FX Update: USD close to the brink of support as US yields spike

Forex 5 minutes to read

John Hardy

Head of FX Strategy

Summary:  USD weakness has extended to pivotal levels that are the bull-bear dividing line between a return to a weak USD regime and the more neutral tactical outlook if USD support holds here. Volatility remains muted, but will have a hard time remaining that way if we continue to see anything resembling the pronounced weakness in US treasuries yesterday


Trading focus:

Getting a grip on the US yield spike and what it means for the US dollar

The most important development across markets yesterday was the steep sell-off in US treasuries all along the yield curve coming after a period in which US yields have been moribund. What are the drivers here? Is the market satisfied that US data is bouncing back strongly as evidenced in the latest strong September ISM Services yesterday (at 57.8) and that a stimulus deal looks more likely now that Trump is back in the White House and has argued in favour of striking a deal?

Or perhaps the signs that Biden is pulling away in the polls is the chief driver and the argument here is that the Democrats are set to take back the presidency and the Senate, therefore paving the way for a massive multi-trillion stimulus passed in the first one hundred days of a Biden administration, taking US inflation much higher while leaving the Fed policy rate pegged near zero. The US dollar has clearly been driven by the market’s pricing of future inflation. The Biden argument seems the more plausible driver here, and US rates spiked all along the curve, but most aggressively at the long-end yesterday, with the 10-year trading above 0.75% resistance and the 30-year above 1.50%, a notable chart level. Also, the stronger the apparent edge that the Democrats are achieving in the polls, the less likely that Trump’s claims of a fraudulent election will be able to drive “contested election” uncertainty for any appreciable length of time after Election Day.

In the meantime, however, if US rates continue spiking here the risk sentiment apple cart could be upset and keep the USD bears at bay – tough to tell where the balance of risks lies, but equities are stumbling in the European session today after the boost yesterday, supposedly from Trump’s quick return to the White House (at the margin, a healthy Trump through Election Day keeps the risk of election chaos at bay as well).

Chart: AUDUSD
The AUDUSD rally has found that 0.7200 is the sticking point here after an uninspiring RBA meeting overnight that provided no notable shift in forward expectations for policy. This has coincided with EURUSD testing the 1.1800 area. The narrative for the USD bears is that the US is set to unleash further torrents of liquidity, either right away in a last-ditch Trump administration-Democratic House deal to juice the economy and get checks in the mail ASAP, or at worst, after the election with a massive, multi-trillion new stimulus from an increasingly likely US Democrat “clean sweep” scenario. The downside trigger is rather far away at 0.7000 but is the more prominent chart point.

Source: Saxo Group

The G-10 rundown

USD – the US dollar taken to the last bits of support in a number of pairs – more USD liquidity from stimulus and rising expectations of a Biden win and the deeper negative real US rates that this might bring on a heavier dose of fiscal stimulus are theoretically USD negative, but if spiking US yields spike risk sentiment, the USD bears could be in for a rough ride tactically.

EUR – EURUSD has tickled the 1.1800 level, arguably the local bull-bear line for the pair and a key for the broader USD outlook. The services PMI revisions for Europe were positive for Germany, but even worse for Spain at a terrible 42.4 as piecemeal shutdowns are threatened there. The only argument for euros is that they will hold their value because more cautious fiscal in Europe together with demographics will keep the negative real rate threat lower than elsewhere.

JPY – hard to argue in favour of the yen if yields spike further, but as long as the spike is isolated to the US on fear of negative real rates, the stronger JPY story could re-emerge if risk sentiment wobbles here. So many JPY crosses resemble their USD counterparts (EURUSD and EURJPY, for example) and would expect that to continue.

GBP – sterling poised for good news, which the market seems to be leaning for as we await the key headline announcing some breakthrough in post-Brexit transition period negotiations. Still have long term doubts on the height of the ceiling for sterling due to the UK’s structural deficits, but a sterling surge on finally getting the Brexit issue in the rear view mirror is likely in the cards..

CHF – nothing to report here, but watching with interest on whether yield move continues higher and drives weakness at the margin. EURCHF 1.0600-1.0900 is the limbo zone for the franc and has been since June.

AUD – the RBA looking for ways to bring further easing if needed, but happy where it is at present and already hopeful that the unemployment rate peaks at a lower level than previously feared. AUDUSD has found resistance again at the pivotal 0.7200 area as noted above.

CADCAD failed to react much to the very strong surge in WTI crude yesterday as USDCAD sits at a local tactical pivot area of 1.3250 – the pair looks passive and low-beta to the USD direction.

NZD – in NZDUSD terms, we have been coiling and coiling since July – the clearest level at the moment there is the 0.6500 area, which could set up a run towards 0.6400 if the USD puts on a rally again. The AUDNZD cross is lost in the desert, but downside pressure risk towards 1.0600 perhaps weighs more as long at 1.0850 isn’t retaken.

SEK – EURSEK needs a positive news in Europe and another surge in risk sentiment to punch back down through the 10.40 pivot area and suggest an end to upside risk. Right now - in limbo between recent top and that 10.40 area.

NOK – a nice rebound in crude oil gives the NOK a shot in the arm and if positive risk sentiment continues here, we could see a full return to the 10.50 area in EURNOK. The CPI rise and implications for negative rates looks scary until we consider that it is mostly FX-driven as the trade-weighted NOK is some 8% below where it was a year ago even after the comeback from the spring-time lows.

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