Forex markets have been hunkering down

January 11, 2017

European Outlook: Asian markets managed to move higher, with Hong Kong outperforming as stronger metals boosted miners. The Yen retreated, which helped to underpin gains in Japan, while mainland China underperformed. Oil prices are up on the day, but the front end WTI future is still below USD 51 per barrel, after the latest slump and U.S. and U.K. stock futures are down. Sterling up from recent lows, but still down against most currencies, which should continue to underpin equities, (UK100 closed at a record high for the ninth consecutive day yesterday) but is also reviving inflation concerns. This added to Gilt underperformance versus the Bund yesterday and saw yields moving higher. In the Eurozone spreads were volatile throughout the day yesterday, and yield curves steepened as the short end outperformed again, highlighting that as inflation is making a comeback, the ECB is struggling to get a grip on the long end despite QE, although the most recent dip in oil prices, if sustained should help to dampen inflation concerns somewhat and base effects should see headline rates peaking in Q1 this year, before falling back somewhat. The local calendar has U.K. trade and production data, as well as a German 10-year Bund sale, but markets will be looking mainly to Trump’s eagerly awaited press conference.

FX Update: Forex markets have been hunkering down ahead of the U.S. president-elect Trump’s press conference, his first since the election, scheduled later on Wednesday, looking for some clarity on the political and fiscal agendas of the incoming administration. USD-JPY has settled around 116.00, above last week’s one-month low at 115.07, and below the pre-Christmas trend high at 118.66. EUR-USD has become entrenched in a narrow orbit of 1.0550, holding just below the 50-day moving average at 1.0571. We see Trump’s conference as something of a wildcard, though there is a chance he will manage to reignite the Trumpflation rally. This would follow bond guru Gross remarks of yesterday, where he argued that a sustained break in the U.S. T-note yield above 2.60% — which Gross reckons is much more important than Dow 20,000, $60-a-barrel oil or parity in EUR-USD — would mark the beginning of a “secular bear bond market.” Such a scenario would fuel another upward adjustment in dollar valuations against most other currencies.

Kuroda and Abe meet: BOJ’s Kuroda says meeting with Abe was a regular one and they discussed the global economy, specifically the US economy. They touched on Trump but no actual reference was made to the president-elect and both see the US economy growing “steadily”.  No reference or report on the FOMC rate hike cycle. USDJPY continues to pivot around the 116.00 handle.

Overnight Data: The U.S. wholesale report was modestly disappointing, with a 0.4% November sales rise after a downwardly-revised 1.1% (was 1.4%) price-led October surge, alongside a 1.0% inventory gain that exceeded the 0.9% increase in the advance indicators report, following a 0.1% drop in October. Wholesale sales undershot inventories in November but are still outpacing inventories overall in Q4 as oil prices rebound, following Q3 weakening in both sales and inventories. The Q4 GDP growth estimate has increased slightly to 1.6% from 1.5%, but this trims Q1 GDP estimate to 2.3% from 2.4%. Expectations are now for a $14 (was $10) bln inventory addition and a still-lean $21 bln accumulation rate that extends the $16.5 bln bounce in Q3, as inventories are now reversing a big five quarter inventory headwind that culminated in a $9.5 bln liquidation rate in Q2. U.S. JOLTS report showed job openings rose 71k to 5,522k in November after dropping 180k to 5,451k (revised down from 5,534k). The rate edged up to 3.7% from 3.6% (revised from 3.7%). November hirings rose 59k to 5,219k following the 39k increase to 5,160k (revised from 5,099k). The rate was steady at 3.6% (October was revised up from 3.5%). Quitters rebounded 41k to 3,064k from -29k to 3,023k (revised from 2,986k). The rate was unchanged at 2.1%. The JOLTS report is an important one to Fed Chair Yellen, but this is rather old news for the markets and hence didn’t  move the ticker.

Fedspeak: Fed hawk Lacker announced his retirement for October 1 on the Richmond Fed’s website. He’s been the bank’s president since August 2004, but has been with the Richmond Fed since 1989. He has also been a serial dissenter, opposing the consensus in all of his voting turns. In his last stint in 2015 he dissented twice against the consensus unchanged policy stance. And back in 2012 he opposed the FOMC’s outcome in all 8 meetings. He was the lone opponent in 2009, but it was with respect to QE and the purchase of Treasuries. But back in 2006 he dissented four times, each for a 25 bp hike. There’s going to be a lot of turnover at the Fed during Mr. Trump’s administration. He has two open governorships, while Atlanta Fed’s Lockhart already announced he’ll be stepping down in February. Meanwhile, Chair Yellen has indicated she plans to continue through her term which ends early in 2018.

Main Macro Events Today                        

Donald Trump Press Conference  –  Scheduled for 16;00 GMT. No a data release but by far the most significant event of the day. A wide ranging event is expected including Tax reform, immigration controls and reference to the Wall and climate change. Of particular interest to traders will be the incoming administrations (Mr Trump specifically) approach to trade and the impact particularly on the Mexican and Chinese currencies.  Trade War Round 1?

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