Post FOMC Analysis, Dollar Flash Crashes…

This week has been full of macro events (four central banks meetings – BoJ, Norges Bank, SNB and the Fed), however all eyes were on the FOMC statement that came up yesterday. Dovish stance from Yellen in addition to 2015 forecasts revised on the downside created Dollar ‘Flash Crashes’, with the FX market completely out of control. The US Dollar index was trading around 100 yesterday morning, then went down from 99.50 to 98.00 after the FOMC, and eventually ‘flash-crashed’ after the US close. EURUSD (and Cable) soared by 400 pips (and 500 pips) to 1.1040 (and 1.5160 respectively), USDCHF down 4 figures as well down to 0.9620. The yen was less reactive (which clearly shows the declining Yen Pavlovian response the risk-off environment, USDJPY went down ‘only’ 200 pips to 119.30.

To review the FOMC statement briefly, the Committee revised down all 2015 forecasts since the previous Summary of Economic Projections (SEP) released on December 17 last year. The median dot plot for year end 2015 decreased from 1.125% to 0.625% (down by 50 pips). In addition, looking at the Fed’s dot plot for the year 2016 and 2017, we can see that the median dot for 2016 fell to 1.875% in March (vs. 2.5%) and decline to 3.125% from 3.625% for 2017.

FOMC DOT plot

 (Source: Fed’s website)

Furthermore, if we look at the table below which shows the advance release of the SEP, we can see that the central tendency for GDP this year was decreased to 2.3%-2.7% (from 2.3% – 2.7%), PCE inflation (the inflation measure watched by the Fed as the PCE index covers a wide range of household spending) went down to 0.6% – 0.8%, compared to 1.0% – 1.6% three months ago.

FED Forecasts

(Source: Federal Reserve’s website)

While the Dollar has been recovering all day (especially during Asia, USD index now trades back at 99.40, with EURUSD back down to 1.0660, USDCHF up to 0.9910, Cable down to 1.4740 and USDJPY at 120.80), the market is still a bit ‘stress’ with all core bond yields trading to lower levels (See appendix, Bund at 19bps, US 10Y at 1.95% or UK Gilt at 1.52%) and peripheral EZ bonds trading higher than yesterday’s levels.

As a result, the equity market (S&P500) is back on track after a quick 70-point bear consolidation as I was looking for (see tweet @LFXYvan on Feb 26). If we look at the chart below, we can see that the 100 SMA has acted as a sort of support where the market found some potential buyers-on-dips. Over the past few months, it looks like if the 100 SMA didn’t hold, the 200 SMA was doing the rest of the job (except in mid-October).

SP500

(Source: FXCM)

Even though the equity has lost a bit of ‘power’ since the Fed stepped out of the bond market at the end of October last year (the bear consolidation are becoming more and more recurrent), I still believe there is some potential room on the upside based on yesterday’s comments and readjustments.

I am curious to know how the US policymakers will play the rate hike within the next few months (will there be one in June?), as even if the job market has continued to show some strong figures with a NFP report at 295K in February and an unemployment rate at 5.5% (close to full employment according to economists), there has been a lots a disappointing macro figures. See list below with all the misses in just the past month…

Misses US

 (Source: ZeroHedge)

Earlier today, the SNB left its deposit rate negative at -0.75% and jawboned a bit about the recent CHF appreciation. EURCHF is trading at 1.0550, down 2.5 figures in the past month and potentially ‘hurting’ the Swiss economy (Swiss is also part of the ‘Currency War’ party). Norway unexpectedly left its interest rates unchanged and signalled in its report that another cut was planned to protect the Norwegian economy from the plunge in oil prices. The NOK rocketed against the greenback earlier today, down from 8.37 to 8.07 on this hawkish surprise. As a reminder, Oil (and gas) generate more than 20% of Norway’s output, and the country may be in difficulty if this low-oil-price era persists. Norway may have to ‘tap’ into their sovereign wealth funds – Government Pension Fund Global – (approx. $850bn) in order to support their annual budgets this year. However, the maximum that the government could spend from oil revenue is 4% of the fund (by law).

Otherwise, no surprise from Japan and the BoJ stood firm on Tuesday, leaving its monetary policy unchanged (80tr Yen of asset purchases annually, mostly JGBs), even though policymakers acknowledged that prices might start falling in the coming months. Consumer prices in Japan rose 2.4% YoY in January, the same as the previous two months and down from 3.7% in April last year.

 Appendix: Bonds yields…

BBG

 (Source: Bloomberg)

January 2015: A Rough Start

The past month has been quite eventful in the financial market and I am sure that some of the decisions (if not all) surprised many of us. After the SNB announce on January 15th, the ECB took over and unveiled a €60bn monthly QE (not open-ended) through September 2016; so 19 months at €60bn equals €1.14tr. The ECB, which has already been buying private assets such as covered bonds (a safe form of debt issued by banks) and ABS, will add an additional €50bn worth of public debt (bonds of national government and European institutions) to its current program starting in March this year. The purchases of these securities (in the secondary market) will be based on the Eurosystem NCB’s shares in the ECB’s capital.
In addition, President Draghi also added that the ECB will remove the 10bp spread on the TLTROs, and the interest rate applied will be equal to the rate on the Eurosystem’s MRO (5bp).

We saw on Friday that EZ preliminary inflation fell by 0.6% in January after a -0.2% print in December, the largest decline since July 2009 when prices also fell 0.6% following GFC.

The ECB decision(s) sent the Euro to newest lows last week, down to 1.1120 (11-year lows) against the greenback and below the 0.75 level (0.7440) against the pound. But more importantly, it sent a bigger amount of government debt in the negative territory (yields). According to JP Morgan, there is currently (approximately) €1.5tr of Euro area government bond with longer than 1-year maturity trading at negative yields over time, and a ‘mind-blowing’ €3.6tr of global government bond debt (nearly a fifth of the total) with negative yields as the chat below shows us. For instance, the entire 10-year Swiss curve is  now negative.

Global NIRP(Source: JPMorgan)

Another interesting topic is of course the 3 consecutive rate cuts (in 10 days) by the Danish Central Bank, that lowered it deposit rate to a record low of -0.5% to defend its peg and keep the Danish kroner (DKK) close to 7.46 per Euro (ERM II since 1999). EURDKK went down below 7.43; we will see this week how much policymakers spent in January in order to counter a DKK appreciation (some reports estimated that the central bank had to sell more than DKK 100bn). As a consequence (of the NIRP policy), a local bank – Nordea Kredit – is now offering a mortgage with a negative interest rate.
I believe the Danish krone is a currency to watch (in addition to the CHF) this month if the situation in Greece deteriorates.

A Weak Swiss Franc…
Since the SNB surprise, the Swiss has remained weak against the major currencies, with USDCHF up 7 figures  (trading currently at 0.93) and EURCHF up from parity to 1.0550. Analysts slashed their forecast for this year and are now predicting a recession (-0.5% according to the KOF Swiss Economic Institute). I like the chart below which shows the 12-month Probability of the top 10 countries to fall into recession in the coming months according to Bloomberg economist surveys.

Probarecession(Source: Bloomberg)

Japan and JPY still under threat over the long-run
In Japan, the 10-year JGB yield rose by 9bp in the last 10 days and is now trading at 29bps. USDJPY tumbled below 117 overnight on Grexit comments and Chinese manufacturing PMI contraction in January (49.8 vs. 50.2 expected), breaking its 117.25 support and extending its trading range to 116 – 118.75. ‘Buyers on dips’ reversed the trend and the pair is now trading at 117.60.
If we look at the long-run perspective in Japan, late macro indicators showed us that Abe’s government will have to do more. Real wages are still declining and fell the most in almost 5 years and the economy has now entered in a triple-dip recession (0.5% contraction QoQ in Q3). On the top of that, inflation has been weakening for the past 8 months as energy prices (mainly weak crude oil) weight on Japanese core inflation rate.
In addition, we saw that Japan plans a record budget deficit for next fiscal year (starting April 1st 2015) to support the economy. FinMin Taro Aso reported that government minister and the ruling coalition parties approved a 96.34tr Yen budget proposal for FY2015/2016. And I believe that we haven’t reached the peak yet, as Japan’s aging population (i.e. increasing social security spending) will ‘force’ the government to print larger and larger deficits. The IMF predicts that the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio will increase to 245% in 2015. It clearly shows that the USDJPY trend is not over yet, and there is further JPY weakness (and USD strength) to come.

On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, the US economy cooled in the fourth quarter. After the 5-percent Q3 print, GDP expanded at a 2.6% annual pace in the fourth quarter (first estimate). Net exports was the largest detractor from Q4 GDP (-1.02%) as imports grew faster than exports. King Dollar continues to benefit from the global weakness with the USD index trading slightly below 95. The equity market still handles the Fed’s withdrawal from the Bond Market with the S&P500 trading around 2,000 (looks like it is out of energy though), while US Treasury yields are compressing to new lows. The 10-year and the 30-year yields are trading at 1.67% and 2.25% respectively (which is quite concerning), and it seems the trend is not over yet. In regards to the inflation rate (that plummeted to 0.8% in December), the Fed delivered a hawkish statement last Wednesday (‘strong jobs gains’, ‘solid pace’ for economy), however dropping the entire ‘considerable time’ sentence and adding ‘inflation is anticipating to decline further in the near term’. The implied rate of the December 2015 Fed Funds futures contract is trading 30bps lower at 41 bps, while the December 2016 implied rate decreased by 60bps to 1.05bps in the past 6 weeks.

An important topic to follow this month will be developments in Greece which are moving very fast since the election on Sunday (January 25) and Syriza’s victory. ECB council Member Erkki Liikanen said over the week end that Greece needs to negotiate a deal before February 28th (when the Greek support program EFSF expires after the 2-month extension approved in December).

ECB shakes the market

In addition to an ‘interest rates corridor cut’ (refi rate down to 5bps, deposit rate to -0.20% and marginal lending rate to 0.30%), the ECB surprised the market today after Draghi announced that the central bank will start buying securitised loans (portfolios of transparent ABS which will include loans to the real economy and real estate assets) and euro-denominated covered bonds in order to boost lending to small and mid-size companies (further details next meeting on Oct. 2nd).

 It was clear that ECB aims to get the total assets of its balance sheet back to the levels seen in  2012, which is to say a 1 trillion-Euro expansion. The ECB balance sheet (total assets) is now standing at 2.038tr Euros according to the EBBSTOTA index from Bloomberg, 34% lower than June 2012 high of 3.1tr Euros. This would bring back the Fed-to-ECB balance sheet ratio (one of the pair’s strong drivers) to 1.22 within the next few years, down from 1.67 where it stands at the moment, therefore adding pressure to the single currency.

 EURUSD started the day quite flat, trading at around 1.3150, before it was sent to 1.3000 at first during Draghi’s conference and even lower below 1.2940 as core European bonds yields turned negative to 2Y as you can see it below. French 2-year yield is now trading at -2.8bps, Austrian 2-year yield at -0.6%. German yields are now negative up to 4 years.

CoreYields(Source. Reuters)

In addition, the Governing Council reduced its growth and annual inflation to 0.9% and 0.6% for 2014, down from 1% and 0.7% respectively.

If you have a look at the picture chart below, which represents the full ‘ECB bailout scheme’ in order to sustain the European economy, you just start to think ‘what else could they do more?’

MRO, LTRO, ZIRP, SMP, OMT… and now T-LTROs, ABS and covered bonds. There are talks that Europe is heading towards a long period of stagnation / deflation period, where QE will be the only [pretended] option to get out of the negative spiral (have a look at Japan since Abe took office in December 2012 and see if QE is the solution).

ECB-bailing-out-Europe (Source: Bawerk.net)

If we have a look at EUR/CHF, it ‘only’ went down 20 pips (bottomed at 1.2044) after the ECB’s action; therefore I think that the SNB has already started buying some Euros in order to protect its floor at 1.2000.

USDCHF broke through the 0.9300 level to trade at 0.9330 earlier this afternoon, slightly below its 50-percent Fibo retracement of 0.8700 – 0.9980. The next resistance on the topside stands at 0.9450, followed by the psychological 0.9500.

CHFSNB(Source: Reuters)

Risk-ON and US Dollar strength persist…

While tensions in Syria are still elevated with a second American ISIS fighter killed in a battle, Gazprom beginning accepting payment in Rubles and Chinese Yuan (via the ESPO – Eastern Siberia Pacific Ocean – pipeline), Ebola outbreak causing enormous damage to West African economies (economic growth expected to plunge by 4% in the region according to the African Development Bank), Argentina’s black market peso completely out of control tumbling to over 14 / USD (14.45 according to Argentine newspaper Ambito), French jobseekers surging to record high of 3.424 million (with PM Manuel Valls blaming the ECB to do more as QE was the solution to everything) and IMF head Christine Lagarde put under a formal probe for negligence in a corruption investigation… AUDJPY continues to climb and is now trading above the 97.00 level for the first time since June 2013 and the S&P500 closed above the 2,000 for the second time in history.

AUDJPY(1)

(Source: Reuters)

While European bourses have been also climbing during the same period with DAX and CAC40 both up approximately 6.5% for instance, yields on all German bonds out to 3 years are now negative (see current German yield curve in green) with the 10-year Bund 90.1bps and French 10-year OAT yield trading at all-time-low at 1.25%. The orange curve represents the German yield curve 1 month ago, and the histogram tells us the change over the past month).

image001(1)

(Source: Bloomberg)

Euro: the single currency still remains under pressure and is now trading below the 1.3200 level against the greenback, down 8 figures since May meeting (Draghi’s ‘ready to act next meeting’). It seems that the market is expecting more easing measures at the ECB meeting next week (September 4). As growth is weakening, the ECB will be much more intolerant of low inflation (flash August Inflation is expected to fall to 0.3% YoY from 0.4% the previous month) and high unemployment rate (currently stands at 11.5%). As a reminder, ECB staffs reduced its annual inflation forecasts in Q3 from 0.9% to 0.7% for the year 2014 and from 1.3% to 1.2% for 2015. With the 5Y5Y Euro inflation swap – ECB’s preferred measure of MT inflation – falling below the 2% level, investors are predicting another cut in the last quarter of this year therefore raising expectations of further measures from the ECB Governing Council. In addition, we saw this morning that loans to private sector fell by 1.6% in July (vs. -1.5% consensus) while M3 money supply grew by 1.8% from a revised 1.6% in June.

After Draghi delivered a dovish speech at the Jackson Hole central bankers’ meeting concerning the falling expectations of future EZ inflation, we heard yesterday that the ECB appointed money manager BlackRock to advise a program to buy ABS in order to revive the faltering Euro-area economy (announced at the June meeting). I would put public QE (sovereign bonds) option on aside for the moment, however I would opt for further updates concerning the ABS program and a potential rate cut. Otherwise, the next important date for the EZ will be on September 18, the first tranche of the so-called TLTROs.

The next support on EURUSD stands at 1.3150 (yesterday’s low), followed by 1.3100 (September 2013 low). Another interesting development to watch is EURCHF, which is now trading below the 1.2060 key support. The next support stands slightly above 1.2020 before the floor of 1.2000 (which remains our target in the coming weeks).

GBP: Sterling, the once used-to-be market’s darling, has fallen more than 6 figures since its mid-July high of 1.7191 and is now trading slightly below 1.6600. It broke its 200-day SMA on August 19 for the first time in more than a year, bringing in more participants in Cable’s bearish trend as the market likes trending market. If we have a look at the CFTC’s Commitments of Traders (see below), we can see that the net speculative positions fell from above 56K on July 1st to 13K+ reported on August 19th. I expect a pause at current levels in the coming days between 1.6550 and 1.6600.

COT-GBP(1)

(Source: OANDA)

UK strong GDP 2nd estimates (0.8% QoQ, 3.2% YoY) two weeks ago didn’t manage to bring investors’ interest on the British pound as annual inflation came in much cooler than expected in July at 1.6% YoY (vs. 1.8% eyed) shattering expectations of an early rate hike from the BoE. The implied rate of the Short-Sterling March 2015 futures contract is trading at 89bps, down from 1.15% in the beginning of July.

JPY: I will finish this article with a quick update on Japan and the Yen. Despite US yields running low, below the 2.40% level (trading at 2.33% at the moment), USDJPY broke its strong resistance at 103 to trade at 104.43 (Monday’s high) before edging back below the 104.00 level. We heard lately from Japanese Vice Economist Minister Nishimura that the Japanese economy may need more time than expected to swallow the sales tax hike (April 1st) and that the government may have to be more vigilant for the second planned one (October 2015). As a reminder, Japan GDP shrank by 6.8% (annual pace) in the second quarter and erased Q1 gains. The market is bearish on the JPY against most of the currencies and traders are quite confident that the government and especially the BoJ will do ‘whatever it takes’ to sustain Abe’s ambitious goal.

If we have a look at the recent figures, we saw that industrial production slid 3.4% MoM in June (biggest decline since the March 2011 disaster). JP trade balance deficit widened to 964bn Yen for July (vs expectations of a 702.50bn gap Yen) and the country reported a second current account deficit in June (399.1bn Yen) and the first January-June deficit in 29 years.

Important July figures to watch overnight: Core Nationwide CPI, expected to remain steady at 3.3%, Unemployment rate (also to remain steady at 3.7% according to consensus) and Preliminary Industrial Production (expected to tick up to 1.0% MoM after June’s decline).

Based on my last couple of discussions I had with some traders, it seems that the market is looking for buying opportunities on USDJPY. Pivot point is seen at 103.50/55, where there is talk of lots of buy orders.

All eyes on ECB and EURUSD

EURUSD remains under pressure is now trading below its 200-day SMA (1.3640) at around 1.3600 after disappointing German employment and EZ data weighed on the single currency yesterday morning. ECB data showed that lending to households and firms in the Euro zone declined further in April by 1.8% from the same month one year after a contraction of 2.2% in March.
Moreover, the annual growth of M3 (money aggregate, definition here) declined strongly to stand at 0.8% (from 1.1% in March and vs. expectations of 1.1%) and stands well below the ECB’s target of 4.5% as you can see it on the graph below (which represents the historical path of M3 money aggregate in yellow and annual inflation in green since 2003).

image001

(Source: Reuters)

Why is M3 important? If we have a look at one the ECB’s earliest Press Releases (December 1st, 1998) – The quantitative reference value for monetary growth – it stated that the Governing Council of the ECB agreed then on some details of the reference value:

  • ‘it will refer to the broad monetary aggregate M3’
  • ‘Governing Council decided to set the first reference value at 4.5%’

The graph above shows us that there is a relationship between inflation and M3 growth, therefore we could see still see a weak annual inflation next week on June 3rd (expected to come in at 0.7%). In addition, the HCIP (Harmonized Index of Consumer Prices, which enables international comparisons of inflation rates to be made between member states within the EU) of the core – ‘healthy’ – countries stand currently at very low levels. For instance, Germany HICP came in at 1.1% in April, up from 0.9% the previous month but down from 2.9% in August 2011. And in order to regain competitiveness, the peripheral ‘stressed’ countries are required to show a lower inflation than the core ones, which increase the risk of deflation (Spanish and Italian annual inflation stand at 0.3% and 0.6% respectively, while Greece and Portugal are already facing deflation).

ECB’s option at next meeting: All-in or non-event?

From now on, traders and investors will be focused on one of the most important events of the year: the ECB meeting on June 5th. After Draghi announced in his last press conference in Brussels that the ECB officials were ready to act at the next meeting, the question is now ‘what are the options?’ While a cut in the refi rate (10-15bps) is largely priced in by the market and will have little or no impact on both the Euro and the inflation rate, could it come with a cut in Deposit rate (which currently stands at 0%) and/or an asset-purchase program?

The effect of a negative deposit rate (10 bps cut), which means that ECB would charge banks for parking their money at the central bank rather than lending it, remains pretty much obscure and not the best option to encourage banks to lend more. It could potentially weigh on the single currency in the short term, which isn’t the ECB officials main objective (As a reminder, ECB’s Forum on Central Banking in Portugal, Draghi said: ‘What we need to be particularly watchful for at the moment is, in my view, the potential for a negative spiral to take hold between low inflation, falling inflation expectations and credit, in particular in stressed countries’).

Therefore, if we see an action, it will probably combine a refi rate cut with an unconventional measure according to some analysts. There are several monetary policy instruments that the ECB can apply in times of extraordinary market tensions, from a full-allotment of liquidity provision (fixed rate) to a longer-term liquidity provision (LTRO) or private/public QE.

Firstly, the fixed-rate full allotment, which allow stressed banks to access unlimited ECB liquidity at a fixed rate in return for collateral, will probably be extended (until this summer at least) and would leave the marginal lending facility, an overnight lending scheme that charges a premium interest rate, useless.

Second, I don’t think it is an appropriate time to launch a third LTRO as banks are still stuck with the first two repayments. Moreover, we saw previously that the LTRO has a positive impact on the Euro in the long-term. Liquidity will continue to drive sovereign yields lower and will tend to push the single currency at higher levels even though the Euro hasn’t been reacting to tightening spreads between periphery/core countries since Draghi’s press conference. Since July 2012, the 3-year spread Germany-Spain has tightened drastically and was one of main drivers of the Euro’s strength.

The third option is either a public or a private QE. A private quantitative easing would involve the purchases of private sectors assets, which could include asset-backed securities or bank bonds; rather than a public QE will include government bonds purchases (sovereign, ESM…). To me, these two options sound too much like a ‘whatever it takes to counter a strong Euro’, and I will repeat myself by saying that ‘kill the Euro’ is not the core objective at the next meeting. 

Quick analysis on EURUSD:

The pair found support slightly above 1.3580 and saw some bounce in Asia due to some short covering and saw technical ‘bull’ rebound after the RSI indicator was showing us an oversold signal. The resistance on the topside stands at 1.3641 (200-day SMA in blue), where we will start to see offers if the Euro continues to recover. The trend still looks a bit bearish at the moment, with 1.3520/40 as the next support area.

EUR-29-May

(Source: Reuters)