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FX Update: : Soft US CPI sparks significant kneejerk USD selling, but...

Forex 4 minutes to read
John Hardy

Head of FX Strategy

Summary:  The market was happy to adjust US yields higher recently on stronger than expected US data points, but failed to take the USD lower, which in perfect hindsight suggests that the USD was set for a sharp drop on a soft CPI print today. And that’s what we got, with the headline CPI figure flat on month-on-month comparisons and the core rising less than expected. But how far can the market run on a single data print as data reactions have been fickle and fleeting of late.


FX Trading focus: USD bears celebrate weak CPI print, but…

The US CPI print came in weaker than expected for both the headline and for the ex Food and Energy figure. The headline softness was driven by huge drops in energy prices from June levels, with the entire energy category market -4.6% lower month-on-month and gasoline down -7.7%, much of the latter on record refinery margins collapsing. The ex Food & Energy category was up only +0.3% vs. the +0.5% expected, with soft prices month-on-month for used cars and trucks (-0.4%) and especially airfares (-7.8%) dragging the most on figure.

Risk sentiment is off to the races as this fits the market’s Goldilocks soft-landing scenario, particularly given recent stronger-than-expected activity data. It’s hard to tell how far the market can take the reaction function to a data point like this when we are trading in an illiquid month and some very volatile categories are behind the surprise inflation number today, and recent data reactions have failed to hold beyond the end of the day. But for now, the USD has triggered lower and taken out some important local support. We suspect it is far too early in the cycle to call the aggressive shift from the Fed that the market has been pricing, as this July CPI data point has seen the market marking the September FOMC decision down close to 50 basis points now and taking more of the tightening out of the meetings beyond. The market’s interpretation of a profound shift in the Fed, the Fed’s own protestations notwithstanding, has driven a strong easing of financial conditions since mid-June. Could this result in the economy showing a heating up in the coming months, also as the shock of higher gasoline price in particular may have eased the pressure on consumer sentiment? The preliminary Aug. University of Michigan Sentiment survey could be an interesting test on that front.

For now, USDJPY posted the biggest reaction to the data point today as one would expect on the big move in treasury yields – more on USDJPY below. EURUSD has broken above the local resistance just below 1.0300, but faces a more significant resistance level in the 1.0350 area – one that could lead to a return to 1.0500+ if this move sticks through the Friday close. Again, as mentioned recently, it is too early to call an end of the EURUSD bear – the market’s view will have to play out as currently priced, with all of the Goldilocks implications, etc., for the USD to shift to a sustained and broad bear market here. Elsewhere, AUDUSD has vaulted above 0.7000, the tactical bull/bear line, with a huge zone up into 0.7150-0.7250 the more structural area of note for direction. Gold not holding above 1,800 in reaction to this data point as of this writing is already a weak performance, and I am watching much of the treasury market kneejerk reaction higher seeping out of the US treasury market as well – so some of the reaction is already fading fast – stay tuned!

A US treasury auction is up today at 1700 GMT – the longer end of the US yield curve may be the most important coincident indicator for all markets here – if yields pull back higher, for example the US 10-year benchmark moving back above 2.87% and especially toward 3.00%, today’s reaction in the USD and the JPY, etc.. should quickly reverse.

Chart: USDJPY
The bottom dropped out of USDJPY on the softer than expected US July CPI data this afternoon, just as it vaulted higher on Friday on the stronger than expected US July jobs report – with US yields the key coincident indicator. On that note, the US Treasury market reaction fading fast in the wake of today’s data point suggests USDJPY bears should be cautious here – if the US 10-year benchmark closes back above 2.75% and especially above 2.87% in coming days, this move may be quickly neutralized, although if we do close down here well south of 133.50, the candlestick looks rather bearish for a test lower. If the pair closes back well above 134.00, the next step would be a move above 136.00 to suggest the bull market is back on (likely as US 10-year treasury yields pull to 3.00% or higher).

Source: Saxo Group

Table: FX Board of G10 and CNH trend evolution and strength.
Let’s have a look at how the market behaves after the knee-jerk reaction to the US data point today before drawing conclusions. As noted above, some important coincident indicators for the US dollar are suggesting caution for USD bears here.

Source: Bloomberg and Saxo Group

Table: FX Board Trend Scoreboard for individual pairs.
Today’s USD moves important if they stick into the close today and the close to the week – data reactions have been fickle and fleeting of late – so some patience may be required.

Source: Bloomberg and Saxo Group

Upcoming Economic Calendar Highlights (all times GMT)

  • 1600 – UK Bank of England economist Pill to peak
  • 1700 – US Treasury to auction 10-year notes
  • 1800 – US Fed’s Kashkari (non-voter) to speak
  • 2301 – UK Jul. RICS House Price Balance
  • 0100 – Australia Aug. Consumer Inflation Expectations

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