The independent centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron is still the favorite candidate to become the next French President. Odds of his presidency still hovers above 50 percent, far higher than any of his rivals, however, the odds have declined from 67 percent just three weeks ago to 52 percent as of now. While nobody can predict with certainty on who might win on May 7th, one thing is certain that the French are looking for changes and they are looking for it so hard that for the first time main political parties are not at all expected to make it to the round two of the election that will be on May 7th. The incumbent President is so unpopular in France that his approval rating at one point declined to just 4 percent and that legacy would continue to hurt his socialist party for years to come. That is probably is the main reason for his not running for re-election.

Shadow of his disastrous legacy is one of the reasons why the odds are declining for Macron. Many lawmakers of the socialist party are openly supporting Emmanuel Macron against his closest opponent Marine Le Pen. President Hollande has openly declared that it his duty to make sure that Le Pen doesn’t’ win the Presidency. The former Prime Minister under Hollande government of the Socialist Party Manuel Valls has openly declared his support for Mr. Macron instead of his own party’s candidate Benoît Hamon.

Mr. Macron is increasingly being seen as an extension of the establishment and the current socialist government and that is not a good portrayal on an anti-establishment year.

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.

Geopolitical tension intensified between the United States and Russia as the United States attacked the Assad regime by launching 59 tomahawk cruise missiles targeting airports in response to an alleged chemical weapon attack by the Assad regime. This week, the Assad regime reportedly used chemical weapons that claimed the life of 80 people including women and children in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province. Speaking at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach Florida, President Trump confirmed the ordering of the missile launches. He said, “I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched…..It is in the vital national security interest of the US to prevent and deter the spread or use of deadly chemical weapons.” US missile attack reportedly destroyed 14 Syrian jets and destroyed much of the air facility in the area. Pro-government journalists in Syria have warned that actions like these will only boost the morale of the terrorists.

This action taken by the Trump administration puts it in direct conflict with Russia, who gave a different narrative of the situation. According to Russia, the Syrian government attacked a rebel-held arms depot in the area, which contained the chemical weapon; Sarin nerve agent.
The US Secretary of State warned against reading too much into the attack as according to him, the stance of the current administration is Syria remains unchanged and he insisted that the missile attacks only show that the President is willing to take decisive actions when called for.
While most of the US lawmakers lauded the President’s action, some still remain skeptical and feel that it is plausible that the Russian narrative could be true. Prominent senators like Rand Paul, Ted Lieu condemned the President’s action as he did not seek congressional approval before the attack. Senator Thomas Massie said that it was not in the interest of the Assad regime to use chemical weapons and believes that the Russian narration might be true.

Russia had already warned the United States on military actions against Assad regime saying that it will have negative consequences. Next few weeks would see a flurry of activities on this front and the attack has triggered a lot of uncertainties.

According to data released by the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) on Thursday South Africa’s money supply and private sector credit grew at weaker pace in February. M3 grew 6.63 percent year-on-year in February, slower than the 7.91 percent increase in the previous month. Money supply growth rate missed expectations to remain at 7.9 percent.

Private sector credit climbed 5.26 percent annually, following a 5.52 percent rise in January. The annual growth was also weaker than the expected 5.3 percent.

The South African Reserve Bank will announce the Monetary Policy Committee’s decision on repo rates at 1300 GMT and analysts largely expect the central bank will keep benchmark lending rates on hold at 7 percent at its policy announcement.

South Africa’s rand firmed against the dollar early on Thursday ahead of the central bank’s interest rates decision, but looked vulnerable to speculation of an imminent cabinet shake-up that could see Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan removed.

USD/ZAR was trading at 12.87 at around 1050 GMT, down 1.21 percent on the day. The pair hit near 3-week highs of 13.1578 on Wednesday’s trade. Momentum studies on daily charts are neutral and the pair is hovering around 20-DMA at 12.8715. A decisive close below could see further drag lower.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Growth in Japan is holding up nicely and economic activity has gained momentum since 4Q16 with the pickup in the global capex and manufacturing cycle. Inflation has started to push back above the waterline. But as Governor Kuroda emphasized at a press conference last week, inflation expectations remain stuck, something highlighted by this year’s spring wage negotiation projected to produce only modest wage increases. With price pressures nailed to the floor, the Bank of Japan (BoJ) doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to raise rates.

“With our USD rates forecasts pushed upward, we now expect that the BoJ will taper its asset purchases at a somewhat slower pace than previously and that QE will end in H2 2019, instead of mid-2019. JGB rates unchanged,” said DNB markets in a research note to clients.

There is an ongoing debate whether the BoJ will have to raise its 10-year bond yield cap because of the lack of JGB liquidity. There seems to be still a split of views inside the BoJ on whether the Bank should or should not raise the 10-year yield target when the real interest rates decline further. The longer the BoJ keeps the 10-year yield target unchanged, the more rapidly it will have to adjust the target later.

Analysts expect the BoJ to maintain the current 10-year yield target through year-end, but if it sees greater yen weakness, it would adjust the target in 2H17. BoJ will have to strengthen communication strategy with forward guidance on its yield curve control (YCC) policy to manage market expectations. It would probably provide the conditions under which the BoJ would raise the 10-year yield target.

“While we expect the BoJ to introduce forward guidance on its yield curve control (YCC) policy relatively soon, we think it would do so in July at the earliest, when the BoJ reviews its economic outlook and discusses its monetary policy stance in the Outlook Report. If it may take time to build a consensus among the board members on this issue, delaying its introduction until October,” said J.P. Morgan in a report.

USD/JPY trades below 100-day moving average. The pair is tracking DXY lower, amid holiday-thinned markets (Japan closed for Vernal Equinox Day) and lack of fresh fundamental drivers. Technical studies are bearish, RSI and stochs are biased lower and MACD has shown a bearish crossover on signal line. 112 levels in sight, violation there could see test of 111.60 and then 111 levels.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key factors at play in crude oil market –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 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.

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

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

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

The euro is currently trading at 1.063 against the dollar.

The German bunds jumped at the start of the week on Monday as investors remain keen to watch the European Central Bank (ECB) Governor Mario Draghi’s speech, scheduled for later in the day. Also, the 30-year auction, scheduled to be held on March 15 will remain crucial in determining the teh future direction of the bond market.

Besides, markets shall remain hooked to assess the speeches by other ECB members Sabine Lautenschlaeger, Vitor Constancio and Peter Praet later through the day.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year bond, which moves inversely to its price, slumped nearly 4 basis points to 0.45 percent, the long-term 30-year bond yields plunged over 4 basis points to 1.22 percent and the yield on short-term 2-year bond traded 1-1/2 basis points lower at -0.82 percent by 08:30 GMT.

The ECB kept all policy measures unchanged at last week’s meeting, which was in line with market expectations. However, Governor Mario Draghi had a hawkish tone during the Q&A session as he said the Governing Council discussed whether to remove the ‘lower levels’ from the forward guidance on policy rates.

Further, on the very short-end, German yield curve, Draghi said the ECB was monitoring distortions. The market reacted by sending German government bond yields higher by around 5bp beyond the 10Y point.

Lastly, investors will be closely eyeing February consumer price inflation, due to be released on March 16 for detailed direction in the debt market.

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

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

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

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

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

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

UK industrial output slows less than expected in January, but manufacturing and construction activity both shrank more than expected. Data released by the Office for National Statistics showed Friday UK industrial production decreased 0.4 percent in January compared to a 0.9 percent rise in December.

This was the first decrease since October 2016 and was less than expected fall of 0.5 percent. On a yearly basis, growth in industrial output eased to 3.2 percent in January, in line with expectations, and compared to 4.3 percent in December.

Both manufacturing and construction activities shrank more than expected in January. Factory output was down 0.9 percent in the opening month of 2017 against expectations of a 0.4 percent decline, while construction sector output dropped 0.4 percent compared to forecasts of a 0.2 percent fall, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The figures follow a strong end to 2016, and markets were anticipating a pullback. However, there is little evidence of a dramatic slowdown as Brexit talks loom, with the falling pound continuing to underpin exports.

“The data suggest the Bank of England will adopt an increasingly dovish view in coming months, with rhetoric highlighting the downside risks to the economy posed by rising inflation and heightened political uncertainty,” said Chris Williamson, Chief Business Economist, IHS Markit

The German 10-year government bund yields climbed to 5-week high on the last trading day of the week ahead of the Eurogroup Summit scheduled to be held later in the day. Also, a hawkish stance by the European Central Bank (ECB) in its monetary policy meeting held yesterday, drove prices lower.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year bond, which moves inversely to its price, jumped 2-1/2 basis points to 0.44 percent, the long-term 30-year bond yields surged 3 basis points to 1.26 percent and the yield on short-term 2-year bond traded 2 basis points higher at -0.84 percent by 08:10 GMT.

The ECB kept all policy measures unchanged at today’s meeting, which was in line with market expectations. However, Governor Mario Draghi had a hawkish tone during the Q&A session as he said the Governing Council discussed whether to remove the ‘lower levels’ from the forward guidance on policy rates.

Further, on the very short-end, German yield curve, Draghi said the ECB was monitoring distortions. The market reacted by sending German government bond yields higher by around 5bp beyond the 10Y point.

Lastly, investors will be closely eyeing the trade balance, due late today for detailed direction in the debt market.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

The known unknowns of Donald Trump to keep BoC cautious today The BoC meet to set interest rates today. Little is expected at this meeting, with expectations higher for the April 12th meeting, where a new Monetary Policy Report will be released. So far the BoC has been trying to soften any market expectations of tighter policy – and in fact market pricing is quite restrained currently, just 10bp of tightening priced in over the next 12 months. While Friday’s release of 4Q16 GDP data will also add to the picture, our view is that the CAD remains vulnerable to various threats from south of the border, such as i) NAFTA renegotiation ii) the introduction of a border tax and iii) early Fed tightening. 1.3310/20 looks an important resistance level for $/CAD (already broken) and a close above it will add confidence to our 3m forecast of 1.40.

Cable could see range break-out Stronger US rates and a stronger dollar have pushed Cable down to recent lows at 1.2350. Further dollar strength, plus Brexit news could push Cable to 1.2250. Here the UK’s upper House of Lords could tonight win an amendment on the rights of EU nationals, sending the Brexit bill back to the lower house for further debate. This could delay plans for Article 50 being triggered March 9th .

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

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


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.

USD Strength, European Political Outlook and EURUSD

Low yielding currencies should come under renewed pressure against the USD with the release of the Fed minutes of the 31 Jan/01 Feb and upcoming Fed speeches working in line with better global data releases as the catalyst. Overnight, it has been Fed’s Harker (voter) saying that he won’t take a March hike off the table, pushing US yields higher. Harker will speak again today joined by San Francisco Fed’s Williams (non-voter). However, the US 5-year inflation swap has eased by 22bps from its December highs despite commodity prices moving higher, the USD trading sideways and US data coming in on the strong side. Accordingly, US financial conditions have eased over the course of the past couple of months lending further support to the reflation trade. While US equity valuations have reached high levels, technical factors such like the advance/decline ratio and the continued relative advance of cyclical shares suggests that the risk outlook is likely staying supported for now.

Apart from political uncertainties there are almost no headwinds to the global economy. Global trade seems to be expanding rapidly as confirmed by South Korea’s 26%Y export gain reported for February. Last year, it was global economic headwinds combined with a sharp USD appreciation weakening the US growth and inflation outlook and convincing the Fed to reduce rate hike expectations. None of these headwinds have emerged this year. In contrast, strengthening US financial conditions have turned into a powerful tailwind which could unleash pent-up demand. Creating animal spirits pushing investment activity up will increase US capital demand, which suggests either a higher USD generating move capital imports or US bond yields breaking above the 10-year 2.51% technical resistance. Note it was the Fed’s Harker who talked about increasing signs of pent-up demand within the US economy.

When it comes it political risks all eyes are on Europe where government bond spreads are widening at a significant pace. Yesterday, an Ipsos poll showed Le Pen on 26%, compared with 19% for Macron and 18.5% for former PM Francois Fillon in the first round. That poll appeared to be driving markets but other recent polls have shown a wide range of possible outcomes, adding to market uncertainties. The focus may be on the political left in France, where a potential alliance between two parties could suggest a possible scenario of a left-wing candidate standing against the Front National’s Le Pen in the last round of the Presidential election, an outcome which would not be seen by markets as positive for future EMU reforms.

The market may react to the news that investigators have looked into the use of funds by some Front National candidates. However, if polls remain unaffected and Le Pens’ rating high, then investors may lighten semi and peripheral bond holdings further which should not bode well for the EUR. Ahead of the Netherlands general election due on the 15 March these pressures may even intensify. A good result for Geert Wilders from the Freedom Party could make it difficult for EMU-supportive parties to build a functioning coalition. It was only yesterday that EU’s Dijsselbloem, in respect of the ongoing Greek negotiations, said that creditors will focus on “moving away from austerity and focusing more on deep reforms, which was also a key criterion for the IMF.” Such deep reforms could be more difficult to implement in a potential scenario of increasing influence for European populist political movements.

Against this background we stay EUR negative. Next to political risks we underline the importance of Italian data when judging the EUR. Over the past few years there had been two periods when we saw the Italian economy improving. The first wave came along with the fall of BTP spreads, the second wave came when the EUR declined from 2014 onwards. It seems that Italy does need easier financial conditions to improve its domestic outlook. However, Italy’s financial conditions have recently tightened, not boding well for its economy.

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.

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.

European Bonds and Credit, spread tightening across the board

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

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

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

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

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.