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FX Update: The desperation for the Fed pivot.

Picture of John Hardy
John Hardy

Head of FX Strategy

Summary:  Markets yesterday show how quickly this hot-tempered market can try to sniff out a Fed that will eventually pivot to a less hawkish stance as a weak US September ISM Manufacturing survey data point engineered a huge decline in US yields and significant USD weakness. More important US data is to come this week through Friday’s jobs report. Elsewhere, the surprisingly dovish RBA battled with supportive developments in commodities to sway the Aussie overnight.

FX Trading focus: Desperation for the Fed pivot. Sterling: can it really be that easy? Dovish RBA.

Yesterday saw US 10-year treasury yields almost 25 basis points lower from intraday highs, with much of the treasury buying/yield drop coming in the wake of a weaker than expected September US ISM Manufacturing survey, out at 50.9, below the 52.0 expected and 52.8 in August. The New Orders were far worse than expected at 47.1 vs. 50.5 expected and 51.3 in August. Alas, we have to remember that the Manufacturing sector is small in the US and about half of the dips to near or below 50 have not indicated imminent recession in the US. The ISM Services survey – up tomorrow - would be a different matter if it were to show marked deterioration.

Elsewhere, a tweet from the WSJ’s Nick Timiraos noting that influential economist Greg Mankiw agreed with economist/pundit Paul Krugman’s assessment that the Fed is tightening too quickly may have helped to drive the sentiment shift at the margin as well. Pushing back against that was Fed Vice Chair Williams out expressing the belief that the Fed must remain on message: “Tighter monetary policy has begun to cool demand and reduce inflationary pressures, but our job is not yet done.” Williams speech does suggest that the Fed thinks that it is succeeding, so the strongest risk to markets here would be stronger US data suggesting a still strong pace of activity in services and a still very tight labor market with accelerating wage pressures. The Fed forecast assume a fairly soft landing of weak growth and 4.4% unemployment. Self-feeding cycles in a downturn and the Fed’s focus on lagging indicators like employment are likely to eventually lead to far worse outcomes.

The USD has weakened at the outset of the week here – but note EURUSD holding the line so far just ahead of the key 0.9900 level. AUDUSD has far more wood to chop for a reversal, as discussed below. The most remarkably priced pair at the moment, however, may be USDJPY, which remains pinned near 145.00 despite the significant drop in long US treasury yields. Still uneasy about the risk of a blowout market-BoJ/MoF showdown – that’s a very weak performance from the yen today.

The AUDUSD chart has been an interesting one to watch since yesterday and overnight. Strong risk sentiment and lower US treasury yields weighed on the US dollar and helped boost commodity prices, both strongly Aussie supportive. But then the huge mark-down in Australian yields on a quite dovish RBA (more below) challenged the Aussie overnight. Looks like a battle-zone tactically around the local 0.6530 resistance, which was briefly taken out this morning on the further USD weakness before reversing back into the zone later in trading today. The down-trend is so well established that it would take a surge to at least above 0.6700 to begin challenging the down-trend here.

Source: Saxo Group

The RBA surprised the majority of observers with a smaller 25 basis point hike to take the policy rate to 2.60%. It’s a reminder of the vast shift relative to the old regime, in which one might have expected an RBA rate at least 100-200 bps higher than the Fed’s. The last time the Fed was hiking to north of 3.00% was in mid-2005, when the RBA cash target had already reached above 5%. The RBA chose to emphasize caution in its latest statement, citing the anticipation that unemployment will eventually rise beyond the near term strength in the labor market as the economy eventually weakens. Governor Lowe and company are clearly uneasy and uncertain on the effects of the sharp tightening in the bag on mortgage rates and future spending, and the statement continues to cite lower wage growth than elsewhere. In addition to AUDUSD note above, also interesting to watch the relative strength in AUDNZD over tonight’s RBNZ, as the sharply lower Australian yields (the year-forward RBA rate has been marked a remarkable 50 basis points lower by the market after this meeting). A surrender below the 1.1250-1.1300 zone would suggest a risk that the attempt to reprice the pair higher on the shift in relative current account dynamics I have cited before has failed for now.

Sterling rose further after Chancellor Kwarteng yesterday reversed his decision on the tax cut for the highest incomes in the UK. Interesting that this is was particularly item, while politically unpopular, was one of the least consequential in terms of the fiscal impact. For now, given the soaring risk sentiment backdrop, sterling short covering continues, but surely it’s not this easy? Technically, watching the major resistance zone at 1.1500 zone in GBPUSD and whether the bearish reversal back into the old range below 0.8700 in EURGBP sticks. This is still a government that is very much on the rocks. The latest controversy PM Truss is courting is claiming that she has yet to decide whether UK welfare distributions, outside of pensioners, should be raised with inflation, which has some Tory MP’s up in arms. Chancellor Kwarteng, feeling the rising pressure, will bring forward his fiscal statement to later this month from late November, around the time the Office of Budget Responsibility publishes its forecasts.

Table: FX Board of G10 and CNH trend evolution and strength.
The USD rose so far in its up-trend before the recent setback, that there is some residual medium term up-trend strength left, though momentum has shifted markedly against the greenback. The opposite is the case for sterling, which has achieved a positive trend reading versus the G10 broadly due to weak G10 smalls of late (note GBPNZD, for example, at a high since late February. Elsewhere, strong risk sentiment, together with concerns of a struggling Swiss bank have brought CHF south in a hurry over the last week.

Source: Bloomberg and Saxo Group

Table: FX Board Trend Scoreboard for individual pairs.
CHF on its back foot and our longest surviving trend, the GBPCHF downtrend, is now dead. Sterling upside breaks are spreading, in fact. Also note the shift in US yields taking XAGUSD onto a sudden moonshot, while XAUUSD is eyeing an up-trend as well.

Source: Bloomberg and Saxo Group

Upcoming Economic Calendar Highlights

  • 1230 – ECB's Centeno to speak
  • 1300 – US Fed’s Williams (voter) to speak
  • 1315 – US Fed’s Mester (voter) to speak
  • 1400 – US Aug. Factory Orders
  • 1400 – US Aug. JOLTS Job Openings
  • 1500 – ECB President Lagarde to speak
  • 0100 – New Zealand RBNZ Official Cash Target Announcement

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