USD has potential to rally further, helped by hawkish Fed commentary, rising US bond yields and, last but not least, investors adjusting their super-bearish USD book. The Fed’s Dudley said he is confident that the economic expansion has a long way to go and that a strong labour market will eventually trigger a rebound in inflation. Precious metals have turned lower, with a potential of developing a ‘double top’ formation, pushed lower by the recent rise in US real rates. Importantly, rising US real rates did not prevent risk appetite from staying supported, which we attribute to the new availability of capital.

There are two new sources of capital and liquidity which will keep risk assets supported for now. First, US banks now running solid balance sheets seem to benefit from potential deregulation imposed by the US Treasury. In order to enact its ambitious fiscal plans, the US administration needs the economy to accelerate from here urgently. Only with growth getting closer to 3% will its current budget plans have a chance of being viewed as credible by markets, in our view. The upcoming mid-term election in November 2018 adds to this urgency. Hence, the US administration has significant interest in boosting the economy with the help of better capital availability provided by the US financial sector.

USDJPY has reached levels near 111.80, trying to reenter its previous upward channel. The importance of last Friday’s BoJ statement for the valuation of JPY has not yet been fully priced in by markets. The BoJ suggesting that it stood by its JPY80trn QE target has not only dashed hopes that the central bank was in the middle of ‘stealth tapering’, it has also underlined that compared to the size of its current effective QE operation of JPY60trn, it seems ready to increase its Rinban operations by 25% should upward pressure on BoJ yields become undesirably strong. The BoJ’s intention is to keep real rates low, allowing local asset prices to stay supported and JPY to weaken.

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.

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said that the US government has “backup plans” for funding itself if Congress doesn’t raise the debt limit before lawmakers leave for their August recess as hoped. When the US Treasury used accounting methods to bridge shortfalls ahead of the increase of the 2015 debt ceiling, US front-end rates fell to zero, but this happened within an environment of increasing global deflation concerns and China facing risks of substantial outflows threatening financial stability. Nowadays, global growth conditions are supportive as 2015 global economic headwinds have turned into powerful tailwinds for the US. The Treasury using accounting flexibility suggests it will issue less, which may ease US financial conditions further. There is no need for the Fed to reconsider the pace of its anticipated tightening path, it seems.

Ahead of Wednesday’s FOMC meeting, US financial conditions continue to improve, supported by the US House Republicans passing the vote to revamp the Dodd-Frank Act and repeal the Volcker Rule which restricted banks from making speculative investments with their own capital. This suggests freer investment in riskier assets as well as lower US funding costs. Hence, we pay little attention to the 1.8% decline of the NASDAQ on Friday, considering the resilience of the broader S&P 500 and limited spillover into Asian equity markets. A 25bp Fed Funds rate hike is 95% priced in, suggesting that all eyes will be on the statement in respect of the Fed’s judgement of the future economic outlook, and on the FOMC providing updates on their Policy Normalization Principles and Plans, including a set of gradually increasing caps, or limits, on the dollar amounts of Treasury and agency securities that would be allowed to run off each month, and only the amounts of securities repayments that exceeded the caps would be reinvested each month.

The following are some of the highlights from last week’s release of the central bank’s monetary policy minutes from the 30 March meeting. The majority of the board members noted that the “preventive” monetary policy adjustments since late 2015 have generated an “appropriate stance” to face the shocks that the central bank has been facing. One board member said that possible interest rate increases abroad would not necessarily have to be matched with a greater monetary restriction in Mexico, in the absence of additional adverse shocks that could affect inflation in Mexico. Two board members, however, countered this. One of them said that “it is probable that new increases in Mexico’s overnight rate may be needed in coming months” to ensure the convergence of inflation to the target. Another board member said that there cannot be much flexibility for the central bank of Mexico to deviate from monetary policy decisions taken by the US Federal Reserve and, therefore, the central bank of Mexico should at least keep the current short-term interest rate differential with the US. The majority of the board members agreed that the balance of risks to inflation did not worsen further, but noted that risks to inflation are still to the upside (higher inflation), mainly due to the number of inflation shocks in recent months. The majority of the board members also noted that conditions in the labor market have been tightening “in an important way.” Some of them think that the output gap is at zero and one of them said that there are indicators that reflect risks of possible generalized pressures on prices. Another board member noted that he is not too concerned about wage-related pressures on prices given that the economy is slowing down and that recent pressures on wages have not been excessive. The majority of the board members acknowledged the risk of an abrupt reversal in investor sentiment, due to economic policies in the US, geopolitical problems and/or the strengthening of nationalist policies particularly in Europe.

EUR: French elections likely to cap EUR/USD upside around 1.07 level Naturally one would have expected EUR/USD to have rallied substantially in the face of President Trump’s $ jawboning and rising geopolitical tensions. But gains have been harder to come by recently, with the pair struggling to push above the 1.0670/80 area. It is likely that EZ political risks are playing a role, with investors wary of chasing EUR upside in the run-up to the French presidential elections. A EUR/USD move above 1.0700 looks unlikely and could be met with spec sellers.

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.

Does payrolls matter for the USD today? The FOMC minutes gave the market a lot of information on how the Fed is thinking about reducing monetary accommodation. In 2018 the focus will be on balance sheet reduction. The market took this as a signal that the focus in 2017 will be to use the pure interest rate tool to tighten. The market prices 38bp of hikes by the end of this year and a cumulative 70bp by the end of 2018. The strong ADP print on Wednesday has already pushed expectations higher for today’s headline NFP (MS: 195k), therefore it is the wage data that matters for the USD. Average hourly earnings above the 2.7% market expectations would drive the USD higher on the day, particularly vs the JPY. The US 10y breakeven rate has come down from the Jan high of 2.07% to 1.95% today.

Short EURGBP. The best way to play for a dovish ECB in the next 3 months is to sell EURGBP. The pair is developing strong bearish technical signals, which continue to hold as long as EURGBP stays below the 0.8610 level. Draghi and other ECB members yesterday tried to send a message that there has been a recovery in the economy, monetary policy is working but inflation needs to be sustainably close to 2% for us to consider changing policy. Emphasis was also on the sequencing of the removal of accommodative policy, should they reach their targets. We don’t think the ECB will raise rates before starting to taper asset purchases. The ECB minutes said they discussed removing the phrase “rates will remain at present or lower levels”, but that has stayed, possibly to give the ECB as much flexibility as possible, should political events cause market volatility. On the GBP side, a survey released overnight highlights some labour market tightness appearing. The Recruitment and Employment Confederation showed that companies are finding it difficult to fill jobs in London and the South, particularly in the temporary sector where staff availability fell at the fastest rate since January 2016.

SNB still intervening. After the Czech National Bank removed their EURCZK currency floor yesterday, focus will naturally turn to the Swiss. Without having a formal floor any more, we don’t think the SNB are near stopping their currency interventions since they currently have the flexibility to intervene if and whenever they like. Inflation data have been improving, with the latest headline print now at 0.6%Y, the highest since 2010. The latest core inflation print is now above zero (0.1%) but has not yet recovered to levels seen in late 2015 (0.4%). The domestic economy is still dealing with the impact of a strong currency and, more importantly, the slowdown in Chinese demand for luxury goods. For now we think the SNB will continue to intervene in the largest volumes around major risk events, with the next ones being the first and second round of the French election. Recently the SNB have been more explicit than ever before about their management of the FX reserves portfolio. Interestingly they are justifying holding a large equity position (20% of portfolio) by saying they need to do this because of the strong exchange rate. We expect EURCHF to stay stable for now.

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.

In an interview with CNBC yesterday, the vice-chair of the US Federal Reserve said that the Fed’s March projections that forecast two more hikes in 2017, is about right. He stressed that it’s is his forecast as well. In the December 2016 meeting, the Fed projected three rate hikes for 2017 and in March they delivered one while projecting two more for the year. He expects the economy to continue to perform and the inflation to reach the 2 percent goal gradually.

With regard to the fiscal policy promises of the new administration, Mr. Fischer said that last week’s failure of the congress to pass the healthcare bill may have changed his internal calculus but not the overall outlook. He said that the central bank is closely monitoring the fiscal negotiations without prejudging the outcome. He partially blamed lower productivity for hindrance to growth but added that the reasons limiting the productivity growth aren’t fully understood. He expressed his concern with protectionism as he feels that greater global integration since World War II has benefited the US and other nations as well.

Our previous dashboard focusing on the March meeting correctly predicted the outcome including Kashkari dissent, now, our new dashboard will be focusing on the June meeting and it looks like below,

Doves: Neel Kashkari
Hawks: Charles Evans, Patrick Harker, Stanley Fisher and Robert Kaplan.
Unknown: Janet Yellen, William Dudley, and Lael Brainard
Pls. note that Daniel Tarrullo has resigned and the position is yet to be filled. He voted at the March meeting.

Are investors right to be questioning Trump tax reforms? Maybe not Following a failed last-ditch attempt to secure backing, House Leaders opted to save face by pulling the vote on the GOP healthcare bill late on Friday. While the failure to repeal Obamacare has limited fiscal implications, investors are viewing this setback as a more broader loss of faith in the Trump administration’s ability to deliver on other campaign pledges – namely tax and spending policies which have underpinned risky asset prices since the US elections. Initial noise from the White House suggests that pushing through tax reforms will be the next order of business and in principle, this speculation alone could provide a backstop to the waning US reflation trade. But passing a tax bill will not be easy by any stretch of the imagination; GOP conservatives will want to ensure the package is close to revenue neutral, while any bipartisan deal would surely have to see the Trump team concede on concepts such as a border tax. Either way, a deflated $ will be looking for any glimpses of fiscal support this week and we would expect interest from $ bulls to increase as excessive negative expectations surrounding Trump tax reforms begin to tail off. One thing’s for sure, we don’t expect this EM “sweet spot” to last under the status quo; diminishing US growth expectations will weigh on global risk appetite and this spells bad news for EM assets in general. Watch for turning points in EM FX – in particular recent outperformers KRW and ZAR.

EZ focus will be on the flash Mar CPI estimate (Fri); our economists are looking for above consensus headline and core readings (the latter picking up to 1.0%), which could fuel the current hawkish ECB sentiment in markets. Investors might also be wise to keep an eye on the number of ECB speakers on show this week. Look for any EUR/USD clear out to be limited to the 1.0930-1.0940 for now.

Prime Minister Theresa May is set to trigger Article 50 this week (Wed); while we prefer to view this as more of a symbolic event – with nothing fundamentally changing in the UK’s economic outlook – markets will be looking for any clues to determine whether we’re on course for a soft or hard Brexit. For this, we place a greater focus on the initial response from Brussels – to be delivered by Donald Tusk within 48 hours – which could shed further light on the EU’s negotiating stance and priorities. Current GBP levels are not in our view pricing in the tail risk of a ‘cliff-edge’ Brexit – an automatic default to WTO rules – especially given talk from both sides in recent months over the need for a transition deal. Should EU leaders place greater weight on factors like the Divorce Bill – and demote the need for a smooth transition – then we would expect GBP to react negatively. We do see greater two-way GBP risk around this week’s Article 50 proceedings given the recent BoE-fuelled short squeeze and cleaner GBP positioning. With the two-year clock to strike a deal officially ticking, any initial political stalemate – or anything that pushes us closer towards a cliff-edge Brexit – may tip GBP/USD under the 1.20 level in the near-term and cautious real money investors may view this week’s events as a prompt to hedge for such an eventuality.

Data from Statistics South Africa showed on Wednesday that the nation’s headline consumer inflation slowed to 6.3 percent year-on-year in February from 6.6 percent in the previous month, matching consensus estimate in a Reuters poll. This was the weakest inflation reading since September 2016, when prices had risen 6.1 percent.

On a month-on-month basis, inflation rose to 1.1 percent from 0.6 percent previously. The month-on-month rise missed expectations at 1.2 percent. Core inflation which excludes the prices of food, non-alcoholic beverages, petrol and energy, inched lower to 5.2 percent year-on-year in February from 5.5 percent and rose to 1.1 percent on a month-on-month basis from 0.3 percent.

Separate data from South Africa’s Reserve Bank on Wednesday showed South Africa’s current account deficit narrowed to 1.7 percent of GDP in the fourth quarter of 2016. The reading was the lowest shortfall in nearly six years, and compared to a revised deficit of 3.8 percent in the third quarter.

Analysts had expected a 3.5 percent deficit for the quarter. For the year as a whole, the current account deficit narrowed to 3.3 percent of GDP from 4.4 percent in 2015.

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.

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 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).

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.

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.

US real yieldsare breaking higher, driven largely by nominal yields and pushing USDJPY through the 115 level. US 10y real yields (59bp)have now retraced 70% of the decline seen in the past 3 months (falling from 71bp to 30bp). Within the G10 the JPY is generally the most sensitive as real yields rise, but recently also the NOK has come up on the scale. The NOK generally moves in line with oil prices, suggesting the recent rise in nominal yields, while inflation expectations stay flat as oil prices have fallen, should keep USDNOK on an upward trend for now. USDJPY is approaching a technical level, where a move through 115.62 should mark a break of the current trading range, with little resistance before 118.60.

USD and Payrolls. Market expectations are for a strongFebruary employment print today following ADP on Wednesday. Using submission to Bloomberg, sent after the ADP, we calculate median expectations to be at 230k. Average hourly earnings will be more important for the USD relative to the headline NFP as this would suggesthigher domestic inflationary pressures. The US saw import prices from China, the source of over 20% of U.S. imports, rise 0.1% in February. According to our economists, that may not seem like much, but it was the first increase in three years. Global and local inflationary pressures could soon make markets reprice Fed rate hike expectations going into 2018 and beyond, which we think would be bullish for the USD.

ECB lookingat EUR REER. Markets perceived the ECB to have been hawkish yesterday,yet we couldn’t find much difference in the commentary relative to December. The sell-off in bunds drove EURUSD higher but we are considering it as an opportunity to sell. Inflation forecasts were pushed higher (as markets expected) with marginal tweaks to growth forecasts. Most importantly for investors looking for signals to the end of the current QE programme, Draghi reiterated several times that their current forecasts are conditional on finishing the current programme and thatunderlying inflation pressures remained subdued. We need to wait for more domestic core inflation prints.For our FX analysis, the most interesting comments were in response to a question about the US administration (Peter Navarro) saying that the EUR is too weak for Germany. After repeating what the US treasury (not classifying Germany as a currency manipulator) and Weidmann (ECB sets monetary policy for Germany) have said before, Draghi went to say, (in a comment that appeared to be offscript,) “By the way, if we look at where the [real] effective exchange rate stands today with respect to historical average, we don’t see especially that the euro is off the historical average. But the [real] effective exchange rate of the dollar is off the historical average. So it means that it’s not the euro which is the culprit for this situation.”

EUR: watching equity flows. EURUSD is currently tracking the 5y yield differential between Germany and the US.Front end rates (such as in the 2y part of the curve) point to a lower EURUSD due to the repo related distortions in the German 2y. We showed earlier this week that looking at forward rate differentials, EURUSD should be trading massively lower and could be experiencing something that we last observed in 2013. Back then it was foreign equity and bond inflows helping the currency. Today, the bond market valuations are much less attractive for a foreigner. Data from the IIFsuggests that global equity allocations to the euro area are low relative to a year ago (partly a result of political worries). We will therefore be watching for the next balance of payments release (22 Mar) to see if equity flows are limiting the downside for the EUR.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

The FED and USD, European Bonds

Whether markets were on an “unmotivated sugar high” (as Larry Summers put it) or were in some fiscal honeymoon period, there is no doubt that reflation trades are now crying out “Show me the money!” And just like in the iconic scene from Jerry Maguire, investors will need more than just a faint whisper from President Trump at his speech to Congress this week (Tue 9pm ET) to be convinced that fiscal promises (and the money) will be delivered. The best case scenario is that a detailed tax plan is unveiled, although we’re not holding our breath – especially after Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said that the President will only be “touching” on tax policy in his Congress Speech. This is unlikely to inspire much $ upside.

On the flip side, we’ve got what could be a hawkish Fed story unfolding; all eyes will be on the PCE inflation data (Wed), which should show the Fed’s preferred inflation measure at the 2% target. This will undoubtedly get Fed hawks excited over the prospects of a March rate hike and with Chair Yellen speaking (Fri), we think there are upside risks to short-term US rates. The $ faces a balancing act between a vague Trump and hawkish Fed, though we remain modestly upbeat.

It’s clear that investors are becoming more unnerved by the upcoming European elections season, with signs of risk aversion creeping into EZ bond markets and greater EUR downside protection being bought in FX markets. But what should we be on the lookout for? Well, the French presidential race is grabbing most of headlines given the less than trivial risks of a ‘shock’ Le Pen win; the next major event here won’t however be until the first televised debate on 20 Mar. Ahead of this, we’ll have the Dutch elections (15 Mar) – which is incidentally also the same day as the March FOMC meeting. This could prove to be a tricky period for EUR, with political risk compounding any widening of US-EZ rates at the short-end of the curve. We look for a combination these factors to drive EUR/$ down to 1.02.


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.

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.

 

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.

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.

 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.

Global FX Stories, USD, EUR, JPY and PLN

USD: Focus turns back to the domestic drivers The lack of focus on the currency manipulation rhetoric’s during the Trump-Abe meeting on Friday (note JPY was one of the currencies mentioned recently by the US administration as being unfairly kept weak) should allow USD to re-focus back on its domestic drivers. Bar the expectations of the details about the ‘phenomenal’ Trump tax plan, markets will be closely watching Chair Yellen’s testimony to the House (Tue) and Jan CPI and Jan retail sales (both Wed). With market pricing rather benign 30% probability of Fed March rate hike and much cleaner long speculative USD positioning, the bar is not very high for USD to record more gains this week, particularity vs low yielders such as EUR and JPY.

EUR: EUR/USD to move towards the 1.0500 level Very calm week on the EZ data front suggests that EUR crosses will be driven (a) news/data from elsewhere (b) potential additional increase EZ political risk. On the latter, EZ political risk premium pricing in EUR remains still very benign, allowing for more downside to EUR. We look for EUR/USD to move towards the 1.0500 level this week.

JPY: Scope for USD/JPY to resume its upside Japan Q4 GDP modestly disappointed the consensus expectations (0.2%QoQ vs 0.3% expected). Yet with the little scope for material shift in the BoJ policy stance in coming months, the driver of USD/JPY remains the USD side of the equation. Following the non-negligible adjustment in USD/JPY lower since the beginning of the year, the potential for higher UST yields and cleaner USD/JPY speculative positioning (ie, the speculative community is currently net short USD/JPY) point to USD/JPY re-testing the 115.00 level this week.

PLN: Boost from Jan CPI to provide a good entry point to short PLN Our economist look for an above censuses Polish Jan CPI (1.8%yoY vs 1.7%). While this may provide a boost to PLN, the zloty gains are likely to be short lived given the already stretched EUR/PLN levels. Equally, we don’t expect the Friday’s PiS leader Kaczynski’s confirmation on a dilution of CHF bill (see Snap) to lead to persistent PLN gains due to: (a) with PLN no longer pricing a domestic political risk premium (on short term basis), the Friday’s good news should not lead to material re-pricing of PLN risk premium; (b) the EZ politics and negative spill over into CEE FX should kick in as we approach Dutch and French elections. We retain negative PLN view and stay long EUR/PLN.

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. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

FX Positioning for the week of January 23rd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

South Africa news flow and changes to the CPI Index

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russia Rate Meeting, Sanctions and FX Interventions

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