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.