Also a head-scratcher, normally yield- and risk-sensitive yen traders have largely sat on their hands even as US treasury yields have dropped during this latest bout of weak risk appetite. These conditions can hardly persist.
Stitching together a narrative for this FX market is rather tough as intermarket correlations are not what they used to be: here we have a very ugly sell-off in the major developed economies’ equity markets and US treasuries heavily bid and yet the Japanese yen is merely a percent and a half off recent highs.
Elsewhere, the weight of risk appetite weakness yesterday only saw marginal weakness in the G10 smalls one would normally expect in these circumstances, but NZDUSD still looks bid and is toying with the 200-day moving average from the below. And emerging market currencies are mixed at worst and several are very strong despite the ugly backdrop, including a South African rand that is near local highs versus the US dollar even as the country’s credit spreads on USD-denominated bonds have worsened materially over the last couple of weeks.
The only narrative I might offer to explain what is going on is that the world has generally been long of US dollars on the argument that the aggressive Fed will continue to raise rates and tighten global liquidity. But now, the latest weakness in key indicators and risk appetite and some of the Fed speakers’ rhetoric, together possibly with the hope that China will ride in to save the day and/or that the Xi and Trump will at least announce a ceasefire at the G20 next week, has the market hoping that the Fed will ease up. That makes the next two key event risks the Xi-Trump summit at the G20 and the December 19 Federal Open Market Committee meeting.
A significant contributor to the weakness in the USD yesterday was the US NAHB survey of home builder activity, one of the more leading indicators for the US housing market, which registered a stunning 8 point drop to 60 for October. This points to a very low ceiling for the most interest rate sensitive of US economic sectors – the mortgage markets. It also adds to the potential reactivity to today’s Oct. US Housing Starts and Building Permits numbers, which have gone sideways to slightly lower in recent months.
AUDJPY is the classic risk-on, risk-off G7 FX pair, and yet has only barely managed to register a correction despite the weak conditions of the last session. This may be down to conflicting signals – on the one hand, the market is hopeful that China can lead the world out of its current funk and that the US and China are set to at least announce a trade war ceasefire at the G20 summit with Xi and Trump in attendance. On the other hand, the JPY traditionally powers higher under current market conditions – something has to give either way in coming weeks.