Odds and ends
Riksbank waxes cautious – not much to extract from today’s Riksbank meeting, which continues to see the central bank operating with an abundance of caution, acknowledging improved conditions, but continuing to fret about the lingering effects of the pandemic and not wanting to shift its rate guidance, which it has forecast for zero through 2024. This morning saw a much higher than expected unemployment rate, a notoriously choppy data series that the country is now trying to report on a seasonally adjusted basis, but surprised much higher even so at 9.5% vs. 10.0% for the headline. Further down the line, the Riksbank will need to indicate a tapering of purchases, which looks large relative to the very modest deficits run for the pandemic year of 2020 and the tiny 3% of GDP forecast for this year. I would like EURSEK lower here if backdrop remains quiet, but It has been a very long slog in this 10-10.30 range (five months!) - a lot of inertia.
South African Rand at crossroads, too, after winning on commodities focus. The ZAR has had a decent run of it for months, compounded by the decent carry (3.50% short rate in SA) that longs have enjoyed on top of the USDZAR spot exchange rate moving down from over 19 during the Covid panic last spring and even from above 17 as recently as last September to south of 14.50 at present. The massive price rises in iron ore and platinum in particular have seen ZAR volumes for these two particular commodities rise 167% and 159%, respectively, in January of this year relative to last year, when the spot exchange rate was within 10% (i.e., only a small fraction of that growth down to a weaker ZAR this Jan). The improved export picture and strong global risk appetite have seen credit spreads continuing to contract for South Africa’s USD-denominated debt, for example, a process that has continued steadily this year while credit spread elsewhere for larger EM’s like Russia and Mexico have stagnated during the same period. Technically, the USDZAR is at an interesting spot, having broken below the big 14.40-50 area and traded as low as 14.15 the week before last, although it has completely stalled since then. Interesting to watch the USD and US yields in the wake of the FOMC meeting tomorrow night for whether ZAR can continue its winning streak or whether the waning downside momentum is reversed on a renewed USD consolidation or pressure from a renewed rise in US yields. A close above 14.50 would suggest a retrenchment in the ZAR uptrend.
Table: FX Board of G-10+CNH trend evolution and strength
The AUD made a statement yesterday with a solid surge, but is unwinding today, while the USD move has stalled out ahead of tomorrow’s FOMC meeting. Trending readings have been generally low and implied volatility has trended lower as well as the market awaits new catalysts.