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FX Update: USD surging again, GBP spinning into abyss.

Forex 5 minutes to read
John Hardy

Head of FX Strategy

Summary:  The USD is breaking higher still, with important levels falling versus the Euro and yen yesterday. But the pain in sterling is most intense as presaged by the lack of a response to surging UK rates. Can the Bank of England do anything but continue to chase inflation from behind, caught between the Scylla of inflation and the Charybdis of a vicious recession? Also, USDCNH lurks at the top of the range ahead of another PBOC rate announcement on Monday.


FX Trading focus: USD wrecking ball swinging again. UK faced with classic ugly choice between taking the pain via inflation or a severe recession.

The US dollar strength has picked up further after yesterday saw the breakdown in EURUSD below 1.0100 and a shot through 135.50 in USDJPY as longer US yields pushed to local highs. GBPUSD has been a bigger move on sterling weakness as discussed below.  A bit of resilient US data (especially the lower jobless claims than expected and a sharp revision lower of the prior week’s data taking the momentum out of the rising trend) has helped support the USD higher as longer US yields rose a bit further, taking the 10-year US treasury yield benchmark to new local highs, although we really need to see 3.00% achieved there after a few recent teases higher with no follow through higher. Looking forward to next week, the market will have to mull whether it has been too aggressive in pricing the Fed to pivot policy next year on disinflation and an easy-landing for the economy. The steady drumbeat of Fed pushback against the market’s complacency, together with a few of the recent data points (ISM Services, nonfarm payrolls, yesterday’s claims, etc.) has seen some of the conviction easing. But the key test will come next Friday, when Fed Chair Powell is set to speak on the same day we get the July PCE inflation data.

Keep USDCNH on the radar through the end of today on the risk of an upside break above the range and Monday as the PBOC is set for a rate announcement (consensus expectations or another 10 bps of easing).

Chart: GBPUSD
Lots at stake for sterling as discussed below, as it is a bit scary to see a currency weaken sharply despite a massive ratcheting higher in rate expectations from the central bank. The fall of 1.2000 has set in motion a focus on the 1.1760 cycle low, with an aggravated USD rise here and tightening of global financial conditions possibly quickly bringing the spike low toward 1.1500 from the early 2020 pandemic outbreak panic into focus. It is worth noting that the lowest monthly closing level for GBPUSD since the mid-1980’s is 1.2156. Without something dramatic to push back against USD strength next week from Jackson Hole, it is hard to see how this month may set the new low water mark for monthly closes.

Source: Saxo Group

GBPUSD slipped below 1.1900 this morning after breaking below the psychologically important 1.2000 level yesterday. As noted in the prior update, it’s remarkable to see the marked weakness in sterling despite the marking taking UK short rates sharply higher – with 2-year UK swaps over 100 basis points higher from the lows early this month. The Bank of England has expressed a determination to get ahead of the inflation spike and the market has priced in a bit more than a 50-basis-points-per-meeting pace for the three remaining BoE meetings of 2022. But is that sufficient given the UK’s structural short-comings and external deficits? Currency weakness risks adding further to spike in inflation this year. The BoE can take a couple of approaches in response: continue with the 50 bps hikes while bemoaning the backdrop and trotting out the expectation that eventually, economic weakness and easing commodity prices will feed through to drop inflation back into the range. Or, the BoE can actually get serious and super-size hikes even beyond the acceleration the market has priced, at the risk of bringing forward and increasing the severity of the coming recession. Until this week, the BoE’s anticipated tightening trajectory had prevented an aggravated weakness in sterling in broader terms, but the currency’s weakness despite a massive mark-up of BoE expectations has ratcheted the pressure on sterling and the BoE’s response to an entirely new level.

Turkey shocked with a fresh rate cut yesterday of 100 basis points to take the policy rate to 13.00%. This with year-on-year inflation in Turkey at 79.6% and PPI at 144.6%, and housing measured at 160.6%. The move took USDTRY above 18.00, though it was a modest move relative to the size of the surprise. Turkish central bank chief Kavcioglu said that the bank would also look to “further strengthen macroprudential policy” by addressing the yawning difference between the policy rate and the rate commercial banks are charging for loans (more than double the official policy rate), as the push is to continue a credit-stimulated approach, inflation-be-darned.

Table: FX Board of G10 and CNH trend evolution and strength.
Note: a new color scheme for the FX Board! Besides changing the green for positive readings to a more pleasant blue, I have altered the settings such that trend readings don’t receive a more intense red or blue coloring until they have reached more significant levels – starting at an absolute value of 4 or higher.

So far, most of the drama in sterling is the lack of a response to shifts in the UK yield curve, the broad negative momentum has only shifted a bit here, but watching for the risk of more.

Source: Bloomberg and Saxo Group

Table: FX Board Trend Scoreboard for individual pairs.
AUDNZD is crossing back higher, AUDCAD back lower, so NZDCAD….yep. Note the CNHJPY – if CNH is to make more waves, need to see more CNH weakness in an isolated sense, not just v. a strong USD. And speaking of a strong USD, the last holdouts in reversing, USDNOK and USDCHF, are on the cusp of a reversal.

Source: Bloomberg and Saxo Group

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