJPY may see some corrective activity before overcoming the 113.10 resistance. Over the next few days, AUD may be the better short instead. China related commodities have come under selling pressure with iron ore and coal futures now approaching their mid-April lows. China’s PMI releases including today’s services sector PMI have disappointed. Its equity markethas underperformed while its bond yields have risen, indicating that China’s financial conditions have tightened. The mini tightening cycle designed to reduce the pace of leverage build-up seems to now be impacting China’s economy. The PBoC has injected RMB 140bn (USD 20.3bn) on Wednesday, representing the largest single-day addition since 19th January, but their refraining from rolling over maturing medium-term lending facility loans caused the seven-day repo rate to rise 80bp to 4.5%. Back-end RMB yields have continued to rise, representing bad news for the AUD.

Rising RMB yields may undermine the AUD from various sides, especially if the yield increase is not covered by better Chinese economic data. First, the discrepancy between the evolution of China’s economic growth rate and yield does not only signal tighter financial conditions, it also highlights the risk of the economy deleveraging, suggesting it will lose further growth momentum. Secondly, globally rising bond yields increase the funding costs of Australia’s wholesale dependent banking sector.

Verbal intervention does require the backing of fundamentals to develop a lasting impact on markets. Unlike previous occasions of talking USD down, President Trump has linked his dollar overvaluation comments to the US interest rate outlook. His suggestion thathe likes low interest rates (also said in May last year)has now put the debate on the appointment of potentially dovish Fed Chair, representing a fundamental shift compared to his election campaign when he criticised the Fed for running interest rates at a too low level. A reappointment of Janet Yellen seems to no longer be categorically ruled out. Alternatively, Trump could opt for a non-conventional appointment such as from the business world, declaring implicitly that the US still had a wide output gap by saying that the economy had a higher growth potential than currently calculated and therefore could afford lower rates for longer. Yesterday’s comments have opened a new playing field and markets will have to digest its implications.

Two countries, one interest: The good news of President Trump comments was that China will not be called a ‘currency manipulator’ when the Treasury releases its currency report this month. CNY has strengthened by 0.3% to 6.8745 this morning, reaching its highest level since March 31. However, RMB has weakened in TWI terms. In respect of USD, China and the US administration have the same interest. A weaker USD has the potential to boost competitiveness for both countries – directly in the case of the US and indirectly in the case of China, where a weaker USD allows China to depreciate RMB againstnon-USD currencies such as EUR, JPY and KRW just to name the heavyweights of China’s currency basket.

Commodities to undermine AUD: Australian labour market data for March were very strong on the headline, with job growth at 60.9k (20k expected) and all in the full-time sector (75k). In addition, China’s March trade balance, seeing exports growing at 16.4%, by far outpacing the 3.4% consensus expectation, while its imports expanded at 20.3%, is in line with our constructive view on the state of the global economy. However, the CRB Rind index has rolled over and iron ore prices have lost another 1.4% overnight, coming in addition to yesterday’s 2.3% decline. China’s commodity import seasonality may play in here, but China trying to curb housing sector investment and shift growth from the old, commodity consuming part of the Chinese economy towards its service sector may play in too. Anyhow, falling prices for China-related commodities have two effects. First, they should weaken AUD, in which we hold short positions, and second, they may allow international bond markets to keep rallying for somewhat longer, keeping USD selling pressure intact for now.

South China Sea row intensified after Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Philippines’ military to occupy and fortify islands in the South China Sea amid ongoing territorial disputes between China and other countries in the region. China exerts its claim on most parts of the South China Sea while Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, and Taiwan dispute such claims. Competing claims include,
• Indonesia, China, and Taiwan over waters NE of the Natuna Islands.
• The Philippines, China, and Taiwan over Scarborough Shoal.
• Vietnam, China, and Taiwan over waters west of the Spratly Islands. Some or all of the islands themselves are also disputed between Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
• The Paracel Islands are disputed between the PRC/ROC and Vietnam.
• Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam over areas in the Gulf of Thailand.
• Singapore and Malaysia along the Strait of Johore and the Strait of Singapore.
Duterte told journalists at a press briefing that following his visit to a military base located in the Philippines western Palawan province, “It looks like everyone is making a grab for the islands there. So we better live on those that are still unoccupied. What’s ours now, we claim it and make a strong point from there….We tried to be friends with everybody but we have to maintain our jurisdiction now, at least the areas under our control…… There are about nine or 10 islands there, we have to fortify……I must build bunkers there or houses and provisions for habitation.”
The defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana has confirmed that President Duterte’s order by saying, “The president wants facilities built such as barracks for the men, water [desalination] and sewage disposal systems, power generators (conventional and renewable), lighthouses, and shelters for fishermen…”
The reactions from other countries including China are yet to emerge in response to this Duterte land grab.

The Japanese government bonds remained mixed Wednesday as investors remain keen to watch the country’s February consumer price inflation as well as industrial production data, scheduled to be released on March 31.

The benchmark 10-year bond yield, which moves inversely to its price, fell 1 basis point to 0.06 percent, while the long-term 30-year bond yields rose nearly 1 basis point to 0.82 percent and the yield on the short-term 3-year note traded flat at -0.18 percent by 06:30 GMT.

Further, trading volumes were low as investors remained reluctant to stake out positions ahead of the looming March 31 domestic fiscal year-end. However, JGB futures did manage to eke out modest gains following the slump in Tokyo stocks as risk sentiment was hurt by Trump’s setback.

Lastly, markets will now be focusing on the February consumer price inflation data, scheduled to be released on March 31 for detailed direction in the debt market.

The New Zealand bonds closed modestly higher Thursday after the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) maintained a neutral policy stance at its monetary policy decision, held earlier today.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year bond, which moves inversely to its price closed flat at 3.25 percent, the yield on 7-year note slipped nearly 1 basis point to 2.82 percent while the yield on short-term 2-year note traded 1/2 basis points higher at 2.12 percent.

The RBNZ left the Official Cash Rate (OCR) unchanged at 1.75 percent today, as was widely expected. Overall, there was little in the accompanying statement to suggest any shift in the RBNZ’s thinking, relative to the February Monetary Policy Statement and the Governor Graeme Wheeler’s speech in early March.

The bottom line is that the RBNZ expects the cash rate to remain low for a considerable period (the forecasts published in February suggested no change until late 2018). The outlook for the New Zealand economy remains positive, but the risks around the global environment are seen to the downside.

“We agree with the RBNZ that the OCR will remain on hold for some time. We have pencilled in two OCR increases in the first half of 2019, but the way we’d describe this more generally is that the first rate hike is too far away to be precise about the timing,” Westpac commented in its latest research report.

The consensus expects the ECB to allocate EUR110bn via its target LTRO after allocating EUR62.2bln at its last operation. Given that this is the last TLTRO allocation, demand could be heavy and should the allocation exceed the EUR110 expectation,excess EUR liquidity will be parked at the front end of the EUR curve pushing rates lower, which at the margin is a EUR negative. However, for developing a more pronounced bearish impact on the EUR the liquidity boostneeds to impact the 2-year EUR swap. A decline of the German Schatz yield is not sufficient for driving the EUR lower. ECB’s Nouy (8am) and Lautenschlaeger (3pm) will speak today.

EM and risk outlook stays relatively supported but we see risk aversion alert signs across the board. While investors focus on US politics and especially on today’s vote on the repeal act of Obamacare, other developments should, in our view, not remain unnoticed: a research paper published by two Fed economists and released by the Brookings Institute suggesting US interest rates staying low with the Fed tolerating inflation overshooting targets, the ECB’s targeted LTRO allocations, and the continued fall of iron ore futures. Despite equity markets retracing some of the post-election rally, US monetary conditions have become more accommodative with the falling USD contributing most to this easing. Foreign conditions have turned from providing hefty headwinds as experienced from 2012-16 into tailwinds, helping US reflation gain momentum over time. Accordingly, we prepare for putting on FX trades that benefit from a steeper US yield curve. Short EURSEK and long USDJPY fall into this category. While short EURSEK should work from now, USDJPY’s current downward momentum suggests waiting for 109.50 or for a stabilisation above 112.50 before establishing longs.

US vote: Today markets will wait for the outcome of the vote but FX investors should note that the vote is not scheduled for a specific time. At the moment the vote count may be low so the Republican leaders need the time to gather votes, indicating why no specific time is provided. There is even a risk the vote may be delayed if the leaders feel the vote may not pass.

Watching iron ore. The PBOC-run Financial News newspaper highlighted that the recent rise of RMB money market rates should be put into the context of recent money market operations. China seems to be tightening its monetary conditions to deal with excessive leverage. Importantly, tighter RMB lending conditions have sparked China’s USD denominated loan demand, pushing its USD denominated liabilities up again. Should this loan-related USD inflow into China end up into a higher FX reserves (see chart below) – thus providing an additional signal that offshore USD liquidity conditions are on the rise – EM markets should see further inflows. Meanwhile, China has seen the ratio of mortgage loans to total credit of commercial banks reaching uncomfortably high readings. It has been China’s property and infrastructure investment driving commodity – including iron ore – demand. Authorities are now directing growth away from the property market which suggests that commodity prices may ease. Falling iron ore prices will not bode well for the AUD. Within this context we recommend using the AUD as a funding tool for high yield EM longs and for a long GBP position. GBPAUD has moved away from levels suggested by relative forward curves.

The Australian bonds traded in a tight range Tuesday as investors refrained from any major activity amid a light trading session. Also, the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) March monetary policy meeting minutes, painted a mixed picture of the economy, adding sluggishness to market sentiments.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, hovered around 2.82 percent, the yield on 15-year note also traded flat at 3.21 percent and the yield on short-term 2-year remained steady at 1.81 percent by 04:20 GMT.

The minutes of the RBA March board meeting continued to paint the picture of an RBA unwilling to move official interest rates anytime soon. The Board highlighted a range of positives, but concerns were also raised. The central bank was notably more upbeat about the global outlook and the flow on effect to higher commodity prices.

Concerns surrounding the outlook for the labor market were apparent, with the RBA noting that “conditions had remained mixed” and that “momentum in the labor market remained difficult to assess”. A further mixed picture on the labor market leaves the RBA between a rock and a hard place.

Lastly, markets will now be focussing on the RBA Deputy Governor Guy Debelle’s speech, scheduled to be held on March 22 for further direction in the debt market.

UK’s manufacturing output rose by 1.2 percent in the last quarter of 2016. Boost to competitiveness from sterling’s depreciation last year was probably a key driver of this upturn. The underlying trend is clearly upward, as is indicated by the 1.9 percent rise in Q4 production when compared to the same quarter a year ago, says Lloyds Bank.

Official data for the month of January showed a small fall in output in January and the February purchasing managers’ survey showed a modest decline in the level of the headline index from the previous month. Analysts at Lloyds Bank opine that the declines are probably just temporary retreats after outsized gains in previous months.

“With orders as measured by both the PMI and CBI surveys strong enough to point to further output gains over the next few months, the sector still seems on course for further expansion,” said Lloyds Bank in a report.

Fall in manufacturing investment, however, raises concerns about the sustenance of upside in the longer term. UK manufacturing investment probably fell by more than 4 percent last year, its weakest performance since 2009. The start of the Brexit negotiations will likely create more uncertainty which could hamper investments going forward. Continued sluggish investment growth may add to concerns about the UK’s modest productivity performance, adds Lloyds Bank.

The Westpac-McDermott Miller New Zealand consumer confidence index edged slightly lower in the March quarter. Survey showed that people grew wary about the short-term economic outlook, but extended the nation’s run of optimism to six years.

The Westpac McDermott Miller consumer confidence index fell 1.2 points to 111.9 in the March quarter, but remained above the long-run average of 111.4. The present conditions index decreased 0.2 points to 111.2 and the expected conditions index fell 1.9 points to 112.4.

“March’s slight fall in confidence mainly reflected some anxiety about the upcoming election. It might also reflect concerns around housing affordability or political developments offshore, both of which continued to hit the headlines in recent weeks,” said Westpac Banking Corp senior economist Satish Ranchhod.

The latest economic data showed GDP figures showed that on a per-capita basis, household spending rose by around 2 percent last year which reflected a healthy level of spending confidence. With a growing confidence of consumers in their own household financial security, and a positive outlook for the New Zealand economy we could expect continuing positive consumer sentiment to translate into sustained growth.

As expected, the US Federal Reserve hiked interest rate by 25 basis points in its March meeting. However, aside from the rate hike, there were no major changes in the FOMC forecast or statement, except for few minor tweaks. With March meeting gone, there are now seven upcoming meetings this year and the Fed has forecasted hikes in two of them. Let’s look at the market pricing of the hikes, (note, all calculations are based on data as of 16th March)

May 3rd meeting: Market is attaching 94 percent probability that rates will be at 0.75-1.00 percent, and 6 percent probability that rates will be at 1.00-1.25 percent.
June 14th Meeting: Market is attaching 46 percent probability that rates will be at 0.75-1.00 percent, 51 percent probability that rates will be at 1.00-1.25 percent, and 3 percent probability that rates will be at 1.25-1.50 percent.
July 26th meeting: Market is attaching 38 percent probability that rates will be at 0.75-1.00 percent, 50 percent probability that rates will be at 1.00-1.25 percent, 11 percent probability that rates will be at 1.25-1.50 percent, and 1 percent probability that rates will be at 1.50-1.75 percent.
September 20th meeting: Market is attaching 21 percent probability that rates will be at 0.75-1.00 percent, 45 percent probability that rates will be at 1.00-1.25 percent, 28 percent probability that rates will be at 1.25-1.50 percent, 5.5 percent probability that rates will be at 1.50-1.75 percent, and 0.5 percent probability that rates will be at 1.75-2.00 percent.
November 1st meeting: Market is attaching 20 percent probability that rates will be at 0.75-1.00 percent, 43 percent probability that rates will be at 1.00-1.25 percent, 29 percent probability that rates will be at 1.25-1.50 percent, 7 percent probability that rates will be at 1.50-1.75 percent, and 1 percent probability that rates will be at 1.75-2.00 percent.
December 13th meeting: Market is attaching 10 percent probability that rates will be at 0.75-1.00 percent, 32 percent probability that rates will be at 1.00-1.25 percent, 36 percent probability that rates will be at 1.25-1.50 percent, 18 percent probability that rates will be at 1.50-1.75 percent, 3.5 percent probability that rates will be at 1.75-2.00 percent, and 0.5 percent probability that rates will be at 2.00-2.25 percent.
The probability is suggesting,

There hasn’t been much of a change after the FOMC. The market is still pricing a hike in June and a hike in December. It is still not clear why the market is predicting two hikes in H1 and just one in H2. This is probably because the market is pricing the Fed would keep additional room for easing.
We suspect that if the price of oil tumbles further, so would be the hike odds.

The New Zealand bonds remained weak at the time of closing Friday, tracking softness in the U.S. counterparts amid a quiet trading session that witnessed data of little economic significance. Also, investors will remain focused on the GlobalDairyTrade (GDT) price auction, scheduled to be held on March 21.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year bond, which moves inversely to its price rose 1 basis point to 3.29 percent at the time of closing, the yield on 7-year note jumped nearly 1-1/2 basis points to 2.86 percent while the yield on short-term 2-year note also dived 1 basis point higher at 2.13 percent.

New Zealand’s economy expanded 0.4 percent q/q over the final three months of 2016. That was below consensus expectations and the softest quarterly growth experienced since Q2 2015. Q3 growth was also revised lower to 0.8 percent q/q (from 1.1 percent previously reported). As such, annual growth eased to 2.7 percent y/y.

New Zealand’s Dairy prices fell 6.3 percent in the latest GDT price auction, following a 3.2 percent decline a fortnight ago. Within this, powder prices performed poorly, with whole milk powder prices falling 12.4 percent to USD2,794/MT, and skim milk powder prices falling 15.5 percent. Meanwhile, AMF continues to be well-supported at high levels, edging down only 0.8 percent.

New Zealand’s current account deficit narrowed as expected in Q4, leading to the smallest annual deficit (2.7 percent of the gross domestic product) since September 2014. Looking forward, there seem to be risks skewed towards modestly larger deficits on the back of higher global interest rates and a slow closure of the domestic credit-deposit growth gap, but this is not a cause for alarm.

The unadjusted current account deficit narrowed to USD2.3 billion in Q4 (from USD5.0 billion), broadly in line with consensus expectations. In annual terms, the deficit narrowed to 2.7 percent of GDP, which is the smallest deficit since September 2014 and well below its historical average of 3.7 percent.

In seasonally adjusted terms, the current account deficit also narrowed (by slightly more than we expected), printing at USD1.6 billion, down USD0.4 billion from Q3, driven by a further increase in the services surplus to an all-time high of USD1.2bn on increased international tourist spending, offset by a mildly larger goods deficit. The income deficit also narrowed by around USD0.4 billion to USD2.0 billion as income from New Zealand’s offshore investments increased in the quarter.

Further, net external debt of deposit-taking institutions rose a touch in the quarter to just over USD105 billion. However, that was offset by reduced external borrowing from the central government and ‘other’ sectors, meaning that the county’s total net external debt position actually fell to USD143.5 billion or 55.0 percent of GDP, the lowest since 2003.

The Japanese government bonds remained flat Wednesday as investors await to watch the Bank of Japan’s (BoJ) 2-day monetary policy meeting, scheduled to be held on March 15-16, announcing its decision on Thursday.

The benchmark 10-year bond yield, which moves inversely to its price, hovered around 0.09 percent, the long-term 30-year bond yields also traded flat at 0.87 percent and the yield on the short-term 2-year note remained rose by 1/2 basis points to -0.25 percent by 05:10 GMT.

The BoJ is expected to keep monetary policy steady on Thursday and stress that inflation is nowhere near levels that justify talk of withdrawing massive stimulus, as weak consumer spending casts a cloud over an otherwise healthy pick-up in the economy.

Further, at the two-day rate review that ends on Thursday, the central bank is expected to maintain its short-term interest rate target at minus 0.1 percent and a pledge to guide the 10-year government bond yield around zero percent via aggressive asset purchases. Analysts also expect the BoJ to keep intact a loose pledge to maintain the pace of its annual increase in Japanese government bond (JGBs), which is JPY80 trillion (USD696.62 billion).

The New Zealand bonds nose-dived Thursday, tracking weakness in the U.S. counterpart, with the 10-year yields sinking to over 2-week low after investors crowded demand in safe-haven assets, following lower-than-expected fourth-quarter gross domestic product (GDP).

The yield on the benchmark 10-year bond, which moves inversely to its price plunged 10 basis points to 3.28 percent, while the yield on 7-year note also slumped 10 basis points to 2.85 percent while the yield on short-term 2-year note dived 6-1/2 basis points to 2.12 percent by 05:50GMT.

New Zealand’s economy expanded 0.4 percent q/q over the final three months of 2016. That was below consensus expectations and the softest quarterly growth experienced since Q2 2015. Q3 growth was also revised lower to 0.8 percent q/q (from 1.1 percent previously reported). As such, annual growth eased to 2.7 percent y/y.

On the back of stronger terms of trade, nominal GDP rose 2.1 percent q/q (7.5 percent y/y), while real gross national disposable income (RGNDI) surged 2.8 percent q/q, the strongest quarterly lift since Q1 2010. In per capita terms, RGNDI rose 2.3 percent q/q. The benefits of this real income boost should not be discounted.

WTI dropped more than 9 percent last week as investors fear increased production in the United States and non-compliance within OPEC with the agreed production deal. WTI is currently trading at $48.7 per barrel and Brent at $51.9 per barrel.

Key factors at play in crude oil market –

February report shows that OPEC still remains in full compliance with the deal as a group but many members are yet to adhere to the agreed levels. Iran’s production crossed the agreed level in February but the country is still in compliance based on average monthly production.
Saudi Arabia could be bypassing the OPEC deal by increasing exports of refined products.
US production rose from 8.428 million barrels in last July to 9.09 million barrels per day last week. This is the highest level of production since last year. Payrolls are once again rising in the oil and gas sector according to ADP job numbers.
Some OPEC members are calling for no continuation of the deal when it expires in June.
Backwardation in the oil market extends further, currently at $1.05 per barrel.
API reported a draw 0.531 million barrels of crude oil.
Today’s inventory report from US Energy Information Administration (EIA) will be released at 14:30 GMT. Trade idea –

We expect the WTI to extend gains towards $59 per barrel, and then towards $67 per barrel. However, a decline towards $46 per barrel in the short term can’t be ruled out. We don’t suspect the oil price to break below $42 stop loss area for the long call.

A rate hike from the US Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) today is almost a certainty. The policymakers would conclude their two days of meeting today and announce the decision at 18:00 GMT, followed by a press conference by the Fed Chair Janet Yellen. As of data available for March 14th, the participants in the financial markets are pricing with 91 percent probability that there will be a 25 basis points rate hike. The market is pricing the next hike to be in June and the third hike to be in December.

We have prepared an FOMC dashboard that segregates members in three distinct groups, Hawks, Doves, and unknowns based on their remarks and commentaries made in public forums, focusing on the March interest rate decision. That dashboard is also suggesting that there will be a hike today. We have found that except for Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari, all the other members are hawkish heading to the rate decision. We also couldn’t confirm the views of Daniel Tarullo, who has recently resigned and this is his last rate decision meeting.

The US dollar index is currently trading at 101.38, down 0.25 percent for the day. The dollar has been struggling to head to higher highs despite a full market pricing (almost) of a hike in March and three this year. So, the dollar index might see selloffs after the interest rate decision if the inflation and interest rate outlooks are not substantially upgraded beyond what was shared in the December projections. In addition to that, the major focus is on the Dutch election this week, for which the results would start appearing after the FOMC meeting.

The Australian bonds traded modestly higher Wednesday as investors poured into safe-haven assets ahead of the February employment report, scheduled to be released on March 16. Also, the Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) monetary policy meeting, scheduled for later in the day will provide further guidance to financial markets.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves inversely to its price, fell 1/2 basis point to 2.93 percent, the yield on 15-year note dived nearly 1 basis point to 3.32 percent and the yield on short-term 2-year also traded 1 basis point lower at 1.89 percent by 03:20 GMT.

Australia’s February business conditions retraced some of the previous month’s gains, but remain at levels consistent with solid growth. Confidence also eased back slightly. Business confidence also edged down in February, alongside a further deterioration in the Federal Government’s standing in public opinion polling.

“We expect the February jobs report, out later this week, to show a solid rise in employment, but over the longer term a sharper downtrend in the unemployment rate is likely necessary for a sustained boost to households’ perceptions of their finances,” ANZ Research commented in its latest research report.

Eurozone industrial production growth increased less than expected in January, data from the European Union statistics office Eurostat showed on Tuesday. Industrial production in the 19-member single currency bloc rose by 0.9 percent month-over-month in January and by 0.6 percent year-on-year.

Industrial production data missed expectations in a Reuters poll for an average monthly rise of 1.3 percent and a 0.9 percent increase year-on-year. Higher investment in machinery was partially offset by a drop in the production of consumer goods.

Data for December which initially showed industrial production fell by 1.6 percent on the month, were revised higher to now show a 1.2 percent drop. On a yearly basis, output went up by 2.5 percent in December, more than the 2.0 rise previously estimated.

Non-durable goods output slipped 2.6 percent in January after 1.4 percent gain in December, marking the first decline in three months. Growth in durable consumer goods production also eased to 1.5 percent from 4.3 percent in the previous month.

Capital goods production dropped 0.8 percent following 0.5 percent growth in December. The intermediate goods output slowed to 0.8 percent from 3.6 percent in the previous month. Energy production growth slowed only slightly to 6.9 percent from 7 percent.

The Japanese government bonds traded narrowly mixed Tuesday as investors await to watch the Bank of Japan’s (BoJ) 2-day monetary policy meeting, scheduled to be held on March 15-16, announcing its decision on Thursday.

The benchmark 10-year bond yield, which moves inversely to its price, hovered around 0.09 percent, the long-term 30-year bond yields also traded flat at 0.87 percent and the yield on the short-term 2-year note remained steady at -0.25 percent by 06:00 GMT.

The BoJ is expected to keep monetary policy steady on Thursday and stress that inflation is nowhere near levels that justify talk of withdrawing massive stimulus, as weak consumer spending casts a cloud over an otherwise healthy pick-up in the economy.

Further, at the two-day rate review that ends on Thursday, the central bank is expected to maintain its short-term interest rate target at minus 0.1 percent and a pledge to guide the 10-year government bond yield around zero percent via aggressive asset purchases. Analysts also expect the BoJ to keep intact a loose pledge to maintain the pace of its annual increase in Japanese government bond (JGBs), which is JPY80 trillion (USD696.62 billion).

Latest data released yesterday show that the upward march of inflation that continued early last year is still gathering pace in Europe. Spain released its consumer price inflation report yesterday and it showed that consumer prices in February rose at the fastest pace since 2012. In February, Prices were up by 3 percent from a year ago and on a monthly basis it is up by 0.3 percent from January. Two major contributors were transport prices that rose by 8.2 percent and housing prices which rose by 5.9 percent. Furniture and household good is the only sector that took a dip of 0.4 percent compared to the year-ago level. Spanish inflation came in line with that of the entire Eurozone, where the price rose by 2 percent, highest level in four years and above the target of the European Central Bank (ECB).

Data from Poland points that the return of inflation is not just a Eurozone development it’s pan-European and global as well. Inflation in Poland rose by 2.2 percent in February, which is again the fastest pace in four years.

However, one should pay an ear to the European Central Bank (ECB) President Draghi’s comments that the central bank is not worried about inflation as it is being largely driven by an increase in the prices of commodities. Lately, the prices of commodities, especially energy and industrials have taken a hit and it is likely to get reflected in the numbers going ahead. We at FxWirePro expect the European Central Bank (ECB) to continue its easing as declared and throughout the year.

The euro is currently trading at 1.063 against the dollar.

With January meeting gone, there are eight more Fed meetings scheduled ahead for this year and according to the December projection, the Fed is expected to hike rates by 25 basis points in three of them. The financial market has recently started pricing three rate hikes for the year. Let’s look at the market pricing of the hikes, (note, all calculations are based on data as of 10th March)

March 15th meeting: Market is attaching 11 percent probability that rates will remain at 0.5-0.75 percent, and 89 percent probability that rates will be at 0.75-1.00 percent
May 3rd meeting: Market is attaching 10.5 percent probability that rates will remain at 0.5-0.75 percent, 82 percent probability that rates will be at 0.75-1.00 percent, and 7.5 percent probability that rates will be at 1.00-1.25 percent.
June 14th Meeting: Market is attaching 5 percent probability that rates will remain at 0.50-0.75 percent, 42 percent probability that rates will be at 0.75-1.00 percent, 49 percent probability that rates will be at 1.00-1.25 percent, and 4 percent probability that rates will be at 1.25-1.50 percent.
July 26th meeting: Market is attaching 4 percent probability that rates will remain at 0.50-0.75 percent, 35 percent probability that rates will be at 0.75-1.00 percent, 47 percent probability that rates will be at 1.00-1.25 percent, 13 percent probability that rates will be at 1.25-1.50 percent, and 1 percent probability that rates will be at 1.50-1.75 percent.
September 20th meeting: Market is attaching 2 percent probability that rates will remain at 0.50-0.75 percent, 23 percent probability that rates will be at 0.75-1.00 percent, 43 percent probability that rates will be at 1.00-1.25 percent, 26 percent probability that rates will be at 1.25-1.50 percent, 5.5 percent probability that rates will be at 1.50-1.75 percent, and 0.5 percent probability that rates will be at 1.75-2.00 percent.
November 1st meeting: Market is attaching 2 percent probability that rates will remain at 0.50-0.75 percent, 21 percent probability that rates will be at 0.75-1.00 percent, 40 percent probability that rates will be at 1.00-1.25 percent, 28 percent probability that rates will be at 1.25-1.50 percent, 8 percent probability that rates will be at 1.50-1.75 percent, and 1 percent probability that rates will be at 1.75-2.00 percent.
December 13th meeting: Market is attaching 1percent probability that rates will remain at 0.50-0.75 percent, 9 percent probability that rates will be at 0.75-1.00 percent, 28 percent probability that rates will be at 1.00-1.25 percent, 36 percent probability that rates will be at 1.25-1.50 percent, 20 percent probability that rates will be at 1.50-1.75 percent, 5 percent probability that rates will be at 1.75-2.00 percent, and 1 percent probability that rates will be at 2.00-2.25 percent.
The probability is suggesting,

1st hike of the year in March and the second hike in June. The third one is being priced in December.

The Australian bonds rebounded on the first trading day of the week as investors remain glued to watch the February employment report, scheduled to be released on March 15. Further, the 10-year bond yields have formed a ‘bullish gravestone doji’ pattern after two consecutive sessions of selling activity in the last week.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves inversely to its price, plunged 3-1/2 basis points to 2.95 percent, the yield on 15-year note also dived 3-1/2 basis points to 3.34 percent and the yield on short-term 2-year traded 1-1/2 basis points lower at 1.91 percent by 04:40 GMT.

Australia’s unemployment rate unexpectedly fell in January, despite a plunge in full-time jobs, underscoring the mixed picture of the country’s labor market. The unemployment rate held below 6 percent partly due to discouraged job-seekers giving up the hunt, underscoring spare capacity in the labor market.

The New Zealand government bonds jumped Monday at the time of closing, following expectations of a drop in the country’s fourth-quarter gross domestic product (GDP), scheduled to be released on March 15.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year bond, which moves inversely to its price plunged 3-1/2 basis points to 3.39 percent at the time of closing, the yield on 7-year note also slipped nearly 3-1/2 basis points to 2.94 percent while the yield on short-term 5-year note traded 2-1/2 basis points lower at 2.64 percent.

The rate of quarterly GDP growth is expected to soften a touch in Q4, partly related to temporary weather influences. Tight supply (rather than meaningfully softer demand) conditions are dominating. The current account deficit should remain at a historically comfortable level, ANZ research reported.

“We estimate that GDP rose by a modest 0.5 percent in the December quarter, following 1.1 percent growth in September. Construction is again expected to be one of the strongest sectors, with primary production and manufacturing likely to be the most significant drags on growth,” Westpac commented in its recent research publication.

President Donald Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steven Munchin has warned the both houses of congress in an open letter of the looming debt ceiling, which is expected to get hit on March 15th. The image of the letter is attached. In the letter he said that the suspension of the statutory debt limit which was done via a bipartisan budget act of 2015 will expire on March 15th of this year and from March 16th, the outstanding debt of the United States will be at the statutory limit. He warns that after that treasury will have to take up extraordinary measures to temporarily avoid defaults on obligations. He adds that after March 15th, it would halt sales of state and local government series (SLGS) and the suspension would continue until the debt limit is either increased or suspended.

Lastly, he encourages the congress to raise the limit at the earliest. President Trump has been critical of debt-ceiling increases in the past. In 2013, he had tweeted the followings,

“I cannot believe the Republicans are extending the debt ceiling—I am a Republican & I am embarrassed! Republicans are always worried about their general approval. With proposing to ‘ignore the debt ceiling’ they are ignoring their base.”

However, this time around, he is likely to support an increase.

Speaking with the BBC, Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon said that she has not decided whether to push for another independence referendum but insisted that she is not bluffing with her demands to the UK government for special concessions for Scotland. Previously she had said that she has cast iron mandate as her party was overwhelming elected in the regional election and because in the last referendum it was publicized that only by remaining in the UK, Scotland would have access to the EU single market. Her government brought a litigation saying that the parliament in Scotland should have voting power over Article 50, which was denied by the highest court. She has repeatedly accused Prime Minister Theresa May’s government of overlooking her demands.

While she kept her Scoxit referendum date thinly veiled she seemed to be agreeing on the time suggested by her predecessor Alex Salmond, who resigned after losing the first referendum. The time suggested by him is autumn 2018. According to Ms. Sturgeon, the time suggested makes sense as the major outline of the Brexit deal would be clear by then.

Commodity markets are taking centrestageas oil had its largest one day fall (- 4.5%) in 13 months. Oil net long positions from the CFTC have been overextended since the start of the year, but it was the combination of technicals and ever more inventory builds in the US that gave investors the signal to take profit. Within G10, CAD has been, and should continue to be, more sensitive than NOK because leveraged market positioning is still very long CAD. CADJPY is sitting on its 100DMA, with a move below 84.20 marking a technical break. AUDUSD is about to break below its 100DMA at 0.75,helped by iron ore prices falling 9% from their peak, keeping us bearish on this pair. AUDUSD has bounced off the top end of a trend channel, bringing the bottom end of the channel at 0.7080 into focus. Even with expectations of a neutral Norges Bank next week (or essentially less dovish than last time), we stick with our tactical long USDNOK trade of the week.

Oil inventory data from the EIA showed a rise of 8.2mb to 528.4m, which is the highest in the data series going back to 1982. US producers appear to be ramping up production quickly, helped by stronger margins from high oil prices and relatively low funding costs. According to Reuters, producers in the red-hot Permian Basin in Texas are expected to increase production soon. An observation from our oil desk highlights the extent of the extreme technicals. They say that there hasn’t been a time in the last 30 years when the weekly front end Brent contract has been in such a tight range, trading sideways for three months. The longer that went on for, the more positioning stresses built up, explaining the sharp drop yesterday. The next formal OPEC meeting isn’tuntil May 25.

The DXY is still under performingtherisein positive US data surprises: Yesterday’s bumper ADP jobs estimate of growth of 298k in February beat market consensus of 187k. Our US economist has revised up his NFP expectation from 200k to 250k. Jobless claims hitting a series of record lows all year, combined with one of the warmest Februarys on record, has helped outdoor industries like construction do well. The market now prices a 100% probability of a hike in rates by the Fed next week, and so any USD strength needs to be driven by expectations of a faster pace of rate hikes in 2018.

JPY: Investors sensitive to US yields: Weekly security flow data for last week showed Japanese net selling of 1.13trn of foreign bonds. There will likely be some volatile data in the run-up to fiscal year-end (March 31) but we think there should be more focus put onto country reallocations for Japanese investors, with a potential to shift into higher-yielding assets. Yesterday the Nikkei reported that the Japanese Financial Services Agency will start to audit regional banks who have large exposures in foreign debt. In particular, concerns have been raised about losses made on US Treasuries. The benefits of USD rising versus JPY as US Treasuries sell off are not there if the bank is holding the foreign asset with an FX hedge. This story needs to be watched to see if changing governance may push Japanese banking sector investments locally instead of abroad. Thinking about that flow, it may actually still be bearish for JPY if it puts downward pressure on JGB yields or increases local lending. If the BoJ’s central bank liquidity turns into ‘high-powered liquidity’ as the banks lend more to businesses, this would help local inflation and thus weaken JPY. Selling EURGBP over the ECB: Today’s market focus will be on the ECB press conference and specifically how much more confident Draghi is about the recovery in inflation. Should the market, against our economist’s expectations, perceive today to be a hawkish outcome, then we think that EUR will trade in two stages. Initially EUR should rally as bond yields rise (with our limit being at 1.08). However, the bond yield rise may be disproportionate across the region, causing spreads to widen. The spread widening is not a good sign for the monetary union as it will highlight further the divergence in economic data performance. EUR should fall as markets realise this and EUR becomes inversely correlated with peripheral spreads. On the UK side, Nicola Sturgeon has suggested to the BBC that a second independence referendum in autumn 2018 would make sense but still stresses thatno final decision has been made. This story adds to our bullish GBP view since it may bring Theresa May’s approach to the Brexit negotiations away from the ‘hard Brexit’ and towards the middle to accommodate Scottish views. We think that Brexit risks are largely in the price and still like selling EURGBP, with a stop at 0.88.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit bill suffered a second defeat at the House of Lords after the lawmakers rejected last week an amendment with regard to the rights of the people of the European Union who are staying in the United Kingdom. Yesterday, by an overwhelming majority, 366 to 268, the lawmakers voted in favor of an amendment which gives the parliamentarians in the United Kingdom, the final say over the Brexit deal, which is expected to be reached over next two years after the Article 50 is triggered before March 31st this year.

The amendment was introduced by the Labor Party of the UK but the government had argued that it would be a threat to national interest. However, that didn’t prevent the amendment from securing a bipartisan victory. While Ms. May had verbally promised a vote to the parliament in her Brexit speech, the amendment binds her to make good on that promise.

The Brexit bill will now return to the House of Commons with the amendment forcing May to have a vote on her Brexit deal and another guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens. The government is working hard to pass the bill and trigger the Article 50 divorce clause by March 31st or the exit would become more difficult after that date. From April 1st, a country looking to exit the EU would need the support of 14 members of the 27 members group.

The Japanese government bonds traded flat Wednesday as investors digested the upswing in the country’s fourth-quarter gross domestic product (GDP).

The benchmark 10-year bond yield, which moves inversely to its price, hovered around 0.07 percent, while the long-term 30-year bond yields jumped 3 basis points to 0.87 percent while the yield on the short-term 2-year note traded flat at -0.28 percent by 06:40 GMT.

Japan’s GDP gained 0.3 percent on quarter in the fourth quarter of 2016, the Cabinet Office said in Wednesday’s final revision, missing forecasts 0.4 percent and was up from last month’s preliminary reading of 0.2 percent. GDP gained 0.3 percent in Q3.

On a yearly basis, GDP was revised up to 1.2 percent from 1.0 percent, although that also missed forecasts for 1.5 percent. GDP gained 1.4 percent in the three months prior. Nominal GDP was bumped up to 0.4 percent on quarter from 0.3 percent in the third quarter. That missed forecasts for 0.5 percent but was up from 0.2 percent in the three months prior.

The Australian bonds continued to slump Wednesday as investors cashed in profits after the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) remained on hold at the latest monetary policy meeting held yesterday, hinting at no further policy easing in the near-term.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves inversely to its price, jumped nearly 5 basis points to 2.87 percent, the yield on 15-year note also climbed nearly 5 basis points to 3.28 percent while the yield on short-term 1-year traded 1 basis point lower at 1.61 percent by 05:00 GMT.

The RBA has left the official cash rate on hold for a sixth straight meeting on signs the economy is strengthening and business investment has picked up. The decision to maintain rates at current levels comes as the labor market, inflation and wages growth continue to stutter at the same time that growth has recovered, housing prices continue to surge and business and consumer confidence hover around multi-year highs.

Further, the central bank expects the economy to grow around 3 percent annually over the next several years on steady consumption growth and expanding resource exports.

The Australian bonds plunged after the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) remained on hold at today’s monetary policy meeting, hinting at no further policy easing in the near-term.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves inversely to its price, rose 1 basis point to 2.82 percent, the yield on 15-year note also nearly 1-1/2 basis points to 3.23 percent while the yield on short-term 2-year traded nearly 1/2 basis point lower at 1.84 percent by 04:20 GMT.

The RBA has left the official cash rate on hold for a sixth straight meeting on signs the economy is strengthening and business investment has picked up. The decision to maintain rates at current levels comes as the labour market, inflation and wages growth continue to stutter at the same time that growth has recovered, housing prices continue to surge and business and consumer confidence hover around multi-year highs.

Further, the central bank expects the economy to grow around 3 percent annually over the next several years on steady consumption growth and expanding resource exports.

Retail sales across the eurozone fell for a third straight month in January missing market expectations of a rise. Data released by Eurostat on Friday showed retail sales in the 19 countries sharing the euro fell by 0.1 percent m/m in January. Data disappointed market expectations of a 0.4 percent increase on the month.

Year-on-year, the volume of retail sales grew 1.2 percent in January, also below the 1.6 percent rise forecasted. Data suggested lower consumer appetite for spending possibly caused by higher consumer prices.

A 0.2 percent drop in purchases of non-food products was seen as the main drag on monthly retail sales reading. Sales of food, drinks and tobacco were also down 0.1 percent. Car fuel sale was an exception which rose by 0.8 percent in the month.

The unexpected drop in retail sales was in contrast to broader signs that the eurozone economy has strengthened over recent months. A survey of purchasing managers at manufacturers and service providers also released Friday pointed to a pickup in private sector activity, with the composite Purchasing Managers Index hit its highest level in 70 months.

The Australian bonds gained modestly at the start of the trading week Monday ahead of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) monetary policy decision, scheduled to be held on March 7. However, investors have largely shrugged off the upbeat reading of the country’s retail sales during the month of January.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves inversely to its price, slipped nearly 1 basis point to 2.81 percent, the yield on 15-year note also fell nearly 1-1/2 basis points to 3.23 percent while the yield on short-term 2-year traded nearly 1/2 basis point lower at 1.84 percent by 03:50 GMT.

Australia’s nominal retail sales rose by 0.4 percent m/m in January, in line with market expectations and a recovery from soft results in November and December. In annual terms, retail sales were up 3.1 percent y/y in January.

However, in trend terms, retail sales slowed to 0.2 percent m/m in January (from 0.3 percent m/m in both November and December) but remained steady at 3.2 percent y/y.

“There is little sign of this dynamic changing anytime soon, in our view. Thus, while we think the RBA is most likely on hold we see the prospects of a rate cut in the next 12 months as much greater than those of a rate hike,” ANZ Research commented in its latest research report.

Trump’s plans for fair trade sound like a border tax adjustment President Trump’s address to Congress contained much of what we have come to expect: i) tax cuts for businesses and the middle class ii) $1trn worth of infrastructure spending (financed by public and private partnership) and iii) fairer trade. Last year’s near US$800bn US trade deficit is very much in focus and Trump’s remarks last night regarding unfair international tax structures point to growing acceptance of Paul Ryan’s border tax adjustment (BTA) plan. Beyond the touted benefits of encouraging onshoring and discouraging corporate tax inversions, the BTA is also ear-marked to generate US$100bn of increased tax revenue – which seems essential to pay for corporate tax cuts elsewhere. There is much literature on why a 20% border tax adjustment necessitates a 25% rally in the dollar. The magnitude of the impact will be disputed, but the direction of travel should be pretty clear and keep the dollar supported into key Trump speeches (talk of tax details being released March 13th). The dollar is also being supported by the now 78% probability of Fed March hike – after Fed insider Dudley said the case for a rate hike had become ‘a lot more compelling’. A strong ISM and the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation, headline PCE, pushing to 2.0% today both point to further dollar strength. DXY to 102.05/10.

Mexican Central Bank, Inflation and Outlook

According to news reports, central bank governor Agustin Carstens will stay in his current position until the end of November 2017, as opposed to leaving at the end of June. He was set to join the BIS as General Manager on 1 October 2017. At the time of writing, neither the central bank nor the office of Mexico’s President had confirmed this delayed departure. If confirmed, the change in his departure date would give more time for the President to consider submitting an initiative to Congress to change the central bank law to remove the requirement that all members of the board have to be born in Mexico. The main beneficiary of this change would be, in our view, Alejandro Werner, current Director of the Western Hemisphere at the IMF. Results from the latest Citibanamex inflation survey will be released today at about 3:00pm EST. We estimate that headline and core consumer prices rose 0.15% mom and 0.37% mom, respectively, in the first half of February versus the second half of January. If our estimates are accurate, annual headline inflation would stand at 4.5%, down from 4.7% in January, while annual core inflation would be 4.0%, unchanged compared to last month. The government will report consumer price figures for the first half of February on Thursday at 9:00am EST. We expect annual headline inflation to remain above the central bank’s inflation target (3% ± 1p.p) upper limit throughout the year. We estimate that agricultural prices fell by close to 1% in the first half of February, relative to the second half of January, accounting for most of the gap between the headline and core inflation prints. Finally, in a TV interview central bank deputy governor Alejandro Díaz de León said that the central bank’s main job is that inflation expectations remain well-anchored and that price formation in the economy also remains adequate. In his view, the central bank’s interest rate increases are creating a more orderly outlook for inflation. He said that future interest rate increases will be contingent on several items, including relative monetary conditions vis-à-vis the US Federal Reserve, upcoming inflation numbers and the output gap. These are the main factors the central bank has mentioned in its most recent monetary policy statements. On currency interventions he said that the goal has been to foster good liquidity in the market and intervene only in a few instances when liquidity dries up.

 

Commodities, US Oil rig count, Copper strikes

US rig count: Baker Hughes data shows that the US oil rig count increased by 6 over the week, taking the total number of active rigs to 597. Since the start of the year, the number of rigs has increased by 72, while from the lows in May 2016 the number has increased by 281. 

WTI speculative position: Over the last reporting week, speculators increased their net long position in WTI by 30,951 lots to leave them with a record net long of 390,338 lots. This sizeable position does continue to pose a risk to the market, although with the right catalyst. 

Escondida strike: Having failed to meet last week, BHP and unions at Escondida copper mine are scheduled to meet today, in the hope of moving closer towards an agreement. Workers at the copper mine have been on strike since the 9th February, which has continued to offer support to the copper market. 

Philippine mine closures: There is still plenty of uncertainty around the closure and suspension of mines in the Philippines. The president will now be reviewing the environmental secretary’s decision, while miners continue to fight the order. The Philippines in the largest nickel supplier in the world. 

Indian sugar production: Cumulative sugar production in India since the beginning of the season to mid-February totalled 14.7m tonnes according to Indian Sugar Mills Association. This is a 15% decrease YoY, and with a number of mills already shut for the season, production will be significantly lower YoY. We continue to believe that India will need to import around 2m tonnes of sugar for domestic needs this year. 

Corn spec position: Speculators continue to build their long position in the corn market, with their net long increasing by 56,527 lots to leave them with a net long of 85,360 lots. This is the longest speculators have been since July 2016, and expectations of reduced US acreage next season has been positive for sentiment. However this is some distance off still, and with good crops expected from South America this season, we would expect the upside in corn to be limited. 

Monthly Global EM Outlook, Trump Policies and Inflation

From the current starting point, the near-term inflation outlook is generally unthreatening in most markets that have a large weight in the international benchmark indices for EM local currency debt.

Inflation has risen in some EM countries during the past half year in response to currency depreciation and increases in global oil prices; but the CPI impact of exchange rate weakness has in most cases diminished and the oil price effect is probably about to peak. Beyond the group of EM countries that now have large weights in the EM debt indices, it is notable that core inflation is on the rise in China.

 The current level of core inflation (2.2% year-on-year) is not seriously disconcerting but if it continues to creep upwards then it will eventually become a constraint on China’s monetary policy. This represents a risk for the entire EM/commodities complex, but it is more likely to be a risk for the second half of 2017 than a focal point in the next few months. More imminently, the main risk of abrupt policy rate increases in the EM universe comes from the US in the form of the possibility of a surprisingly large batch of Fed rate hikes during the remainder of the year and/or a border adjustment tax. Either of these shocks could force a swathe of EM central banks to choose between raising their policy rates substantially or having to live with undesirably steep currency depreciation.

Given the current predominantly unthreatening EM inflation trends and residual labor market capacity slack in many countries, a large share of the EM central banks – especially in Asia – look set to be able to leave their own policy interest rates unchanged if the Fed keeps raising rates at a gentle pace and if the US border adjustment tax fades away.

An important source of inflation volatility in the EM world in recent years has EM currency depreciation (in nominal trade-weighted terms) that has led to increases in prices not only for imports, but also for those domestically produced goods that compete against foreignproduced items either in the domestic market or the export market. However, this problem dissipated in most of the EM world during the course of 2016, and only a few of the large EM countries – Mexico and Turkey to be precise – are seeing this problem unfold right now

Two other large EM countries – Brazil and Russia – are in the opposite camp. Inflation has fallen sharply in both countries in the past year. This reflects in part a swing from large-scale currency depreciation in late 2015 and early 2016 to equally forceful currency appreciation during the past 12 months. Deep recession, widening output gaps, and cautious monetary policy in both countries have also helped contain inflation. The view of our Brazil-based economists is that recent currency appreciation will continue to help drive down the country’s inflation in the present year whereas the main drivers of last year’s fall in inflation were a large decline in the pace of adjustment in government controlled prices (in part reflecting currency dynamics and a big change in global oil price inflation), the depth of the recession and, related to this, weakened wage pressure in the labor market.

To be sure, the behavior of EM currencies, inflation and policy rates would be highly likely to become much messier if the Fed were to accelerate the pace of its rate hikes substantially beyond what is currently priced into the US rates curve, perhaps in response to stronger wage data or aggressive future plans for unfunded US tax cuts. There is also, in our view, a very real risk to EM investors associated with the plan of Republican members of US Congress for border adjustment taxation (BAT), or from the possible imposition by the US of other types of import taxation. As we have argued multiple times on these pages, the BAT and import tariffs are likely to be highly dollarsupportive. If Trump’s decides to support either, and if he secures congressional approval, dollar-based holders of EM local-currency-denominated assets are likely to take a hit.

It might seem inviting to think that the BAT would help curb inflation in the EM world, because it would be likely to drive down the dollar price that EM-based importers pay for goods from the US (as US exporters would be entitled to a new subsidy) while also driving down the dollar price that EM-based exporters would obtain from sales to the US (because their sales would be subject to taxation at the US border). But the inflation “benefit” would be eroded by EM currency depreciation against the dollar. EM currency depreciation would most likely be sufficient to drive the local-currency prices for EM countries’ exports and imports (in trade with the US) almost all the way back to their pre-BAT levels.

 

European Bonds and Credit, spread tightening across the board

Yesterday saw some semi-core and peripheral spreads tightening pretty much across the board versus core EGBs, with especially PGBs putting in a strong performance, outperforming 10yr Bunds by more than 10bp. GGBs bucked the tightening trend after ECB’s Stournaras told Greek MPs that the bailout was at a “critical” stage, and that any future PSPP-eligibility of GGBs would be contingent on the completion of the bailout review and a legally binding agreement over specified medium-term debt relief measures (which doesn’t seem imminent to say the least).

A remarkable feature of yesterday’s price action was the further widening of Bund ASW spreads, with the futures-implied 10yr Bund ASW hitting 50bp. It now exceeds our estimate of fair value – which is based off 2s10s, BTP/Bund spreads, 6M Libor-repo spreads and implied volatility – by more than 10bp. ECB weekly data on PSPP showed that purchases slowed marginally to €16.9bn in the week ended 10 February from €17.3bn the week before.

Corporate and covered bond purchases also slowed, but the overall €20.1bn bought across all asset classes still leaves the ECB on track to buy more than €80bn in February. Today’s main event will be Fed Chair Yellen’s testimony to the Senate Banking Panel. If she want’s March to be a live meeting as other Fed officials have suggested it is, she will have to adopt a more hawkish tone beyond the usual reference to data dependency. Currently we calculate a market implied probability of around 17% for March rate hike. Supply. No EGB supply is scheduled for today.

In SSA space KfW has used this opportunity to announce the launch of a new 10yr KfW EUR benchmark. Wide Bund ASWs currently render the agency relatively cheap versus the sovereign. The KfW 3/26 which was launched last year currently trades at a pick-up of 30bp versus the DBR 2/26 – its widest level to date. We think these levels are starting to look attractive for switches into KfW. Not only do our models for the Bund ASW suggest that it is currently much too wide but we also think that the Bundesbank is at the point where it has to increasingly look into the option of sub-depo buying – and also agency- or regional bond alternatives to Bunds.

 US Financial and Monetary Conditions, Yellen, Inflation & Oil, China and RMB

US financial and monetary conditions continue to improve as market indicated real yields remain muted while stocks and other real assets break into higher valuation territory. The S&P 500 has exceeded the 20trn market capitalisation mark on the day when all four major US equity indices reached new historic highs. The advance seems broad-based with cyclicals like financials taking the lead. The stock market trades reflation and, with US markets leading, markets seem to be taking the view that global reflation is centered in the US.

Against this background the Fed’s Yellen will appear before the Senate Banking Committee at 3pm (Ldn) today and the House Financial Services Committee tomorrow. A prepared testimony will be the same both days and will probably be released when the Senate hearing starts but sometimes gets released earlier by the committee. Here Yellen will have to present the Fed’s view which at times has differed from her more dovish attitude. Hence, it is not surprising to see markets walking into these risk events with a relaxed attitude, seeing the Fed hiking only cautiously and not as aggressively as signaled by the median Fed dots. Should Yellen divert from the moderate projection of the interest rate path as currently priced into the market, the USD may rally. This risk is asymmetrically priced leaving us comfortable with our USD long positioning against low yielding currencies EUR and JPY.

Animal spirits are now often mentioned in press reports. The last time the US was experiencing animal spirits goes back to the 90s when James Rubin ran the US Treasury. Then it was the high tech boom driving many asset classes. The stock market started to correlate with retail sales as wealth effects kicked in. We have not yet seen this effect in the US, but with the continued asset rally the likelihood of animal spirits taking over is not insignificant. Last year, it was the shaky international background pushing the USD sharply lower as the Fed eased the markets’ rate expectations via dovish talk. Today even the global environment looks better with EMU economic and political divergence providing the exception.

Inflation and oil. This morning saw China’s PPI growth beating market estimates by a wide margin with rising commodity prices and a strong January base effect providing the main catalysts. US bond yields coming down faster than the Japanese yields may dampen USDJPY, but it does not generally weaken the USD. As long as the reason for lower oil prices is due to higher US oil output the decline of oil may even work in favour of the USD in the long term. Yesterday the US (EIA) reported its oil output increasing by 80k. Oil rigs are on a fast rise as shale companies experience better funding conditions and the ability to sell oil at higher prices.

RMB in focus. According to the WSJ, President Trump’s administration may be considering alternative strategies with regard to currency issues with China. “Under the plan, the commerce secretary would designate the practice of currency manipulation as an unfair subsidy when employed by any country, instead of singling out China, said people briefed on or involved in formulating the policy.” There are two issues coming into our minds. First, the administration hoping China may push USDCNY lower via using its reserves or tightening its own monetary conditions. This strategy comes at relative costs to China and is beneficial for the US. Should this scenario work out then China may switch some of it FX reserves into JPY or EUR even if this comes with potential future FX reserves valuation losses. Secondly, China may turn into an infrastructure investor into the US. Japan seems to already be leaning in this direction. It would help the US in creating jobs while giving China a good investment return for its foreign-held assets. In this scenario the US yield curve would stay steep and the USD strong.

Carry Trades Still Supported, JPY weakness and EURUSD

JPY and EUR funded carry themes stay on top of our recommendation list. The resignation of the Fed’s Tarullo, responsible for bank regulation, will add to speculation that the US banking sector is soon going to be in a position to increase its higher risk assets, which will be seen as market risk friendly. This morning has seen copper prices in China rallying by as much as 5.9%, inspired by disruptions in mines in Indonesia and Chile and strong demand in China. Oil has continued its rally, supported by last week’s IEA report which suggested 90% compliance with the OPEC output cuts agreed. Higher commodity prices will steepen curves within output gap closed economies such as the US adding to USD support against low yielding currencies. In this scenario, EM should stay bid across the board helped by better revenue prospects on the back of higher commodity prices.

TheJPY5_30’s curve has flattened for the 4th day in a row underlining the success of the BoJ’s yield curve management. Today’s release of strong 4Q GDP growth (1%QoQ) provided probably the best outcome for the JPY to weaken further. It was strong enough to keep inflation expectations high enough to keep JPY real yields contained. On the other hand it was weak enough to still keep the BoJ on its yield curve managing approach. The technical position of USDJPY looks bullish leaving markets taking advantage of the benign outcome of the Trump Abe meeting this weekend in Florida. Underlining both countries’ common geo Pacific interests should imply that the US has an interest in a strong and reflating Japan. For Japan to reflate it needs yield curve management leading to JPY weakness, within a globally reflating environment.

The only risk to JPY weakness may come out of Europe where Japan holds significant holdings in semi core sovereign bonds. There is a lot of talk about political risks in the run-up to the 15 March election in the Netherlands, the April/May French Presidential election and the September General vote in Germany. However, economic and credit concerns may be even more important. The hawkish speech by the ECB’s Mersch on Friday does not lead to EUR strength. Instead it revealed EMU’s structural weakness suggesting EURUSD may break the 1.0610 chart point. Should the ECB talk tough and Italy stay economically weak then EMU real rates will be too high for Italy, suggesting the BTP spread will widen out.

In recent days the EUR has become negatively correlated with peripheral spreads. Japanese investors holding semi core bonds may become increasingly concerned seeing core EMU bond curves steepening with peripheral bonds undergoing a bearish credit driven flattening. In comparison to the JPY, the EUR may be the better short. Greek debt worries have come in and out of focus for EUR investors. Greece has a EUR1.8bln payment to the ECB in April and 7bln to creditors in July. Should the IMFstick with its principles (Europe is no longer the main shareholder) then there must be a new package negotiated. Since debt relief is unlikely ahead of the German election, the downside for the EUR is significant for us.

European corporate tax in focus. The rejection of the Swiss corporate tax reform via Sunday’s referendum shows how deeply rooted populism has become, now affecting even rich countries. The CHF should say strong despite concerns of reduced corporate inflow. The main FX takeaway from this story however is its contribution to the Brexit negotiations. There have already been suggestions that the UK could cut corporate tax rates if the EU fails to provide it with an agreement on EU market access, therefore the Swiss tax complications and the uncertainty-induced potential for corporate rates to stay low there could work in the UK’s favour.  EURGBP shorts are making more sense now as a medium term trade, with a move below the 200DMA at 0.845 providing more downside momentum.

 

USD Strength trying to recover, ECB committed to low real rates, Japan bond buying and AUD outlook

Conditions for the USD rally have improved with three events becoming topical. First, ECB’s Praet and the BoE have made it clear that Europe is not aiming for early rate hikes and are comfortable with seeing real rates dropping further from here. Secondly, Japan’s money market operations have underlined its commitment to control the JGB yield curve, which we view as a step towards Japan’s commercial banking sector regaining profitability and thus creating conditions for a faster money multiplier growth. Within an environment of DM reflation, the side effect of this policy is JPY weakness working via widening rate and yield differentials. Thirdly, China tightened its monetary policy by 10bps overnight, reported slower January manufacturing activity, but fixed the RMB weaker compared to market expectations. USDCNY came off a moderate 0.2% while USDCNH rallied this morning by 0.24%.

 The next hurdle for the USD to overcome is the Fed. Wednesday’s interest rate statement left the impression it may be operating behind the curve by acknowledging that inflation ‘will’ reach 2%, but refusing to send a signal to turn March into a ‘live meeting’. Today’s release of the US labour market report is only important in respect of impacting the FOMC’s mind set. Concretely, a strong labour market report helping the Fed by sending hawkish signals will be USD supportive. However, should the Fed stay dovish then a strong US labour market report may only steepen the US curve, but do little to support the USD. Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen’s testimony on 14 February will be a key risk event. In between, today the Fed’s voter Evans will speak on the economy and monetary policy.

The BoE has upped its growth forecast, has kept its inflation forecast little changed and has maintained its neutral policy bias leading to sharp GBP losses. The BoE left the impression of possibly underestimating inflation risks and by doing so it may be able to run accommodative monetary conditions for longer. While the National Institute of Economic Research sees inflation reaching 4% by the end of this year, the BoE has found additional labour market slack allowing it to project wage growth staying muted. The BoE sees inflation averaging 2.7% this year and 2.6% in 2018, little changed from its November projections. Its long-term economic projections are based on the assumption of rates rising early 2019, differing significantly from current market pricing, and suggesting rates going up by 25bp by August 2018.

ECB’s Praet as presented an equally dovish message suggesting that the recent upward trend in inflation was due to temporary factors including energy and food prices and the ECB would continue to “look through” factors contributing to the underlying trend.” With the Maastricht contract framework becoming less effective and EMU remaining fragmented in fiscal and regulatory terms (lack of fiscal and banking union) the ECB has to conduct policy according to the needs of its weakest link (see here for more). Italy seems to fall into this category. EMU’s equity markets and volatility curves have steepened recently. While some of this steepening may be related to upcoming general elections in Holland and France, the recent widening of EMU sovereign bonds spreads has added to concerns. EURUSD is a sell at current levels with a stop at 1.0840 and a target 0.9700. The risk to this trade is Italian data turning better, but given the continued weak credit creation by Italian banks we regard this risk as minor.

Some investors link bullish AUD strategy into a global reflation framework. Associating reflation with rising commodity prices may provide support to this idea. However, reflation and commodity prices are unlikely to stay linked for long should our view prove correct that part of DM is developing into a cost push inflation environment comparable to the 70s. The 70s did see precious metal strength while other raw materials stayed lacklustre. Opposite, the deflationary past 15 years were accompanied by periods of excessive raw material strength. So far, the CRB Rind has kept on rising, but with China tightening its policies while its manufacturing sector is weakening (Jan Caixin PMI eases to 51.0 from 51.9) it may not take too long from here to see commodity prices topping out.

FX Positioning for the week of January 23rd

Since Monday, January 23, positioning is relatively unchanged. In the majors, the largest short is still in GBP; the largest long is still in CAD. USD positioning was reduced to its least long level since the US election. Non-commercial IMM accounts were decent sized sellers,net sellingnearly $5b to bring positioning to +$22.3b.

Positioning for this community is at its least long position since shortly after the election. Similarly, sentiment remains moderately bullish butnear the lower end of the range since the election. However,global macro funds remains very long. We see scope for USD long positions to build from here and like buying USD ahead of the Fed meeting this Wednesday.

GBP positioning was unchanged in short territory. Non-commercial IMM accounts marginally reduced their short positions but remain more short than their pre-Brexit positioning. Similarly, macro funds marginally reduced shorts but still retain large net short positioning. We think shorts can still unwind and are long GBPJPY.

CAD positioning moved further into long territory. Despite the dovish BoC, non-commercial IMM accounts were CAD buyers in the days following to bring positioning to its most long level since last September. Sentiment remains somewhat bullish.Long CAD positioning is another factor supporting our bearish CAD view.

US Bond Yields and USDJPY, US Risk Premium, BoJ Meeting Notes, BoC and EURUSD

US bond yields and USDJPY have scaled back to levels drawing a technical dividing line between a bull and a bear market interpretation. US political volatility seems on the rise in the aftermath of the recent imposition of immigration controls, possibly giving markets the impression that the rules could change quickly for anyone dealing with the US. Our global risk demand index (GRDI*)has scaled back from levels above 2 which is generally associated with markets runninghigh levels of complacency. GRDI was at 1.07 at market close yesterday. Precious metals have turned higher with Silver building a key reversal formation. Today Trump is expected to announce the new Supreme Courtnomination.

Certainly, the risk premium to hold USD denominated assets has increased as US politics have become more difficult to predict. However, we regard the glass still as half full and differentiate USDJPY driven in the near term by risk sentiment, while in the long term higher US capital demand should drive rate and yield differentials in favour of the USD. US December consumer expenditure rose by the highest rate in three months suggesting that the US economy has entered 2017 with strong momentum. The Fed statement tomorrow may reflect recent data strength. Seeing US nominal GDP expanding at a faster pace compared to the rise of US rates seen over the past year plus accelerating credit creation by US commercial banks suggests that US monetary conditions have eased. The Fed may like to reduce accommodation from here which should put the current USD downward correction to rest.

Today’s outcome from the BOJ meeting underlined their firm commitment to managing the yield curve (policy rate at – 0.10%, 10yr JGB yield target at 0%, 80tln annual bond buying). The statement underlining downside risk to inflation indicates that there is little risk of seeing the BoJ moving away from keeping 10-year JGB yield near zero. Interesting are comments from PM Abe’s economic adviser Kozo Yamamoto calling the 5-8% VAT increase of 2014 a mistake, suggesting Japan may operate a new round of fiscal stimulus to ensure the country overcomes inflation. The text book would suggest fiscal expansion supporting the currency, but this interpretation requires the central bank to turn less accommodative in response to the fiscal stimulus. However, Yamamoto has clarified that Japan can only then engage in a fiscal stimulus under conditions of debt sustainability suggesting funding costs staying south of nominal GDP expansion. When the three pillar ‘Abenomics’ kicked in in 2013 with Japan engaging in monetary easing, fiscal stimulus and structural reform, the JPY sold off hard. The JPY is driven by real yield differentials. Japan staying accommodative via its monetary policy and easing fiscally may (via rising inflation expectations) push Japan’s real yield level lower which, in turn, should support Japan’s equity market and weaken the JPY. Note, Japan inflation expectations (10y breakeven) are on the rise again and are thus ignoring recent risk volatility.

BOC’s Poloz will speak today and we think he will present a dovish message in line with yesterday’s comments from the Deputy Governor Sylvain Leduc highlighting the level of household indebtedness and elevated housing prices unlikely to withstand a persistent spike in unemployment. The fact that indebtedness is rising for the most indebted households is ‘really worrisome’ according to the BoC. The employment data for Canada are going to be important to watch for the CAD. The CAD should come under selling pressure today and this selling pressure has the potential to add momentum should oil prices extend recent selling pressure. Oil has broken lower on reports suggesting US rigs reaching their highest level since November 2015.

We remain EUR bearish with potential selling pressures coming from two sides. First, the new US administration focusing its new trade policy on areas running pronounced surpluses against the US may drag EMU into the trade debate. EMU’s crisis response was to consolidate fiscally and to seek higher employment via increasing net trade, allowing the EMU to convert its 2008 current account deficit into a 3% surplus. Secondly, EUR hedging costs have declined as shown in the chart below, which in light of current inner-EMU spread widening could lead to EUR selling. As JPY hedging costs have remained high EURJPY could turn as a catalyst for EUR weakness.

 

 

European Interest Rates and Equity Divergence, EGB Spreads

Last week we flagged the disconnect between Eurozone equities and EGB spreads versus Germany and suggested that something had to give. Yesterday we finally saw some re-convergence, with equity prices down more than 1% and EGB spreads continuing their dramatic widening trend – helped by growing uncertainty over the Greek bailout review and the role of the IMF. The 10yr BTP/Bono spread breached 70bp, while the 10yr OAT/OLO spread (curve-adjusted) hit a fresh all-time of 12bp. We also saw the FRTR 0 5/22 starting to trade at a concession to the IRISH 0.8 3/22 2023. Interestingly, despite underperforming Bunds, 10yr DSLs richened somewhat further against Austria and Finland, notwithstanding the upcoming launch of a new 10yr DSL and the March parliamentary elections – although a new 10yr (or 30yr) RFGB is also still on the cards. 10yr Bunds initially lost ground during yesterday’s session after a further rise in German inflation (to close to 2%), but yields eventually closed 1.5bp lower at 0.45% on the back of of flight to safety. Today’s Eurozone inflation figure will also rise to a four-year high, but the breakdown of the German figures from yesterday suggest that the core reading will hold below 1%. No government bond auctions are scheduled today. After yesterday’s EGB spread widening, we would argue the time is getting ripe for investors to give consideration again to the safety net of the ECB’s QE programme, which won’t be halted until well into 2018 at the earliest. And after the net purchases stop, there are still the reinvestments as well as the ECB’s OMT, which would be considered for “future cases of ESM or precautionary programmes […] and focus on sovereign bonds with a maturity of 1-3 years”. In any case, the pace of PSPP purchases held up well last week, with €16.9bn bought compared to €18.5bn in the previous week, according to ECB data released yesterday. Overall APP purchases fell from €21.6bn to a still above-average €19.7bn.

Turkish Central Bank Governor Speech, Fitch downgrade and S&P action

Central Bank Governor Murat Cetinkaya will present the bank’s new quarterly inflation report at a press conference tomorrow. The press conference will start at 7:30am London time. The bank will have to raise its previous end-2016 inflation forecast of 6.5% considerably higher given the sharp depreciation of the lira since the end-October inflation report. Cetinkaya is likely to maintain the monetary policy committee’s (MPC) hawkish stance in its post-meeting statement on 24 January which kept the door open for further monetary policy tightening. Cetinkaya’s comments on the lira’s exchange rate and the central bank’s liquidity policy will also be closely watched by the market.

The central bank’s effective funding rate was 10.27% on Friday (27 January), up from 8.28% on 6 January before the sharp sell-off in the lira started. The central bank released on Friday (27 January) the calendar of its MPC meetings this year. The central bank reduced the number of its meetings to 8 from 12 previously. Following the first meeting of the year which has already taken place on 24 January, the MPC will hold meetings on 16 March, 26 April, 15 June, 27 July, 14 September, 26 October and 14 December.

The Statistics Office will release the December foreign trade data tomorrow and the January inflation data on Friday (3 February).  We forecast that the foreign trade deficit was $5.6bn in December, in line with the preliminary estimate and the Bloomberg consensus forecast.  We forecast that the January CPI inflation was 1.4% mom, compared to the Bloomberg consensus forecast of 1.8% mom. If January CPI inflation turns out to be less than 1.8% mom, the year-on-year headline will decline from 8.5% in December due to favorable base effects. We think the margin of error around the January forecast is quite large given the uncertainty around the extent of the pass-through from the lira’s rapid (and somewhat unexpected) depreciation in early January.

Fitch downgraded on Friday Turkey’s long-term foreign currency issuer default rating to BB+ from BBB- and assigned a “stable” outlook to it. Turkey’s previous BBB- rating – the lowest investment grade rating – was placed on “negative” outlook following the failed coup attempt in July 2016, and Friday’s downgrade was widely expected by the market. The main driver for the rating decision was Fitch’s assessment that “political and security developments have undermined economic performance and institutional independence” and that “while the political environment may stabilize, significant security challenges are set to remain.” The rating agency also opined that if the constitutional reform is approved in a referendum, it “would entrench a system in which checks and balances have been eroded.” Fitch also noted that the scope of the “purge of the public sector of the supporters of the group that the government considers responsible for the coup attempt in July” has “extended to the media and other groups” and has “unnerved some participants in the economy.” Additionally, the rating agency said that “high-profile terrorist attacks have continued, damaging consumer confidence and the tourism sector.”

As a secondary driver, Fitch noted that “the failure to address long-standing external vulnerabilities has been manifest in a sharp fall in the currency” and that although the rating agency “does not expect systemic problems that would jeopardize financial stability or trigger a balance of payments crisis,” it “does assume a detrimental impact on the private sector.” Fitch noted that “evolving domestic and external conditions bring the potential for further tests of Turkey’s ongoing resilience in external financing.” The rating agency expects real GDP growth “to average 2.3% between 2016 and 2018, compared with an average of 7.1% over the five years ending 2015 (based on new data after a credible GDP revision).” As for the banking sector, Fitch noted that “sector capitalization, supported by adequate NPL reserve coverage, is sufficient to absorb moderate shocks, but sensitive to further lira depreciation and NPL growth” and added that “refinancing risks have increased, although foreign currency liquidity remains broadly adequate to cover short-term sector wholesale funding liabilities due within one year.”

As for possible rating actions in the future: Fitch said that the country’s sovereign credit rating could see further negative action if, individually or collectively, it observes “heightened stress stemming from external financing vulnerabilities”, “weaker public finances reflected by a deterioration in the government debt/GDP ratio” and “a deterioration in the political and security situation”. For the possibility of a positive rating action, the rating agency has to observe, individually or collectively, “implementation of reforms that address structural deficiencies and reduce external vulnerabilities” and “a political and security environment that supports a pronounced improvement in key macroeconomic data.”

Also on Friday, S&P revised its outlook on Turkey’s unsolicited sovereign credit ratings to “negative” from “stable”. The rating agency affirmed Turkey’s BB long-term foreign currency sovereign rating. S&P said that since it last revised Turkey’s rating on 4 November 2016, “the lira has depreciated by 18% against the US dollar and 15% against the euro”, and that “the monetary policy response to currency and inflationary pressures of Turkey’s central bank may prove insufficient to anchor its inflation-targeting regime.” According to S&P, “given the large-scale dollarization of Turkey’s economy, a weaker exchange rate erodes corporate balance sheets, financial sector asset quality, and growth. “ The rating agency said that the decision reflects “what we consider to be rising constraints on policy makers’ ability to tame inflationary and currency pressures, which could weaken the financial strength of Turkey’s companies and banks, undermining growth, and fiscal outcomes, during a period of rising global interest rates.”

South Africa news flow and changes to the CPI Index

First, the National Treasury will today at noon London time publish National Government budget data for December. We expect that the budget recorded a seasonal surplus in the month, of ZAR20bn. If this proves correct, then the annualized consolidated budget deficit would widen to an estimated 3.8% of GDP from 3.5% recorded in November, according to our estimates.

Second, the Reserve Bank will tomorrow at 6:00am London time publish monetary aggregate data for December. Domestic private sector credit growth likely stayed low, near a nominal 5% yoy, according to our estimates.

Third, the South African Revenue Service will tomorrow at noon London time publish external merchandise trade data for December. We expect that the trade account recorded a seasonal surplus in the month, of ZAR10bn. If this proves correct, then the annualized trade surplus would improve to an estimated 0.5% of GDP from 0.4% recorded in November, according to our estimates.

Fourth, the National Automobile Association (NAAMSA) of South Africa will on Wednesday (1 February) publish new vehicle unit sales data for January. In December 2015, sales (non-seasonally adjusted) were down 10% mom and down 15% yoy. For calendar 2016, unit sales were 11% lower than in 2015.

Fifth, the Bureau for Economic Research (BER) will on Wednesday at 9:00am London time publish its PMI for January. The index remained below 50 for five consecutive months to December 2016.

Sixth, Statistics South Africa will on Thursday (2 February) at 11:00am London time publish electricity production data for the month of December. In November production volumes (in seasonally adjusted terms) were down 0.4% mom, following growth of 1.5% in October. The sector looks likely to have been a positive contributor to GDP growth in the 4Q 2016, according to our estimates. On Friday (27 January) Statistics South Africa published new weights for the consumer price index. We think that there may be some good news for inflation in 2017 given the changes.

First, the ‘Food & NAB’ category increased to 17.24% from 15.41%. If we are correct in our expectation of a decline in domestic agricultural prices this year, then the deflation impact on headline CPI inflation could be more pronounced. Second, the ‘Transport’ category declined to 14.28% from 16.43%. Similarly, if our expectation of a weaker ZAR and higher oil prices proves correct, then the inflation impact on headline CPI could be less severe.

Russia Rate Meeting, Sanctions and FX Interventions

The main event this week is the central bank’s (CBR) rate-setting meeting on Friday (3 February). We expect the CBR to leave the policy rate unchanged, at 10.00%. This is in line with the Bloomberg consensus forecast. Although the majority of respondents to the Bloomberg survey expect the policy rate to remain unchanged, some expect a 25-50bps cut. It is worth highlighting that the CBR is no longer committed to keeping the policy rate unchanged (in contrast to its message in September 2016) and the government has recently decided not to spend extra oil and gas revenues. We see a number of other arguments in favor of a policy rate cut, but none of these is strong enough for the CBR to act at this week’s meeting, in our view. In particular, we would like to highlight the favorable inflation data in January and weak consumer demand indicators in December. We strongly believe that the decision of the Finance Ministry to introduce regular FX purchases is neutral for the prospects of policy easing. We believe this will be explicitly highlighted in the CBR’s post-meeting statement this week. Although the CBR will not hold a press conference or release a monetary policy report (with updated forecasts and assumptions – pretty important in light of rising oil prices) this week, we expect some comments from the CBR officials as 3 February is also the day when the Finance Ministry will reveal its daily FX purchase volumes, according to the intervention mechanism. We expect the CBR to cut the policy rate at its next meeting on 24 March. On Thursday (2 February), Rosstat will reveal the preliminary estimate of real GDP growth in 2016. We estimate real GDP was down 0.4% in 2016 (after a drop of 3.7% in 2015). A Bloomberg consensus forecast for this variable was not available at the time of writing. On Saturday (28 January), Russia’s President Putin had a phone call with US President Trump. It was the first official call among the two leaders. According to a press release by the Kremlin, the two leaders discussed the crisis in Ukraine and the situation in the Middle East, their countries’ cooperation in fight against global terrorism, Iran’s nuclear program and other international issues. The Kremlin concluded that the call was “positive and productive”. On Friday (27 January), the rally in the Russian local markets was driven by comments from US Presidential Adviser Kellyanne Conway, who noted that rolling back of US sanctions against Russia may be discussed between Putin and Trump on Saturday. Although Kremlin’s press release did not refer to this issue, it does not mean that the issue was not discussed. In our view, the current backdrop may be challenging for those investors who are short Russian assets due to a potential positive headline risk as was the case on Friday

USD, Trump executive orders and NFP, GBP and Article 50, JPY Bond Buying 

USD: Trump’s executive orders a distraction from positive macro $ story The dollar is slightly softer in holiday-thinned Asia, with investors demanding a small concession for Trump’s seemingly erratic Executive Orders. The focus here is on the start of Trump’s extreme vetting of immigrants announced Friday, orders which have already been partially reversed by the US courts. That said, we would expect the focus to shift back to the US macro story this week, which looks a dollar positive. As outlined in our team’s FOMC Crib Sheet, we see the Fed potentially sounding less relaxed on inflation at Wednesday’s FOMC meeting. We think at 33% the probability of a March Fed rate hike is priced too low and that the dollar could rally 1-2% against the low yielders on a more hawkish statement. Additionally, the US labour market report (Fri) should show solid Jan average hourly earnings (2.6% YoY) and above consensus NFP (180k). Coupled with the solid US Q4 GDP last Fri (particularly in the context of the strong 3.5% YoY Q3 growth), we see this as being a positive week for the dollar. Favour DXY breaking above 101.00/101.30 resistance this week.

EUR: Higher CPI may cause a headache for the ECB this week The focus is on the January German CPI today which should give us a gentle preview for tomorrow’s flash EZ CPI. We are likely to see another spike higher (due to base effects), towards 2%. While this should add fuel to calls within Germany for ECB policy tightening, for now the effect on the near term ECB outlook should be limited (even if EZ CPI should move to 1.4% tomorrow). This is because the ECB policy stance for the remainder of the year is “fixed” (the commitment to €60bn monthly asset purchases). With inflation expectations rising but the ECB keeping policy rates on the floor, real interest rates should move more negative and be bearish for the EUR.

GBP: Article 50 to be debated this week It looks as though Article 50 will be debated Tuesday night in parliament with a preliminary vote on Wednesday – although a binding vote is not scheduled until Feb 8th it seems. This week will also see a Super Thursday at the BoE, where the MPC will decide on rates and release the February inflation report. The market is still quite short GBP, but we think a messy debate on Article 50 plus the strong dollar story can keep Cable capped near 1.2600 this week.

JPY: BOJ bond buying in focus. Tomorrow’s BoJ meeting has a little more focus than usual in that the BoJ is struggling to keep 10 year JGB yields near 0%. At 8GMT/CET tomorrow, the BoJ announces its bond buying schedule for February. Any increases/tweaks in the JGB buying scheme looks JPY negative. We see $/JPY to 116.80 this week.