USD sentiment hit a bearish extreme as investors disagreed with the Fed’s projected rate hike path, buthas started rebounding since last Friday. Yesterday’s sharp CAD appreciation on the back of BoC Deputy Governor Wilkins saying the central bank was looking at the possibility of raising interest rates as the economic recovery picks up indicated that there is a substantial risk of the USD rallying should the Fed underline its current rate projections. We call the DXY 2% higher from here in the next six weeks. Japan’s FinMin Aso suggesting that he can see the USD rallying on higher US interest rates is a view we subscribe to. Higher US rates will increase Japan-based fund managers’ USD hedging costs, which should push USDJPY higher as they reduce their hedge ratios. USDJPY closing at 110.40 or higher would signal that a corrective bottom has been traded.

Rates pessimists cite the recent decline of global surprise indices spreading from the US into other economies including EM. However, most of the recent data moderation has been spotted among soft indicators while most hard data have remained solid. Most labour markets continue to tighten at a rapid pace and it seems that it is now the shortage of skilled labour which is hampering hiring. In the US, the spread between job openings and the rise of employment has become wider, suggesting that a period of higher wage growth may be imminent. It has primarily been the recent moderate wage growth slowing in the US from 2.8%Y to 2.5%Y which has pushed 10-year inflation expectations (measured by breakevens) from 2.08% to 1.78% within the past six months.


US Interest Rates and the Fed
The Federal Reserve left monetary policy unchanged yesterday in what was a unanimous decision. The accompanying statement saw few meaningful changes to the one issued following the March announcement. The Fed still expects inflation to “stabilise around 2% over the medium term” while growth risks “appear roughly balanced”. There were slight nuances given that 1Q GDP was disappointing and the PCE deflator has softened recently, but the Fed suspect’s these developments will be “transitory”. In terms of the direction of policy the Fed reiterated that they believe economic conditions will “evolve in a manner that will warrant gradual increases in the federal funds rate”. Their last forecast update, published in March, showed that at that point in time the median Fed member’s expectation for the Fed funds rate was 1.4% for end-2017, 2.1% for 2018 before rising to 3% by end-2019. In terms of the outlook for policy we continue to favour just one 25bp hike this year rather than the two to three currently pencilled into the Fed’s FOMC member forecasts and the 40bp of tightening priced in by the OIS curve. The recent data flow has been somewhat softer than hoped, be it business surveys, GDP, employment growth or inflation. There is also a lack of clarity on the scale and timing of any fiscal stimulus brought about through President Donald Trump’s tax and spending plans. Consequently, there is scope for market disappointment that could lead the Fed to reappraise the situation. The statement also repeated that the Fed will maintain its “existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings” of debt securities and of “rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction”. We will have to wait for the minutes to this meeting to see the actual discussion around this. Last time officials suggested that we could hear something about lowering the reinvestment rate this year. Such action would reduce demand from the biggest buyer and likely lead to higher longer dated bond yields and a steeper yield curve. However, given our more cautious prediction for Federal Reserve rate hikes we see scope for this policy change to slip into early 2018 – note the line that the wind down in the balance sheet won’t start “until normalization of the level of the federal funds rate is well under way”.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) will continue to remain on hold at Tuesday’s board meeting where the official cash rate will remain parked at 1.5 percent. Future markets have priced in only a 2 percent chance of a cut and no chance of a rise. The RBA has expressed an unwillingness to lower official interest rates further, given the financial stability risks associated with the housing market and high household debt levels.

The central bank also remains caught between underlying inflation that is below target and reaccelerating house prices. With economic growth under its potential and inflation below the target band, the RBA has left the door to an interest rate cut ajar. There are growing doubts about the ability of labour market growth to boost wages growth and inflation.

Capital city dwelling prices across Australia rose by 1.4 percent for the second consecutive month in March. Growth in house prices has outpaced that of unit prices over the year to March. Nationally house prices rose 13.4 percent, outpacing growth in unit prices of 9.8 percent.

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) has again tightened measures on investor lending, albeit rather lightly. The measures are designed to ensure financial stability and are likely to result in a slowing in investor activity and a moderation in house price growth, over time. If measures from APRA are successful in lowering financial stability risks, in time it could potentially lower the hurdle for an interest rate cut from the RBA.

Building approvals posted a strong increase in February, beating expectations of a decline. House prices were up strongly in March, yet again. Detached housing approvals were up 5.7 percent m/m, reversing two months of falls. The CoreLogic capital city house prices rose 12.9 percent y/y in March compared with 11.7 percent y/y in February. This is the strongest annual price growth since the first half of 2010. Data suggest house price growth has not yet peaked, despite the efforts of the regulators.

“RBA will leave its key rate unchanged tomorrow morning. Rising property prices are worrying the Australian central bankers but are unlikely to cause any measures any time soon,” said Commerzbank in a report.

AUD/USD is extending its three-day losing streak after the Aussie remains dented by worse-than-expected Australian retail sales data. The pair is currently holding strong trendline support at 0.76 levels. Technical indicators support downside, RSI and Stochs are biased lower. Price action has broken below 50-DMA and is on track to test 200-DMA at 0.7551.

Data from German Statistics office, Destatis showed Friday that Germany’s retail sales in February unexpectedly fell by real 2.1 percent year-on-year, reversing January’s revised 2.7 percent increase.

Meanwhile, month-on-month, Germany’s retail sales were up 1.8 percent after declining 1 percent in January. The monthly growth beat analysts’ forecasts for a 0.7 percent increase. A similar faster growth was last seen in August 2014.

Mixed data on Friday sent mixed signals about the health of this sector of Europe’s largest economy. A breakdown of the year-on-year data showed sharp drops in sales of food, drinks and tobacco as well as clothing, shoes and other items such as books and jewelry.

The volatile indicator is often subject to revision, the Federal Statistics Office said. The data follows GfK survey which showed German consumer sentiment unexpectedly fell to its lowest level in five months going into April, partly due to people’s concerns that rising inflation will erode their purchasing power.

The New Zealand bonds closed a tad higher at the time of closing, following a drop in the country’s business confidence. Also, investors are curiously eyeing the GlobalDairyTrade (GDT) price auction, scheduled to be held on April 5 for detailed direction in the debt market.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year bond, which moves inversely to its price, fell 1 basis point to 3.21 percent at the time of closing, the yield on 7-year note also slipped nearly 1 basis point to 2.80 percent and the yield on short-term 2-year note also traded 1 basis point lower at 2.16 percent.

New Zealand’s business confidence eased in March. However, other survey indicators remain fighting fit. Firms are optimistic about their own businesses, and still, want to hire and invest. The survey continues to point to solid growth.

The construction sector remains optimistic but showed a large backward step across some survey metrics. Inflation expectations continue to nudge up. Investment intentions eased from +22 to +21; that’s still a good tempo. Employment intentions are still pacing themselves. A net +23 are looking at hiring more staff, down 1 point. Profit expectations eased from +24 to +23, led lower by construction.

The ECB is not anywhere near the exit of its expansionary monetary strategy as highlighted by a report suggesting that the ECB has been concerned by the recent rise of EMU bond yields. In particular, higher yields in EMU peripheral bonds seem unwelcome, in line with our own view suggesting that within the ‘rule-like’, one-rate-fits-all monetary union with little fiscal integration, it is the credit risk driving monetary conditions. Effectively, diverging credit risks have loosened monetary conditions in Germany and tightened conditions in Italy. The weakening Italian credit suggests the ECB may lean its monetary strategy to accommodate Italy, hoping that the resulting monetary boom in EMU’s low credit risk countries spills over into the periphery.

Yesterday’s report released by Reuters specifically cited the tweak in the ECB interest rate statement axing a reference to being ready to ‘act with all available instruments’. The ECB wanted to hint that tail risks have eased, but it did not want to signal that it is heading towards the exit. EURUSD topped near 1.0906 last week ahead of our 1.0925 key resistance level now facing the risk of breaking lower testing the 1.05/04 support. Note, bullish EUR recommendations have swamped the marketplace over recent weeks, and our positioning tracker shows EUR positioning is now long, suggesting de-positioning activity putting EURUSD under additional selling pressure.

The Fed should continue hiking rates over the course of this year with the debate within the FOMC leaning either towards three or four rates hikes for this year. Comments by Fed’s Williams and Rosengren (non-voters) put this projected rate hike path in the context of current US economic momentum and not based on the prospect of additional policy stimulus by the new US administration. The ‘Trump fade’ would be a big issue if the US economy were to still deploy a large output gap. US consumer confidence has reached levels last seen in the late 90s when James Rubin, the inventor of the ‘strong USD’ mantra, was Treasury Secretary, and the labour market has shown increasing signs of tightness. Interestingly, booming US economic data stand against low and falling Presidential popularity rates. Normally, political and economic support move hand in hand. Their divergence may provide another indication that the output gap-closing US economy has developed ‘animal spirits’ which may no longer need political encouragement.

Meanwhile, the CPI-adjusted US 10-year yield has declined to -0.3%,now running at a similar level witnessed in Japan which is experiencing a 20-year deflation history. We ascribe the low reading of the US real yield to the new ‘availability of capital’ driven by US banks pushing their assets into higher yielding environments. Excess of bank capital and better balance sheet structure allow US banks to deploy a higher VaR. Banks with USD deposits bought short-term JGBs and swapped them back into USD, securing the basis spread as a profit. Japanese investors buying US Treasuries and increasing FX hedges helped US bond yields and the USD to move lower, allowing US real yields to fall against the strong economic uptrend.

The EUR/PLN currency pair is expected to gradually edge higher towards a level of 4.35 in the coming quarter, following the National Bank of Poland’s relaxed monetary policy stance. The zloty appreciated in recent months, even outperforming peers such as the Hungarian forint, despite notable adverse political developments, Commerzbank reported.

Among recent developments, there was the awkward situation recently surrounding the PiS government’s opposition to the re-nomination of Donald Tusk for European Council President, and deterioration of EU relations as a result, when even allies, Hungary and the UK, voted against Poland.

Secondly, the Constitutional Tribunal probe is ongoing and could re-escalate at any time; this week, European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans remarked that the Polish government’s response to EC recommendations has been unacceptable — it could easily have triggered the use of the so-called Article 7 sanctions (which could strip Poland of its EU vote).

But, despite calls on him to activate this clause, Timmermans is resisting because of other political re-occupations in EU. Finally, the PO opposition has called for a vote of no confidence in the PiS cabinet and PM Beata Szydlo which will be held around April 5-7. Ruling PiS will be able to win the vote in the Parliament, no problem, but this is not to gloss over the fact that PiS’ approval ratings are no longer rising.

In fact, polls express greater public confidence in PO’s ability for foreign policy. All said, the zloty has remained unaffected, which probably reflects some kind of market ‘fatigue’ after constant debate and discussions of Polish political risks over the previous year, which ultimately led to nothing significant, the report added.

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

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

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

The Political establishment in Washington went into a frenzy last year after then-candidate Donald Trump said that he wants to restore relations with the Russians. Every time, Mr. Trump refused to criticize either Russia or Russian President Vladimir Putin, the established anti-Russia establishment in Capitol Hill went after him and that includes several media outlets like CNN, which colluded with the Clinton campaign during the election and more. The skepticism with Russia runs so deep in Capitol Hill and within the establishment that President Trump is considered by many as a Russian spy and they are still looking to prove connections between Trump and Putin.

A recent incident in Capitol Hill proves how deep the hatred runs. Senator John McCain of the Republican Party presented a proposal that envisions bringing Montenegro, a small Balkan country within the umbrella of North Atlantic Treaty Organization and that proposal was rejected by another Republican senator Rand Paul, who did not want to make additional military commitments when the US debt is already at $20 trillion. Russia allegedly took part in a failed coup during last year’s Montenegro election. Mr. Rand Paul’s refusal triggered a furor in Senator McCain, a well-known Russia hawk, who accused Mr. Paul of working with or for the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia-US-Montenegro are part of global geopolitics and there is also nothing wrong being a Russia-hawk but when one accuses a colleague of working for Russia, then probably it’s not just hawkish; it’s a phobia, Russia-phobia.

The real question is, can President Trump overcome these phobics and reconcile with Russia?

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.

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 UK gilts slumped Tuesday ahead of the country’s labor market report, due on March 15 and as investors remain cautious ahead of the Bank of England’s (BoE) monetary policy decision, scheduled to be held on March 16.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year gilts, which moves inversely to its price, rose 1 basis points to 1.25 percent, the super-long 25-year bond yields also rose 1/2 basis point to 1.88 percent and the yield on the short-term 3-year traded flat at 0.24 percent by 09:50 GMT.

The BoE is expected to maintain its neutral policy stance at the monetary policy meeting, scheduled to be held on March 16. Further, the central bank is also expected to hold its Bank Rate at 0.25 percent while leaving the targets for the stock of government bond purchases (APF) and the stock of corporate bond purchases (CBPS) unchanged at GBP435bn and GBP10bn, respectively.

“In our view, the BoE seems to be more worried about slower growth than too-high inflation if this is only temporary. EUR/GBP has reached our 1-3M target of 0.87 and we are currently reviewing our forecast. We still see risks skewed to the upside for EUR/GBP in the coming months ahead of and after the triggering of Article 50,” Danske Bank commented in its recent 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 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.

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.

The UK gilts remained flat Tuesday in mild trading session and after Britons overwhelmingly oppose Theresa May’s plan to quit the EU with no deal in place if Parliament dares to reject the terms she agrees with Brussels, an exclusive poll by The Independent has revealed.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year gilts, which moves inversely to its price, rose 1/2 basis point to 1.21 percent, the super-long 30-year bond yields hovered around 1.82 percent and the yield on the short-term 2-year remained flat at 0.11 percent by 09:00 GMT.

The survey also showed the public are bracing themselves for a Brexit hit on the economy over the next two years as painstaking negotiations over future relations play out. This comes ahead of a major stand-off between May’s Government and the House of Lords, which is demanding Parliament be guaranteed in law the final say on approving her Brexit deal and given the power to send her back to the negotiating table if it is rejected.

A greater proportion, 27 per cent, said May should try to renegotiate a deal, 14 percent said we should stay in the EU on new terms that May should try to negotiate and 15 percent said we should stay in on existing terms, a total of 56 percent who favoured options at odds with the Prime Minister’s plan to quit and trade on World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

Minneapolis Fed President, who is a voting member in this year’s FOMC stand out among the policymakers who have been calling for faster rate hikes in 2017. Some of the well-known doves of FOMC shifted their camps in recent weeks but during an interview with the Reuters, Mr. Kashkari indicated that he would maintain his dovish outlook with regard to interest rates.

Mr. Kashkari believes that the US labor market has more room to run and he remains cautiously optimistic of the recent trend where in the past 18 months, more workers have returned to the workforce. He said that while wages are rising and hope that the trend would continue, he believes it has yet not reached alarming levels. He said that the Fed aims to let the economy run as fast as it can as long as the inflation is low.

With regard to fiscal policies, Mr. Kashkari said that he hasn’t factored them in his forecasts yet due to lack of clarity.

These comments from Mr. Kashkari doesn’t change our FOMC dashboard for March meeting, which as of now looks like below,

Doves – Neel Kashkari.

Hawks – Janet Yellen, Charles Evans, Patrick Harker, Stanley Fischer, William Dudley, Lael Brainard, and Robert Kaplan

Unknown – Jerome Powell

Pls. note that one of the dovish members, Daniel Tarrullo has resigned and the position is yet to be filled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking with the BBC, before her speech to the Scottish conservative conference, the UK Prime Minister Theresa May has blasted the Scottish National Party (SNP) for their singular vision of independence. In recent days, the Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has added pressure on the UK government to adopt some of her party’s recommendation in the upcoming Brexit negotiations, which includes access to the European Union single market for Scotland. She has threatened to call for another independence referendum. Last time in 2014, Scottish people rejected separation from the United Kingdom with 55-45 margin. Ms. Sturgeon has argued that then the Scottish people, who overwhelmingly voted in favor of staying in the European Union, were promised single market access.

The Prime Minister said that she is looking very closely to the proposals presented by the Scottish National Party (SNP) though Ms. Sturgeon has accused Ms. May’s government hasn’t paid the attention required. She said to the SNP and Ms. Sturgeon that politics is not a game and keeping Scotland in the UK is a personal priority for her. However, she felt short of saying whether she would grant another referendum or not.

It all started with Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen insisting that all meetings are “live”. Recent Fed rhetoric also accentuated the newfound hawkishness, even for some known doves. This week saw Brainard, Williams and Bullard essentially touting the case for serious consideration for a move in March, notwithstanding the fiscal policy uncertainties and as US president Trump’s Congressional speech failed to enlighten us on his exact execution of grand economic plans.

While markets are still waiting for Yellen, Fischer et al to speak this weekend, the futures market has already at this juncture priced in 90 percent probability of the first hike coming in March. No point fighting the FOMC given that both labor market conditions and inflation data have been very resilient. This is clearly a case of the Fed fearing to be labeled being behind the curve, OCBC Bank reported in its latest research publication.

With the SGD NEER trading above parity currently, there is room to be caught wrong-footed by the broad dollar if Yellen cements a green light for the March Federal Open Market Committee FOMC. That said, things will likely get more exciting going into the upcoming FOMC meeting and subsequently.

“As such, we shift forward the first FOMC rate hike scenario to March, with the second hike likely to follow in 2Q17. Assuming that US president Trump delivers on his phenomenal tax plan and the infrastructure investment plan, the Fed may feel compelled to get a third hike in 2H17 as well,” the report commented.

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

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

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

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

The Japanese government bonds traded narrowly mixed Monday as investors wait to watch the super-long 30-year auction, scheduled to be held on Tuesday. Also, the fourth-quarter gross domestic product (GDP), due to be released on March 7 at 23:50GMT, is closely eyed by market participants as well.

The benchmark 10-year bond yield, which moves inversely to its price, rose 1/2 basis point to 0.08 percent, while the long-term 30-year bond yields fell nearly 1 basis point to 0.84 percent while the yield on the short-term 2-year note traded 1/2 basis point lower at -0.28 percent by 05:30 GMT.

Japan’s economy is likely to have grown faster in the fourth quarter than initially reported, as companies ramped up investment in plant and manufacturing equipment, a latest Reuters poll showed. GDP growth for the October-December quarter is expected to be upwardly revised to an annualized 1.6 percent from a preliminary 1.0 percent, according to the median estimate of 20 economists.

Separate data from the finance ministry is expected to show Japan’s current account surplus in January narrowed to 239.0 billion yen (USD2.09 billion) from JPY1.1 trillion in the previous month due to a slowdown in exports, Reuters reported.

h2>US: Dudley, Williams talk up prospects of March hike

After looking quite foolish for much of this quarter, our forecast of a March Fed hike is now gathering greater momentum, and according to Fed funds futures and the Bloomberg implied rate probability function, markets are now pricing in around 80-85% probability of a March hike. Importantly, one of what we term the Fed “insiders”, the NY Fed President, William Dudley, said overnight that the case for tightening had become “a lot more compelling”, and that “the risks to the outlook are now starting to tilt to the upside” He was joined in sentiment by San Francisco Fed Chief, John Williams, who said that an interest rate increase would receive “serious consideration” at the next meeting. We might quibble over the exact numbers delivered by Bloomberg, but whatever the actual number, a March hike would no longer be a market surprise – about the only credible excuse left to the Fed to delay hiking on March 15. Whilst this looks very comforting for our long-held outlier house view (which we expect to be joined by the consensus of forecasters over coming days), there are still a few more hurdles to cross before we can claim that this hike is “in the bag”. Firstly, the PCE date released on 1 March – should take PCE inflation to 2.0%, and eradicate the only target the Fed has not yet hit, given that rising wages signal that full employment was reached some time ago. And there is still a possibility of a disappointing Labour market report on 10 March – though we are actually expecting this to another good release, especially on the wages front, where we see scope for a strong upside surprise.

The bearish flattening seen in the US yield curve and the move in two year USD swap rates to new highs has pushed US-Germany two year spreads towards levels not seen since the late 1990s. It is surprising that EUR/USD is not a lot lower. Severe under-valuation is probably playing a role here, as is the fact that Trump has Germany’s large trade surplus in his sights. For today, we’ll see German Feb CPI, seen rising to 2.1% YoY from 1.9% – providing clues on EZ CPI tomorrow. On balance, Trump’s plans, yield spreads & EZ politics suggests EUR/USD stays pressured and 1.0500/0520 comes under heavy pressure again.

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.

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. Let’s look at the market pricing of the hikes,

March 15th meeting: Market is attaching 73 percent probability that rates will remain at 0.5-0.75 percent, and 27 percent probability that rates will be at 0.75-1.00 percent
May 3rd meeting: Market is attaching 48 percent probability that rates will remain at 0.5-0.75 percent, 43 percent probability that rates will be at 0.75-1.00 percent, and 9 percent probability that rates will be at 1.00-1.25 percent.
June 14th Meeting: Market is attaching 30 percent probability that rates will remain at 0.50-0.75 percent, 45 percent probability that rates will be at 0.75-1.00 percent, 22 percent probability that rates will be at 1.00-1.25 percent, and 3 percent probability that rates will be at 1.25-1.50 percent.
July 26th meeting: Market is attaching 25 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, 25 percent probability that rates will be at 1.00-1.25 percent, 7 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 17 percent probability that rates will remain at 0.50-0.75 percent, 37 percent probability that rates will be at 0.75-1.00 percent, 31 percent probability that rates will be at 1.00-1.25 percent, 12 percent probability that rates will be at 1.25-1.50 percent, 2.5 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 15 percent probability that rates will remain at 0.50-0.75 percent, 34 percent probability that rates will be at 0.75-1.00 percent, 32 percent probability that rates will be at 1.00-1.25 percent, 15 percent probability that rates will be at 1.25-1.50 percent, 3.5 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.
December 13th meeting: Market is attaching 6 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, 33 percent probability that rates will be at 1.00-1.25 percent, 24 percent probability that rates will be at 1.25-1.50 percent, 10 percent probability that rates will be at 1.50-1.75 percent, 3 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.

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.

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.

 

Ruble strength, fiscal rule and CBR

The gov’t/CBR comments that RUB strength is a temporarily fuelled RUB correction. We do see RUB weaker going forward, but generally in a modest/orderly way. There were several officials’ comments about RUB and CBR policy on Friday, which clearly explain some RUB correction. Specifically, CBR deputy Ksenia Yudayeva commented to Bloomberg with the following points:

 · The RUB is not significantly overvalued, its deviations from fair-value estimates are “within the limits of the norms”, and the hot money inflows are not the only factor driving RUB stronger, so the CBR doesn’t see any threat for financial stability from this and, so, there is no need to react.

  • · Not only the level, but excessive RUB volatility adversely affects competitiveness, which requires removing the dependence from oil in the FX rate, which will likely be achieved through inflation targeting and the MinFin FX buying under the “budget rule”.
  • · The focus stays on CPI/anchoring inflation expectations at the 4% target, which may require higher rates for longer, so the current 4%+ real rate may persist.
  • · MinFin FX buying and the disinflationary impact from the transitory factors of RUB and good harvest leave risks to reaching the 4% target, so the CBR remains concerned that the disinflation trend may slow soon.
  • · The lower and shorter recession in 2015-16 than was initially expected justifies the CBR’s cautious stance.

After these, MinEco Maxim Oreshkin also commented saying that the recent RUB strength looks temporary, seasonal and not related to fundamentals, so the RUB may see some moderate weakening followed by a stabilisation. All in all, the CBR comments look like a rather hawkish message also making clear that the CBR doesn’t see any need to react from their side to RUB strength. At this point, the probability of rate cuts in Mar-17 is clearly below 50%, but we think it may still change if CPI slows down as in previous weeks, and the RUB stays resiliently strong. As for the RUB outlook, we do share the view that the recent strength looked excessive, so it would be natural to see some retracement back to 59-60/USD levels all else being equal.

Italy: Risk of imminent snap elections reduced

The PD party will hold a congress after Renzi’s resignation as party leader. Should the PD split, government activity could be possibly negatively affected. The publication of the motivation of the Constitutional Court ruling on the Italicum, the electoral system for the Lower House, was seen as a crucial passage towards the end of the current legislature. As a reminder, the ruling yielded a trimmed-down version of the Italicum, proportional in nature, which the Court itself reckoned already usable. The ruling of the court added that different electoral systems in the two branches of the parliament are acceptable, provided that they do not prevent the formation of “homogeneous parliamentary majorities”. As the electoral law of the Senate is also proportional in nature (with a different entry threshold and no majority bonus), most observers read the qualification of the Court’s motivation as an implicit recognition that a viable, if imperfect, electoral system is in place and ready to be used in case of snap elections. As many key actors on the political scene had been vocally pushing for snap elections, the risk of a vote in June was then seen as increasing. However, developments within the Democratic Party (PD) over the last couple of weeks have mixed up the cards. First came some statements from a couple of ministers, originally in favour of a rush to the polls, who had apparently changed their mind, and started suggesting that a better electoral law should be sought in the Parliament and that the current Gentiloni government should be given some time to complete unfinished work. The second, more powerful, turning factor was the meeting of the steering committee of the PD party, the senior party in the current government alliance, which was held last Monday. The debate, opened by Renzi as the party’s leader, highlighted once more that strong divisions between Renzi and the leftist minority persisted. During the discussion Renzi proposed that a party congress should be called soon and that this should be concluded with a primary election to nominate the new party leadership. The leftist minority refusal to accept Renzi’s candidacy as leader of the party, not to mention the imposition of any short deadline for the congress, opened the door to the possibility of a party split. The issue was tackled again during the assembly of the PD party held yesterday in Rome. Divisions were confirmed as was the scarce willingness to bridge the gap on both sides. Yesterday Renzi formally resigned from his leadership, technically paving the way to the party’s congress, whose timetable will be set tomorrow in the meeting of the steering committee. The risk of a party split now looks very high. In principle, the perspective of a PD congress held over the spring should substantially reduce the risk of a June snap national election. Should a split of the PD party actually materialise, the risk of political instability would likely increase, and PM Gentiloni’s government action could be weakened as a consequence. Not only would it be harder to assign priorities to left-over reforms (the new Gentiloni government is de facto a continuation of Renzi’s government), but chances of reaching an agreement on a parliamentary modification of the electoral law would also be reduced

FX Update- European Politics and the UK

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

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

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

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

Monthly Global EM Outlook, Trump Policies and Inflation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

European Bonds and Credit, spread tightening across the board

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

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

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

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

Chair Yellen and Rate Outook for the USD

Chair Yellen may opt to play it cool at today’s semi-annual testimony to the Senate (1500 GMT), but with markets pricing in just a 30-35% chance of a March rate hike, we see limited downside risks to the dollar if the status quo is retained. The Fed chief may alternatively look to nudge expectations up to 50:50 in a bid to keep the option of a March hike on the table. Here’s our take on the hot topics: ? Prospects of a March hike: She is most likely to keep her options open, reiterating that all meetings are “live” and decisions are “data-dependent”.

Working down the Fed’s Balance Sheet: The Fed has said that it would consider stopping reinvestment of maturing assets when tightening is “well underway”. ? Trump and Fiscal policy: This is still very uncertain. Her easiest dodge would be to say that it is impossible to judge how the Fed would react without knowing the finer details, though Republicans may push back by saying this could be known in “2-3 weeks”. She could state that productivity-enhancing policies are better for the US.

Policy rules (eg, Taylor Rule): Favoured by some Republicans, but she’ll probably reference her latest speech which noted issues in estimating policy rule inputs.

Financial regulation – in particular Dodd-Frank: She typically says that Dodd Frank helped strengthen the financial system and should not be rolled back. She could repeat her sympathy with the notion that it is too onerous for smaller banks.

Foreign dumping of Treasuries: This is an old favourite and senators like to cite large overseas holdings of US Treasuries as a risk. Yellen will aim to stay apolitical.

Daily FX Outlook, USD, EUR, GBP and HUF

USD: Yellen testimony provides asymmetric risks into USD favour The key event of the day is Chair Yellen’s semi-annual testimony to the Senate. With the market pricing rather a benign probability of March rate hike (30-35%), risks are asymmetric into USD favour. If the status quo is retained and no hints at higher probability of March rate hike are presented, USD downside should limited. On the other hand, if Yellen chooses to look to nudge expectations up to 50:50 to keep the option of a March hike on the table, the upside to USD should be more pronounced due in part to the less overcrowded USD positioning. See Will Yellen keep March alive? DXY 100.08 support (100-day MA) to hold, while the break of the 101.44 resistance (50-day MA) at risk.

EUR: Limited impact of EZ data on EUR; Yellen a bigger driver Our economists expect Eurozone industrial production to have come down substantially in December, given weak German numbers (due to the cold Christmas weather related issues). While not EUR positive, its effect on the currency should be rather marginal. EUR/USD to be largely driven by the Yellen testimony, which poses downside risks to the cross (towards the 1.0500 level).

GBP: Sterling gains from higher UK CPI to be short-lived UK Jan Inflation looks set to hit 2%YoY today (vs 1.9% consensus) as the effect of sterling’s post-Brexit collapse continues to feed through to prices. This is particularly evident in food and fuel prices, which are being lifted by surging input price inflation. While this may provide short-term support to GBP today (to the extent to which it translates into market expectations of higher probability of BoE rate hike – following the change in the BoE bias from dovish to neutral and the introduction of the two-way risk to policy rates), we would fade any move in EUR/GBP lower / GBP/USD higher as the UK activity data later this week (softer employment report and retail sales) should weigh on GBP.

HUF: High Hungarian CPI to create false hopes for tighter monetary policy Our economists look for a meaningfully above consensus Jan CPI (2.5% YoY vs 2.1%). Not only will base effects from higher oil prices kick in significantly, but the market is likely overestimating the degree to which the recent VAT tax cuts weigh on prices (as pass through is unlikely to be 100% and usually takes three months to feed in). We expect the higher CPI to be HUF positive due to false market hopes that high inflation will cause the NBH to move closer to policy normalisation/tightening. As per yesterday’s NBH’s FX swap tender (ie, an example of an ongoing unconventional easing), we don’t think this will be the case and the NBH will retain a dovish bias in coming months. EUR/HUF to break below 308.00 level today and PLN/HUF to converge towards the 71.00 level.

Commodities

                    Energy

  • Specs reduce WTI net long: Having held a record net long of 379,927 lots previously, speculators over the last week reduced their long by 20,540 lots to leave them with a net long of 359,387 lots. A further build in US crude inventories, along with US production creeping higher could see further liquidation by specs. Although OPEC and non-OPEC production cuts are a counterbalance to this. 
  • US oil rig count: According to Baker Hughes data, it has been another week where US producers have added to the rig count, rigs increased by 8 over the week to total 591. This is the highest number of active rigs since October 2015. 

Metals

  • Indonesia copper output: Copper miner Freeport-McMoRan has suspended production of copper concentrate at its Grasberg mine in Indonesia. The miner has not been able to export since 12th January 2017, and needs to apply for an export permit. As a result of not exporting, storage is full. 
  • Chinese iron ore imports: Strong Chinese imports continue to support iron ore prices, which traded to the highest levels seen since 2014 last week. However robust imports have seen inventories in the country build to record levels. As of the end of last week total iron ore port inventories in China totalled almost 127m tonnes, up from around 80m tonnes in September 2015. 

Agriculture

  • Russian sugar output: Over the 2016/17 season, Russian sugar production is expected to reach a record 6.1m tonnes, which has seen the country become a more important exporter. Expectations moving forward is for production to grow further. The head of Ros Agro says output could reach 6.3m tonnes in the upcoming 2017/18 season. 
  • Ivory Coast cocoa exports: According to reports, local cocoa exporters in the Ivory Coast are unable to fulfil about 350,000 tonnes of contracted exports. These local exporters have come under pressure with falling cocoa prices, defaulting on these contracts would see the industry regulator in the country having to re-auction this cocoa for export. However someone will have to bear the loss, given that the cocoa will have to be re-auctioned at lower prices. 

FX Positioning for the week of January 23rd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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