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.

Predictably, the announcement of the US tax reform lacked funding details and hence has come under immediate criticism. For instance, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget released a rough analysis saying the plan could cost USD3-7trn over the next decade, potentially “harming economic growth instead of boosting it.” Markets reversed early gains. We stay firmly within the reflation camp and view USDJPY setbacks to 111.00 as a buying opportunity. Today’s US durable goods release may confirm that US capex is on the rise, pushing rate and yield differentials wider in support of USDJPY. Today’s ECB press conference may see a cautious Draghi relative to expectations fearing an early tightening signal may push BTP spreads wider. EURUSD should stay offered below 1.0970 with the risk of closing Monday’s opening gap down to 1.0870.
Although Chinese equity markets recouped most of their early morning losses, the divergence in their performance relative to DM equity markets witnessed since November has caught our eye. We are bearish on low yielding commodity currencies and run aggressive AUD short positions. There are many reasons suggesting AUD weakness, reaching from too low AUD-supportive interest rate and yield differentials to fund Australia’s 60% of GDP foreign liability position, to an overvalued property market running the risk of unleashing deflationary pressures once prices come off the highs. However, our best reason for running AUD shorts is that Australia has builtup capacity to deliver into the ‘old’ China, an economy expanding via commodity intensive sectors such as investment and property. An evolutionary China rebalancing its economy away from investment and property will leave Australia’s commodity overcapacity exposed.

It may be debatable whether the equity performance gap between the US and China will widen further from here or whether China’s equity markets will catch up with the better US performance. What is true is that the recent decline in China’s stock prices came along with peaking margin debt. Higher RMB funding costs may have triggered leveraged share investors to take some chips out of the market, leading to the diverging China – US equity trend. The connectivity into the FX market comes via the RMB TWI weakness and may have contributed to the increase in RMB yields. While a lower RMB TWI helps China utilise its capacity and hence is good for its growth outlook, there is a risk within the highly leveraged economy that rising debt funding costs more than undermine the positive impact coming from the FX side. The relative weakness of China’s equity market may be a symptom of this development and this morning’s disappointing release of China’s March corporate profits did nothelp China’s equity markets either (the gain for industrial profits was 7.7% lower than in the January-February period, but it was 12.7% higher than the gain in March 2016). The message seems clear: China should concentrate on bringing its funding costs lower, shifting its focus away from RMB TWI weakness. Since the RMB is quasi-pegged to the USD, this shift of China’s policy focus will work in support of the USD.

AUD, with its significant trade exposure to China, should weaken most should China reduce its resistance to the USD rising allowing the RMB TWI to rebound. China may need capital inflows into the bond market to reduce capital funding costs. Since RMB hedging tools are not as developed as in G4 currencies and hence less efficient to use, currency stability is an essential tool convincing non-RMB-based investors to allocate funds into China. Consequently, the rising USD will put AUDUSD under selling pressure. This move may be leveraged by redirected capital flows from G4 into China, pushing G4 bond yields higher. Australia’s banking sector has reduced its wholesale funding dependence over the course of the past decade, but still has one of the most wholesale funding-dependent banking sectors within G10. Hence rising G4 rates and yields mechanically increase local AUD funding costs without the RBA increasing its rates. This is why we are sceptical of Australia maintaining its real estate strength at times of globally rising funding costs.

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.

The Australian bonds rebounded Thursday as investors await to watch the country’s retail sales during the month of February as well as the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) monetary policy decision, scheduled to be held next week.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves inversely to its price, slumped 3-1/2 basis points to 2.70 percent, the yield on 15-year note also plunged 3-1/2 basis points to 3.08 percent and the yield on short-term 2-year also traded 1 basis point lower at 1.75 percent by 04:40 GMT.

After three straight weeks of falls, consumer confidence rose 1.6 percent in the week ending March 26. The four week average continued to fall, however, and is now back to early 2016 levels and close to its long run average.

The pickup in confidence was broadly based with four out five sub-indices posting gains. Households’ views of the 12-month economic outlook rose 2.7 percent last week, after a 3.3 percent fall the previous week. Consumers were also more confident regarding future economic conditions, with the index rising a solid 2.8 percent.

The Australian bonds sharply rebounded on the first trading day of the week Monday as investors poured into safe-haven assets tracking firmness in U.S. Treasuries amid losses in riskier equities and oil. Also, the lower-than-expected reading of the latter’s manufacturing PMI added to the upside sentiment.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves inversely to its price, slumped 6-1/2 basis points to 2.70 percent, the yield on 15-year note plunged nearly 7 basis points to 3.10 percent and the yield on short-term 2-year traded 5 basis points lower at 1.73 percent by 03:50 GMT.

The seasonally adjusted Markit Flash U.S. Composite PMI Output Index registered 53.2 in March, to remain above the 50.0 no-change value for the thirteenth consecutive month. However, the latest reading was down from 54.1 in February and signalled the slowest expansion of private sector output since September 2016.

Further, At 53.4, down from 54.2 in February, the headline seasonally adjusted Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) signalled the slowest overall upturn in business conditions since October 2016.

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.

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 Australian bonds jumped Thursday as investors poured into safe-haven assets after reading the higher-than-expected unemployment rate for the month of February. Further, the change in employment dropped steeper than what markets had initially anticipated.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves inversely to its price, slumped 11-1/2 basis points to 2.82 percent, the yield on 15-year note also plunged nearly 11-1/2 basis points to 3.21 percent and the yield on short-term 2-year traded 7-1/2 basis points lower at 1.81 percent by 03:20 GMT.

The February labour market report disappointed, with a fall of 6.4k jobs and a rise in the unemployment rate to 5.9 percent. The detail was slightly more positive than the headline with full-time jobs rebounding after the previous month’s sharp fall.

The soft tone to the February report provides further confirmation that the RBA is likely to be on hold for an extended period. Spare capacity in the labour market is taking longer than expected to be worked off, and is weighing on wages growth and pushing out the return of inflation into the target band.

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.

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.

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.

China’s new yuan loans fell sharply in February from near-record levels in the previous month but were still higher than expected. Chinese banks extended 1.17 trillion yuan (about 169.2 billion U.S. dollars) of new yuan loans in February, down from 2.03 trillion yuan in the previous month, central bank data showed Thursday.

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) has adopted a modest tightening bias in a bid to cool explosive growth in debt, though it is treading cautiously to avoid hurting economic growth. Analysts polled by Reuters had predicted new February yuan loans of 0.920 trillion yuan.

China’s new yuan loans remained relatively strong in February, led by long-term household loans and corporate lending. Household and corporate long-term loans, in combination, accounted for CNY982.2bn or 84% of overall monthly new yuan loans.

The M2, a broad measure of the money supply that covers cash in circulation and all deposits, grew 11.1 percent from a year earlier to about 158.29 trillion yuan. The M1, a narrow measure of the money supply which covers cash in circulation plus demand deposits, rose 21.4 percent year on year to 47.65 trillion yuan.

“We see little chance for monetary policy to return to easing. In addition, the PBoC should continue to re-shape the interest rate curve in the money market, with higher 7-day reverse repo rates and Medium-term Lending Facility (MLF) rates,” said ANZ in a report.

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.

As a harbinger of what may be in store in Friday’s US jobs report, surprisingly strong ADP data pushed bond yields higher yesterday. The 10yr UST yield topped 2.56% as markets assess the Fed’s potential hiking pace for the year. The discounted odds for a hike at the March meeting have risen to 90%. By the end of the year the effective fed funds rate is now seen some 65bp above the current average, which can be interpreted as a c. 60% probability for a third hike this year being discounted.
10yr Bund yields were dragged higher alongside to 0.37% with Bund ASWs largely reversing Tuesday’s widening. EGB spreads versus Bunds saw only moderate widening pressure with 10yr OAT/Bund widening just 1bp yesterday, while only slightly underperforming OLOs. With a new Harris poll showing Macron overtaking Le Pen in the first round, OATS may receive some tailwind today.
ECB meeting. Today’s focus will be squarely on the ECB, but we do not expect any changes to policy or communication against the backdrop of increased political risks. Rather we believe that the ECB will want to reinsure markets with more dovish tones. Nonetheless, the money market curve re-steepened yesterday, dragged higher with the overall rates market. The June 2018 ECB dated EONIA forward is up at -0.24bp again, some 11bp above current average EONIA fixing. We doubt whether the ECB will alter its forward guidance already at today’s meeting, although a risk remains that larger revisions of the staff forecasts might outweigh an unchanged guidance. Our economists believe smaller upticks to the headline inflation projection on the basis of adjusted underlying assumptions regarding oil prices and/or the exchange rate might be possible. However the core inflation profile should be more important, and here the ECB is more likely to reiterate that there is little evidence of self-sustainable inflation yet. Accordingly, we do not expect any discussion regarding a tapering to have occurred at this point.
EGB supply. Only Ireland will be active today reopening the IRISHs 5/26 and 2/45 for a combined €1-1.25bn. Italy announced a new 7yr BTP 5/24 (€3-3.5bn) for auction on 13 March. Alongside the Tesoro will also reopen the BTP 10/19 (€2.25-2.75bn) as well as the BTPs 9/33 and 9/46 (combined €2-2.75bn).

Energy • US oil stockpile and production: EIA weekly data shows US oil inventory increased 8.2MMbbls over the week ended 3 March 2017 marking nine consecutive weeks of inventory build-up. The US oil stockpile has gained c.50MMbbls since the start of the year raising some doubts over the effectiveness of OPEC cuts. Crude oil production in the US also increased to a one year high of 9.1MMbbls/d. • China coal output restrictions: China doesn’t intend to reintroduce the mining curbs on coal as long as prices stays within the ‘reasonable range’. Last year, China has introduced certain measures including reducing the operating days for coal mines from 330 days to 276 days pushing coal prices higher. However, these measures were removed this winter as heating demand for coal increased. Reintroduction of these curbs would have tightened market balance significantly.

Metals • Fed rate hike expectations: Bloomberg data shows that the market is factoring in a 100% probability of a Fed rate hike of c.0.25% (to 0.75-1.00% range) at the upcoming 14-15 March meeting. Rising bond yields lower the appetite for nonyielding assets including safe haven gold. • Indonesia nickel ore exports to resume: Indonesia’s top nickel producer, PT Aneka Tambang, could resume low-grade nickel ore exports soon easing the supply tightness in the Chinese market. Indonesia would be restarting nickel ore exports after nearly three years of gap and would offset the supply disruption from Philippines on environmental concerns.

Agriculture • Rubber output drops: Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries (ANRPC) data shows global natural rubber output dropped 2.2% YoY to 1.71m tonnes over the first two months of 2017; demand has increased 3.3% YoY over the same time period tightening the physical market balance. However, ANRPC estimates the supplies to improve in key growing areas over the March-May 2017 with full year production likely to increase 4.2% YoY to 11.2m tonnes • Vietnam coffee exports: coffee exports from Vietnam increased 4.3% MoM (23% YoY) to 146.4k tonnes in February 2017. YTD exports are still down 2.6% YoY at 286.6k tonnes.

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 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.

This may seem a little surreal. US treasury secretary under the Trump administration, Wilber Ross is talking of steps to stabilize the US dollar/ Mexican peso exchange rate. Speaking on CNBC today, Mr. Ross suggested that the US administration would think of ways to work with their Mexican counterparts to stabilize the exchange rate. The dollar/peso exchange rate has been very volatile since the Republican candidate Donald Trump got elected as the president of the United States. Mr. Trump had been severely critical of Mexico during his election campaign and the US border with its neighbor. Mr. Trump has vowed to renegotiate the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), calling it a disaster for the United States. Mr. Trump has vowed that he will make Mexico pay for his proposed border wall.

While Mr. Ross said that the administration needs to think of mechanisms for a stable exchange rate, the Mexican central bank governor said that the country is not considering a swap line from the US Federal Reserve.

Peso is enjoying the biggest single-day gain since January as the news surfaced. The Mexican peso is currently trading at 19.56 per dollar, up 2.4 percent so far today.

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.

Commodities, Oil Rig Count, Copper Mine Strike

WTI speculative positioning: It has been another week where speculators have increased their net long in WTI. Over the reporting week, speculators increased their position by 23,299 lots, to leave them with a net long of 413,637 lots. This is yet another fresh record net long held by speculators. This large net long continues to see positioning risk grow.

US oil rig count: Over the week, the US oil rig count passed 600 for the first time since early October 2015. The rig count has increased by 77 since the start of 2017 and by an impressive 286 since the lows of late May 2016. At current prices, we would expect the rig count to continue trending higher.

Escondida copper mine strike: According to Bloomberg, striking workers at the Escondida copper mine will be able to hold out for more than two months. The main trade union for mine workers says that they have a contingency fund to cover strike costs, while they have also secured further funding from a credit union if needed.

Brazilian aluminium import quota: The Brazilian government has lowered the quota for duty-free primary aluminium imports. The government has reduced the quota from 240,000 tonnes to 173,000 tonnes. Reports suggest the quota was reduced as a result of poor domestic demand.

Wheat spec positioning: Over the last reporting week, specs reduced their net short in CBOT wheat by 12,662 lots, to leave them with a net short of 27,385 lots. This is the smallest net short position that specs have held since November 2015. 

EU sugar exports: The European Commission is set to vote this week on whether the second tranche of out-of-quota sugar exports is to be approved. Given a tight EU balance, the EC has held off from allowing these exports. Export licences are usually awarded in January.


h2>GBPUSD and Scottish Referandum, Trump and the FED

Thin Asian markets allowed GBP to come under selling pressure on a report in ‘The Times’ suggesting that the Scottish government might call a second independence referendum to coincide with the triggering of Article 50 next month. It was only last week when the ‘Independent’ came out with a similar suggestion. This morning’s GBP dip should be viewed as providing a buying opportunity as a hypothetical Scottish referendum would likely only be held after having concluded Brexitnegotiations. In this sense, prospects of a Scottish referendum could potentially have a moderating impact on the negotiation position of the British government which could aim to achieve as much EU market access as possible to encourage Scotland to stay within Britain. Note that latest polls in Scotland do not suggest there would be a clear majority for independence today.

Moreover, the latest by-election results are likely to have consolidated the power of PM May within the Conservative Party but also, according to the Sunday press, may have put the Conservatives in one of the strongest positions they have enjoyed in the last 30-odd years. The Sunday Times suggests that the by-election results which saw weaker results from UKIP and Labour would allow the Conservatives to increase their current 17 seat majority in the Commons if there were early General election held in the UK. The poorer showing of UKIP may have reduced the risk of seeing the Conservatives undermined via the euro-sceptical wing of the political spectrum. This risk now appears lower compared to last autumn. It was the radical speech held at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham which pushed GBP markedly lower at that time. This speech may have helped to undermine UKIP, but with UKIP now apparently in a less strong position, it could be argued that PM May may now be in a better position to steer upcoming Brexitnegotiations with the aim of keeping Britain closer to Europe than is currently priced into markets. Viewing the current low GBP valuation in comparison with the size of the Brexit related ‘cliff edge’ has been the main reason for our GBP bullishness. We regard GBP cheap relative to the size of the possible cliff edge.

Looking at the other side of the political spectrum, the weaker performance of Labour in the by-elections and the current make-up of the Labour leadership would suggest that the political middle is left to the Conservatives, despite speculation in the Sunday times of a new centrist pro European grouping possibly taking shape. This position for the Conservatives might, in line with this thinking, allow them to take a more pragmatic Brexit stance. Scottish referendum talk, the political debate concerning PM May’s next political move plus the extreme GBP short positions currently held by market participants suggests to us we should remain GBP constructive.

This week will focus on the Fed and US politics. Today the Fed’s Kaplan (a voter) is likely to reiterate his hawkish stance. It will be difficult to make the March 15th meeting a live one for a hike, i.e increasing market probability much beyond the currently priced 28%. In particular, February NFP will only be released 5 days ahead of the Fed and the Feb CPI will be released on the second day of the Fed meeting. Combined with the pre-Fed grace period, that leaves little opportunity for the Fed to increase hike probabilities. Effectively, March is off the agenda, but that does not mean the USD selling off. Thursday’s Beige Book release should illustrate increasing capacity constraints. Fed’s Yellen speaking at the Executives Club of Chicago on Friday may find it difficult to ignore a strong Beige Book read. All this will hit a market which has trimmed leveraged dollar longs for seven straight weeks bringing them down to below their five-year average.

On Tuesday, PM Trump will address the Congress, with markets looking for him to lay outhis budget plans. The New York Times suggests that the new budget will assume a 2.4% GDP growth rate. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Trump’s first budget won’t touch entitlement programs such as Social Security or Medicare. It will instead focus on ways to produce long-term economic growth by cutting taxes, thus being bullish for risk appetite and a bullish steepening of the US yield curve. The USD should receive a bid against low yielding currencies, while high yielding EM should remain bid.

European Bonds and Credit

It was quite a rollercoaster ride in Eurozone government bonds yesterday, mainly in semi core EGBs, which was in part related to thinner-than-usual liquidty due to closed US markets. Although opening tighter, semi-core EGBs soon started to underperform Bunds, and after the news that Ms Le Pen had gained some ground on her main election rivals sparked strong selling in the 3-5yr OATs, 10yr OAT/Bund spreads suddenly leapt 4-5bp to exceed 82bp for the first time since August 2012. In this context, the 2yr Schatz yield plunged to a new all time low of -0.85%, helping to push Schatz ASW to 70bp. Meanwhile, the 10yr OAT/OLO spread – one of our favourite measures of the French politcal risk premium – even briefly touched the 30bp level. Later in the afternoon – when French Finance Minister Michel Sapin warned that betting against France would be costly – OAT/OLO spreads re-tightened, although the 3-5yr area struggled to reverse the heavy underperformance  Based on recent performance trends versus Austria and Finland, DSLs still hardly suffer from any political risk discount, even though they trade cheap versus Bunds by historical standards. Against this backdrop, we find 3-5yr BNG and NEDWBK trading at very attractive spreads versus KfW. 10s30s struggled to flatten yesterday, despite the broader risk-off mood, especially after the EFSF announced the intention to launch new 4yr and 39yr lines. When the ESM launched a new 40yr bond back in 2015, the extension in ASW from the existing 30yr line amounted to around 20bp. Applying this to where the EFSF 2047’s are currently trading we would arrive at around MS +68 for the new EFSF 2056 as an indicative pricing. Adding a NIP of abound 10bp (which is slightly more than the one seen in the recent ESM 11/46 deal) to the current 9bp curve extension from the ESM 45’s into the 55’s yields a roughly similar result. Elsewhere, ECB data revealed that PSPP purchases accelerated slightly last week, to €17.2bn from €16.9bn the week before. However, total APP purchases slipped to below €20bn due to slower covered bond purchases. Even so, the ECB remains well on track for another €85bn of asset purchases for this month.

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.

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.

 

Carry Trade outlook, VIX lower and risk assets higher, Yellen keeps March alive

Selling EUR and JPY vs EM. As the VIX is approaching the lows again, and with iron ore prices bursting 10% higher over recent days, we continue to see risk currencies performing well, particularly vs the EUR. The drivers of risk support are emanating from the DM world, as China’s monetary conditions are tightening. After Yellen only marginally changed market pricing for hikes this year (52bp to 55bp), the sweet spot of low US real yields, with rising growth expectations, remains, helpinghigh yielding EM currencies to outperform. Our own portfolio includes long MXN, TRY and INR. Even Australia’s data is outperforming, with consumer and business confidence rising. Today’s US retail sales data are expected to be strong on the control group measure. While the USD has become less sensitive to US economic surprises, the data point will still add to the long term picture of an economy that is closing its output gap and so could see higher inflation down the line if companies increase capital expenditure.

China is tightening monetary conditions. New CNY loans grew in January (CNY2.03trn) but were lower than market expectations after the Jan 24 10bp rise in the Medium-term LendingFacility (MLF). The gap between M1 and M2growth has also narrowed for a seventh consecutive month to 3.2% last month from 10.1% in December. The result appeared in property sales data which slowed in January after tightening measures and potentially the Chinese New Year holiday. Data from local housing developers shows that average weekly property sales by area in Tier 1 cities in January fell more than 30%Y and more than 10% week over week. Shanghai and Shenzhen fell even more, according to the China Index Academy.

Cash ready to buy risk. The global impact of China’s tightening of monetary standards may not be seen in FX markets straight away as it is masked by still expanding balance sheets at the ECB and BoJ, rising commodity prices helping growth and now a newly developing point, cash ready to be deployed into assets. The FT is reporting on Swiss banks seeing increasing questions from private wealth on where they can invest cash in a rising inflation environment. Surveys among affluent US investors show they held 28% of their portfolios in cash in 2015,up from 25% the year before. Cash holdings in Europe and Asia are much higher at 40% and 37% respectively. The EUR may weaken in this environment as political risks may increase caution in investment into this region. EURGBP is about to break below its 200DMA at 0.8455.

Yellen did little to change our outlook on the USD, so staying positive vs the low yielding G10 and seeing high yield EM outperforming. The market is now pricing 55bp of hikes this year, including 6bp for March. Interestingly, historical G10 currency sensitivity to US front end yields played out exactly with the JPY and NZD under-performing, while GBP stayed flat. There was perhaps a hawkish tilt to the speech, with our economists noting that Yellen didn’t want to send a signal for a March hike by saying they will assess at upcoming “meetings” rather than “meeting”. Reiterating the FOMC’s stance that they will incorporate fiscal policy when details become more evident was a clear sign that the Fed, like the markets, will be waiting for details on Trump’s tax plans expected in coming weeks. Trump’s meetings and interactions with world leaders over recent days appear to be risk supportive as there has been less emphasis on increasing trade tensions. On the politics front, market focus may now turn to the G10 foreign ministers meetings in Bonn on Thursday and Friday. Market is long SEK. On Monday we outlined some scenarios on the details to watch for in today’s Riksbank Monetary Policy Statement (Krona and repo path). Since we think neither of the “hawkish” surprises are likely and that the market appears to be long SEK into the meeting, we worry that there could be a shock in store that would weaken SEK as markets unwind. We are not however saying that the Riksbank isn’t going to be optimistic, just that markets appear to be getting ahead of themselves, with the setup appearing to be very familiar to those who watched the RBNZ recently too. Swedish data may have improved but the fact that the SEK is now at the Riksbank’s year end forecast, the likelihood that enough members propose a rate hike sooner than mid-18 is low. EURSEK should see support around the 9.41 low and resistance around 9.50.

 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.

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.

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.

 

Energy

• North Sea disruption: Production at the Buzzard oilfield in the North Sea has experienced a slight setback with production at the 180Mbbls/d field falling up to 30Mbbls/d. The field is the largest contributor to the Forties crude oil stream. While a minor outage in terms of volume, the market did appear to react to the news.

• US natural gas withdrawals: The EIA’s weekly natural gas report showed that net withdrawals over the week were relatively modest at 119 Bcf, compared to a five year average of 176 Bcf. Warmer than usual weather across much of the US has led to weaker heating demand.

Metals

• China gold imports: Chinese gold imports jumped higher over December 2016. Switzerland exported a total of 158 tonnes over the month to China, up from 30.6 tonnes the month before. Meanwhile Hong Kong sold a net 47 tonnes over December, up from 40.6 tonnes in the previous month. Stronger demand ahead of Chinese New Year supports these robust import numbers.

• Samarco mine restart: BHP Billiton and Vale’s Samarco iron ore mine was planned to restart this year, following the bursting of a dam at the mine in 2015. However a local mayor this week refused to approve a plan where the mine would use water from a nearby river. Without this approval the mine will not be able to complete an environmental study before getting approval to restart operations.

Agriculture

• Argentina soybean output: The Buenos Aires Grain Exchange estimate that soybean output for the 2016/17 season will total 53.5m tonnes, down 4.5% YoY. The reduction is on the back of reduced area, while recent flooding also led to some lost acreage.

• Brazil coffee output: Brazilian coffee exporter, Comexim expects that domestic coffee production for the 2017/18 season will fall to 49.4m bags from 54.55m bags the season before. Part of the decline is due to the fact that the season will be the lower yielding year of the biennial cycle. Comexim’s estimate is higher than the 43.7-47.5m bag forecast of CONAB.

Mexico: Sharply higher inflation adds to thelist of central bank concerns.

In the firsthalf of January,headline CPI rose much more than expected in Mexico,up 1.51%M vs 1.27%M consensus. On an annual basis, inflation surged to 4.78%, its highest level since September 2012,and substantially higher than the central bank’s 3% midpoint target. The culprit was higher energy prices – on the back of gasoline price liberation that kicked in at the beginning of the year – as well as pass-through to inflation from the depreciation of the MXN. Such price pressures offer Banxico very little room for maneuvering,at a time when Mexico is already facing extreme uncertainty from the north. We see the central bank restricting monetary policy further in its February 9 meeting and expect another 50bp, taking the Fondeo rate to 6.25%. While such a move is already increasingly priced in and local rates are arguably cheap, we stay cautious in the near term on the back of no positive anchor yet in place.

Global FX: USD bouncing higher, USDJPY, Yellen and closing output gap, CAD losing ground.

Yesterday USDJPY developed, with the help of Janet Yellen,a key reversal day testing a new low (1.1257) during the Asian session and closing the New York session (1.1465) above the previous day’s high (1.1428).Further gains are in store as Yellen’s remark suggests the Fed standing reading to hike rates at a faster pace than currently priced into the rate forward curve. It is the differentiation between an output-gap closed economy (The Fed’s Beige book data was positive yesterday) receiving a fiscal stimulus compared a situation of an output-gap running economy receiving a stimulus. In the latter case the size and the implementation pace of the package is of greater importance compared to the first case.

An output closing economy should see capex improving. Capital expenditure suggests higher capital demand which, within an environment of constant domestic savings, must lead either towards a higher USD driven by capital inflows or higher bond yields. Receiving a fiscal stimulus when there is an output gap suggests the fiscal stimulus may contribute to closing the output gap, but there is no guarantee that the stimulus leads to higher capex. For instance, in the case where the stimulus is inadequate size-wise or its implementation turns out to be too slow; then markets will see a bigger disappointment with the USD and bond yields falling back sharply.

Making this differentiation between an output gap closing economy and an economy offering output gaps is essential for trading within our current framework. Yesterday’s hawkish comments from Yellen and Kaplan address the fact that the US has closed its output gap suggesting rates should be moved towards turning policy neutral. This level is currently estimated at 3% suggesting that the current US monetary policy set-up is highly accommodative. Seeing real Fed funds rate falling below -1.0% as inflation has rebounded at a quicker pace than the Fed hiking rates adds weight to this view. Seeing the US equity market rallying in reaction to hawkish Fed commentary underlines the pro cyclical market set-up. The difference from last year could not be more pronounced. Fed Q4 2015hawkishness flattened yield curves, pushed inflation expectations off the cliff, undermined EM currencies and finally led to a sharp equity market decline. Yesterday saw US long end break evens rising (December CPI did beat market expectations), the yield curves staying steep and the equity market turning early losses into moderate closing gains with financials leading the pack.

The BoC leaving the door towards a further rate cut wide open fits well with our output-gap differential driven framework. Policy divergence coming on the back of inflation divergence should weaken most currencies against the USD. The CAD will be not an exception as a cut in the policy interest rate, currently at 0.50%, “remains on the table” should major downside risks to the economy emerge. Those downside risks could largely stem from the trade-related policies of the incoming U.S.administration. Designated Commerce Secretary Ross said the Trump administration will turn quickly to deal with trade relations with Mexico and Canada in the context of NAFTA.

USD safe haven buying, GBPUSD, European Unity and High Yielding Currencies

The USD may replace its reflation related bid with safe haven related demand. This scenario suggests the JPY staying correctively strong for now, gaining on many crosses, while GBP and high yielding currencies may be hit as political and currency related concerns increase. This morning, GBP will be in the centre of currency traders’ attention reacting to weekend press speculation regarding Theresa May’s government laying the foundations for a ‘clean’ Brexit and possibly abandoning what had been perceived as a ‘have your cake and eat it’ strategy, which aimed to keep access to EU’s single market. The possible new strategy leaked by the Sunday press suggests the UK regaining full control over immigration, sovereignty from European Court of Justice decision-making and readiness to exit the customs union. Chancellor Hammond suggested in an interview with German’s ‘Welt’ that the UK may head towards an alternative economic model, threatening to cut UK corporate tax rates should the exit negotiations not show desired results. Note, BoE’s Carney was warning last week that failing negotiations could impose risks to financial stability, but that these risks could be bigger for the EU than for Europe, providing another sign of the UK taking a tough stance.

Northern Ireland heading towards new elections may complicate matters, leading to speculation that Article 50 may not be triggered in late March which could increase economic uncertainty even more. Key EMU states have scheduled elections too: Netherlands, France and Germany. According to the deputy PM the Netherlands will block any EU trade deal with the UK, unless it signs up to tough tax avoidance regulations preventing it from becoming an attractive offshore haven for multinationals and the rich, giving the impression of the UK and the rest of EMU drifting apart.    

European issues seem to release a dose of deflationary pressures. Deflation tends to increase real yields of low yielding currencies, suggesting USDJPY may drift towards our 112.50 target. However, GBPUSD breaking lower will undermine any bid in EURUSD too. This applies even more when following the Carney argument of seeing a failure of UK-EMU negotiations leading to a disproportional increase in inner EMU financial stability risks. Peripheral spreads quietly working higher supports Carney’s view. Meanwhile, Greece could move quickly back into focus should the IMF opt-out require new negotiations with Greece and a new approval by the German Bundestag according to Germany’s Schaeuble. Accordingly, there could be a new programme implying additional fiscal measures and further drastic reforms in Greece. The issue becomes even more complicated when we put the views of the incoming US administration into Europe’s context.

The German tabloid Bild released an exclusive interview with US President elect who predicted other countries following the UK in leaving EMU, calling EMU as servicing the German interest and saying that the UK was smart to leave. In relation to Brexit, Trump said that he could offer the UK a quick and “fair” trade deal. On the global trade front, Trump suggested imposing 35% duty on German cars made in Mexico and exported to U.S. It seems the incoming US government has taken a very different position compared to President Obama’s approach of supporting the idea of a politically unified Europe as much as possible. There could be an early meeting between PM May and Trump trying to help the UK to establish good post EMU trade deals with the US.

High yielding currencies including the AUD could come under selling pressure should the recent round of weaker Chinese economic data releases translate into growth concerns. Car sales and the housing markets have weakened in November/December. This morning, Xiao Lisheng, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, wrote in the outlook page of the China Securities Journal that “China should stop intervening in the foreign exchange market as soon as possible, conduct a one-off devaluation of the yuan and let the yuan float freely”. The advantages of a one-off RMB depreciation include a competitive gain that would help to utilise China’s substantial output gap and prevent further capital outflows linked to current RMB overvaluation expectations.  

USD Strength to continue, GBP weakness and event risk, CZK

USD: Gentle USD strength throughout the week.  We expect USD to trade with a gentle upward bias this week. The main economic data event of the week is the December US CPI (Wed). We expect the reading to tick above 2% YoY (for the first time since mid-2014). This should benefit USD via the higher UST yield channel. President-elect Trump’s inauguration speech on Friday is likely to strike an optimistic tone, yet in terms of new news flow, it may not be enough to materially move USD.

EUR: The euro reaping the short-term benefits of the Brexit risk. It is a fairly quiet day/week on the EZ data front. Not only should EUR do well against the Brexit-battered GBP, but we also expect Brexit spill-over related EUR gains to manifest themselves against SEK. SEK has been one of the few currencies to negatively feel the Brexit spill-over last year, causing EUR/SEK to trade with persistent Brexit risk premia (as some market participants perceived Sweden as potentially the next-in-line non-EMU country vulnerable to EU exit swings). EUR/SEK to move above the 9.50 level this week.

GBP: More Brexit risk premium to be built into GBP.GBP is under heavy pressure ahead of tomorrow ‘s PM May speech on the UK government’s Brexit strategy. While the Brexit risk premium has yet again started being built into GBP, it is still nowhere near the extreme levels of October 2016 (worth c.10% in EUR/GBP at the time vs 3.3% at this point). We still see more upside to EUR/GBP and expect the cross to break above 0.90 in coming weeks/months, potentially testing the last year’s ex-sterling flash crash highs of 0.9140. This would coincide with the historically extreme EUR/GBP medium term overvaluation. While the potential Supreme Court ruling on Article 50 may provide short-term respite to GBP (if the government is forced to seek the approval of Parliament), this is unlikely to be long lasting as Parliament is likely to approve the June referendum outcome.

CZK: Will more than EUR20bn of speculative capital find a counter-party? We worry the market is getting/going to be excessively short EUR/CZK. Based on our estimates, there may be around EUR 20bn of “fresh” speculative capital currently waiting for the CNB exit from the EUR/CZK floor (and more may flow in coming weeks/moths). This may make the price action on the EUR/CZK floor exit day rather tricky – even if the EUR/CZK declines towards its far value of 25.50 over time. Hence, to err on the side of caution, we close 50% of our short EUR/CZK position as a correction in overstretched long CZK positions may be overdue.

GBP, Conservative Party Conference and Theresa May

The market interpreted PM May’s interview on Sunday as a re-alignment with her tough tone at October’s Conservative Party conference, and a move away from the softer stance hoped for after she discussed the possibility of a transitional deal in December. May’s apparent reluctance for “keeping bits of the EU” (such as single market access) and her focus on ensuring “the right relationship, but when outside the EU” helped push GBPUSD back to October 2016 lows this week below 1.22. However we note that GBPUSD implied volatility and risk reversal skews have only modestly moved through this week’s episode – and there are tentative signs that even GBPUSD spot is stabilizing, at least for the very short-term.

Uncertainty ahead of other two important political events could be the cause of this pause – both of which have no date set but are due by the end of January. The more impactful of these will be PM May’s much-anticipated speech detailing steps after triggering Article 50; here it seems particularly difficult to guess the likely scenarios or reactions. As for the UK Supreme Court’s Brexit case verdict, while this may generate some brief noise, we expect it to broadly be a non-event in the grand scheme of things Brexit.

Firstly, the UK Government has now had ample time to prepare for a verdict in either direction, with some officials already suggesting a quick and calculated response is in the pipeline. Secondly, the fact that UK Parliament has already informally hinted that it would vote through the triggering of Article 50 suggests little material impact from this one event. Even if the UK Government were to lose the court case, this episode may only prove to be a minor irritant that may not necessarily delay the timelines already set. The market seems most uncertain on exactly what to expect from PM May’s upcoming speech. If her reaction after Sunday’s interview is a hint to go by, she could choose to take a more cautionary approach in her next speech by consciously staying vague – and simply refraining from mentioning any isolated topics like single market access. While it is true that a ‘vague scenario’ is unlikely to trigger an aggressive GBP reaction, we still expect a negative asymmetry for the pound even if PM May keeps her cards close to her chest.

 The risk is that the market now becomes more frustrated or impatient – or even begins to question the UK Government’s competency in agreeing on any credible Brexit strategy. What seems harder to envisage is how GBPUSD could rally on such a speech, especially when PM May has faced strong criticisms for being indecisive and flippant in her narrative. With a major shift in tone unlikely, some more subtle bullish scenarios could be if single market access is now mentioned by name, or if there a higher degree of clarity about a transitional deal, or if she now talks more about trade than immigration. In the most bearish scenarios, we would not rule out the risk that PM May tries to emphasize controlling immigration as her absolute top priority. GBP has scope to weaken further particularly because we do not believe positioning is especially stretched on all accounts. Broader indications of positioning (such as central bank FX reserve allocations and foreigners’ gilt holdings) have still offer scope for reduction. And if history offers any guide, we would not be surprised if such a tone starts a move lower in GBPUSD towards the 1.10 or 1.12 level in 6 months if still higher odds of “hard Brexit” are priced in. This is roughly the 1 standard deviation downside move in cable over a 180 day period since 1990. For now, we retain our long-held GBPUSD 1.20 3m target until we get more clarity. Finally, an immediate event on the calendar is Bank of England Governor Carney’s Testimony to the UK Treasury Committee today. Although he has remained rather balanced in his commentary until now, the MPC faces especially tough questions with UK 5 year breakevens now back to 2008 highs at 3.30%. Moreover, with recent growth and PMI indicators again proving resilient, the risk is that the MPC could feel more comfortable offering more hawkish hints in its 2nd February Q1 inflation report. This would on paper support GBP, but we suspect any gains would be sold into, given the political risks discussed above.

USD Strength, Employment Growth, Trump

US data continue coming in on the strong side, with yesterday’s NFIB small business optimism index reaching 105.8, well exceeding the 99.5 consensus expectations and accelerating sharply from the 98.4 November reading. Small business is inward looking and with this index rising to its highest level since 2004 it seems that animal spirits have come back to the US economy. Overcoming a balance sheet recession is fundamentally different from dealing with an inventory overhang-caused recession. Notably,a balance sheet recession sees capital expenditure staying weak for longer as corporates react to better demand indications by hiring into their work force instead of adding to their capital stocks. Most DM countries have experienced what we call a ‘monetisation’ of their capital stock,allowing the depreciation of the capital stock to exceed the replacement of investments. This capital stock monetisation allowed corporates to add to their cash flow and provide the foundation to engage in record equity buy-back programs.

At a certain point capital stocks reach a low point which is typically the case when the marginal costs of labour exceed the marginal risk adjusted cost of capital. The labour / capital ratio has increased since Lehman and with underinvestment and employment growth reaching an ever widening gap productivity declines. Surging small business optimism suggests that the US may now finally leave the post Lehman balance sheet consolidation recession behind,adding weight to our call suggesting the USD will rally. It is the US closing its output gap while others,especially AXJ, widening their output gap which suggest investment return differentials working increasingly in favour of the USD. All this happens when there are increasing signs of a international USD shortage as manifested by press reports suggesting Saudi Arabia tapping the USD market in February to cover for domestic fiscal deficits.

Some stumbling blocks for the USD to clear. While the big picture turns increasingly clearer helped by reports such as business optimism, there are still some stumbling blocks for the USD to clear before resuming its rally. The US consumer has sent out mixed signals with the December consumer climate indices as provided by the Conference Board and the University of Michigan showing pre-Lehman readings, but our in-house Alphawise Retail Tracker suggesting a retail dip in December. The US December retail sales report will be released on Friday and with the MS projection way below consensus we wait for the USD to dip before trading the USD aggressively from the long-side again.

Trump will b etalking. Today the focus will be on the content of President-elect Trump’s press conference (16.00 Ldn).From a currency perspective, markets will aim to get a clearer picture on trade, fiscal stimulus and the new administration’s relationship to the Fed. Recent press reports leave the impression that corporate tax reform in conjunction with a border tax adjustment may have a better chance of finding stronger support with the GOP and hence has a better chance of implementation. Should Trump hint at something in this direction the USD is likely to move immediately higher. The USD would rally against commodity currencies as the border adjustment tax may not bode well for global trade.

Trump supporting measures allowing the US to export more energy combined with a border adjustment tax may provide a substantial boost to US energy exploration and production. Consequently, the US, which is currently the globe’s third largest oil producer, could add to global supply. International oil prices would fall. China will listen. China’s Security Times suggested China may seek retaliation should the US erect a trade barrier. Concretely, the paper threatened to “cancel orders from Boeing, disrupt Apple’s supply chain or even impose higher tariffs on imported agricultural products from the U.S.” Hence,any talk about serious trade restriction plans will not bode well for global risk appetite. The USD rally would move from turning a low-yielding currency event towards a high-yielding currency event. Commodity FX should fall most should the designated US President focus on trade. A different market reaction should occur should fiscal policy expansion make the headlines. In this case,a rising USDJPY would be the best game in town.

China Economics – PPI jumps further in December

  • China’s PPI accelerated to 5.5% in December, against its previous reading of 3.3% and Bloomberg consensus of 4.5%. CPI inflation moderated to 2.1% from 2.3% previously.
  • The improved PPI is supportive of corporates’ cash flow and profitability. The PBoC may be able to pay more attention to financial risk management issues. Room for the PBoC to guide up the level and volatility of interbank rates is getting larger.
  • Current CPI inflation is still below the government’s upper bound. This offers room to keep overall credit and monetary growth at a steady rate for the time being.
  • In our previous note, we expected the PPI to overtake 5%. Based on the latest information, we believe the PPI is likely to increase further towards 6.5% in the coming months. The key risk to China’s inflation dynamic is an increase of consumer inflation expectations. This also offers motivation for the PBoC to introduce tightening elements for its policy setting.

Global Rates Mild reflation, Wild Politicisation, US Yields and Outlook

In a ‘post truth’, ‘fake news’ world, economic forecasters are troubled. After the political shocks of last year, the financial markets are banking on ‘peak populism’ this year. But the promise of mild reflation from the new Trump Administration in the US could easily be upended if his strong arm tactics backfire. And while polls in the Eurozone suggest that mainstream political parties will prevail in forthcoming elections, the question is at what price. The markets have taken on trust that incoming President Trump will deliver on his progrowth agenda. But the combination of fiscal reflation and deregulation will take time to deliver. Meanwhile, growth will face headwinds from the uplift in bond yields and the potential for Trump’s hawkish Cabinet to deliver on his hawkish rhetoric on trade. The US economy has regained the momentum it has lacked since 4Q15 with a strong 3Q16 GDP figure. We expect this to continue, with investment playing a stronger role than it has for years. But inflation is picking up too – providing the Federal Reserve with a headache in terms of further rate hikes, or instead shrinking its bloated balance sheet later this year. Any mid-year dip in bond yields will likely give way to rises later in 2017.

 For the Eurozone promising economic signals are overshadowed by the potential for fresh political shocks. Markets are drawing comfort from polls that suggest that it will be much tougher for populists to take power in the Netherlands, France, Italy or Germany. However, even if the mainstream prevails, it may only do so by leaning towards populist themes and backing off on closer integration. The UK economy shrugged off the ‘Brexit’ vote in 2016, benefiting from the inadvertent easing delivered by a big fall in sterling. But 2017 is looking more challenging. With Article 50 set to be triggered in the next three months, worries about the prospects of a deal may see businesses choosing to sit on their hands. At the same time, household spending power will be squeezed by rising inflation, leading to a marked slowdown in growth. This is likely to become the BoE’s main concern rather than inflation. In Japan the Bank of Japan (BOJ) is enjoying success in resisting the global upturn in bond yields, which has had the additional benefit of pushing the Japanese yen lower by around 9% on a trade-weighted basis, and the US dollar above the JPY120 barrier. With that stimulus in hand, the Japanese government is likely to hold off until the second half of the year before considering a further fiscal impulse.

The US dollar has largely held onto its late 2016 rally. We expect further gains through 1Q17 as the market further adjusts to the prospect of looser fiscal/tighter monetary policy in the US. EUR/USD could be dragged close to parity during this period, but our year-end forecast of 1.12 is above consensus. This is based on the view that a Trump Administration will not want the dollar to strengthen too much and that an undervalued EUR can recover. Japan aside, global bond yields are being led higher by the US. Firming economic data, a re-evaluation of economic growth post-Trump and a more aggressive Fed have driven up inflation expectations and real yields. Both aspects could rise further in our base view, with the major downside risks being failure of Trump to deliver growth promises, and political disruption stemming from Europe.

2017 could be transformational for the US. Questions about the aggressiveness or otherwise of trade policy will hopefully be answered. And uncertainty about the degree of any fiscal easing will also likely dissipate. Against this backdrop, the Fed will be trying to balance its cautious tightening, against growth and inflation that may be substantially stronger than its own forecasts. 2016 ended with market optimism about expansionary fiscal policy from an incoming Trump administration. The macro backdrop also ended on a more supportive note. After a soft-patch lasting three quarters, the final 3Q16 GDP growth estimate was an impressive 3.5%. This will make very little difference to the full year figure, finishing the year on a strong note is a very good way to ensure healthy figures for 2017.

We are forecasting growth for the US of 2.8% this year – substantially in excess of the 2.2% forecast shown in January by the Bloomberg consensus. Still absent, however, is a clear recovery in investment. Business investment recorded another negative score in 3Q16. But optimism is growing for a tax amnesty for America’s multinational firms and their $2tr-plus of retained overseas earnings. We expect this policy to be made contingent on some demonstration of increased domestic investment spending. The prospect of lower corporate tax rates could provide a further lift. In contrast, structures investment has shown a big improvement – a trend we think will continue. The rise in oil prices in recent months, helped by OPEC’s announced production caps, is lifting an already-rising rig-count, and with it structures investment. We retain some caution with respect to the scale of fiscal expansion that President-elect Trump will announce in February in his “President’s budget”. The timeline for such expansion is not a rapid one, and much of the benefit from whatever Congress actually decides to adopt will likely not emerge until late 2017 or early 2018. However, if that extends the growth spell from 2017 to 2018 (albeit at a rate closer to 3% than the 4-5% Trump suggested during the election campaign), whilst not generating too much alarm in terms of inflation or debt expansion, that would not be a bad thing. Longer dated bond yields will likely rise, but we think increases will be limited, and potentially suffer a mid-year pull back from higher levels as impatience over the delivery of fiscal stimulus plays with market nerves.

The outlook for trade, which is potentially far more threatening to US growth, remains concerning. Trump’s senior trade appointments include Wilbur Ross (Commerce Secretary), Peter Navarro (Head of White house National Trade Council), Robert Lighthizer (tipped for Head of US Trade Representative Office) and Dan DiMicco (transition team trade advisor). With a trade team that is heavy in terms of China critics, this is the big downside risk to both US and global growth prospects. Our base case is that this will be more of a war of words than a full blown trade war. Trump has already seemingly managed to influence Ford’s investment decisions to Michigan instead of Mexico through Tweets alone. And whilst aggressive rhetoric may weigh on the USD, that may not worry the incoming administration if it helps support US manufacturing.

The Fed threw a forecasting grenade into the mix at the end of 2016, signalling that it saw scope for three rate hikes in 2017. Like markets and the bulk of economic forecasters, we have our doubts. But while most forecasters can fall back on moderate growth forecasts as an excuse for Fed inaction, we think that the Fed will hike again in 1Q17 and potentially 2Q or 3Q17, before switching its attention to its balance sheet. The Fed has said repeatedly that it would not change its re-investment policy until the rate ‘normalisation’ process was well underway. “Well underway” probably equates with a Fed funds range of 1.0-1.25% – just two hikes away. In effect, this will remove from the bond market a substantial “buyer” each month, pushing up yields. In the meantime, we see evidence that the Fed is adjusting its holding of assets from longer to shorter dated assets, in a sort of “reverse twist” operation that is consistent with a steeper yield curve. If this becomes the Fed’s preoccupation in late 2017, there will be little need for additional tightening by conventional rate hikes, and we envisage a pause in rate movements in late 2017 and early 2018 whilst the market gets used to the new environment.