FX FX FX

FX Update: US August CPI triggers a landslide. Beware the BoJ.

Forex
John Hardy

Head of FX Strategy, Saxo Bank Group

Summary:  The core US August inflation data shocked the market as prices reportedly rose at twice the expected rate in August at the core. This triggered a massive spike back higher in the US dollar, with the market caught on the wrong foot and suddenly forced to entertain the risk of a 100 basis point rate hike from the Fed at next week’s FOMC meeting. Overnight, the Bank of Japan and Japanese Ministry of Finance upped the ante on intervention risks, tempering the rise in USDJPY.


FX Trading focus: Core CPI shocker from the US resets the USD. Beware the BoJ.

The headline US CPI data came in slightly above expectations, with a year-on-year reading of 8.3% vs. 8.1% expected and a month-on-month reading of +0.1% vs. -0.1% expected, the latter a solid surprise given sharp drops of late in gasoline prices. But the real shock was the core Ex Food and Energy inflation reading of +0.6% month-on-month, twice what was expected. This triggered an enormous slide in risk sentiment as the market rushed to price the risk that the FOMC might hike as much as 100 basis points next week. As of this morning, nearly 85 basis points of tightening are priced in the market for next meeting. The Fed doesn’t like to surprise the market, so if that builds a bit higher rather than receding back closer to 75 basis points on its own accord by early next week, the Fed will need to send out the WSJ’s Timiraos to pen an article guiding for 75 basis points if it wants to avoid shocking the market. There are a number of good reasons that the market was looking for a softer print yesterday, and this one data point is not enough to suggest that inflation will continue at the run-rate suggested by the August CPI data point, but as is readily evident, it had changed the odds on the size of next week’s hike, the guidance in the wake of that hike in terms of the monetary policy statement and the Fed’s own macro-economic projections.

To get follow-on USD strength here, the next data points of note are tomorrow’s US August Retail Sales and weekly US initial jobless claims. I lean for the risk of a stronger than expected Retail Sales data point due to the psychological boost of gasoline prices having dropped so precipitously from their June highs and as millions of US consumers saw their student debt loads drastically reduced by the Inflation Reduction Act that was passed mid-month. As for the weekly claims, these seem to be in a new declining trend after rising into the early summer period from record lows (adjusted for population) earlier in the year. The Bank of Japan and Japanese Ministry of Finance, as I discuss below, may make life difficult for FX traders.

Chart: AUDUSD
Interesting to note that the USD reaction was most violent against some of the traditional risk-correlated currencies like AUD and NZD, with AUDUSD suddenly poking down close to cycle lows this morning, or at least below the lowest daily close of the cycle at one point this morning. To get new lows, we’d likely need to see the weak risk sentiment persisting her and a test of the June market lows, together perhaps with the Fed delivering a 100 basis point hike next week and US 10-year yields moving above the 3.50% cycle high from June (this morning trading at3.43%.) The recent price action cemented the 0.6900+ area pivot high as the key tactical resistance of note. Australia reports employment data tonight.

Source: Saxo Group

The Bank of Japan carried out a “rate check” in the FX market, which is widely seen as a precursor for actual market intervention. This tamed the USDJPY move higher from sub-142.00 levels to nearly 145, as the gains were pared back below even 143.00 this morning, with the JPY also firmer broadly. Finance Minister Suzuki said nothing could be ruled out in response to the weakening JPY and that if the current trend persisted, stepping into markets is an option. But as past experience has shown, intervention often only creates temporary volatility if the underlying issue is not addressed - in this case, the Bank of Japan's insistence on maintaining very low rates and capping yields out to 10 years. If yields continue to rise globally, Japanese officialdom will have an enormous and likely unwinnable fight on its hands if the Bank of Japan fails to change its policy. In the meantime, history shows that determined intervention can make for very choppy markets, even for other USD pairs as USDJPY volatility spikes back and forth.

Table: FX Board of G10 and CNH trend evolution and strength.
The USD has leaped back higher – watching for the degree to which the price holds and follows through if the 100 basis point FOMC move scenario next week solidifies amidst a supporting cast of data. Note the marked NOK weakening, a theme discussed yesterday. And note the CHF Strength – an interesting test for the EURCHF pair next week over the SNB meeting, given EU plans to cap energy prices as the pair trades near multi-year lows. Will there be a bit more caution from the SNB than before?

Source: Bloomberg and Saxo Group

Table: FX Board Trend Scoreboard for individual pairs.
We noted many pivotal USD pairs yesterday: well the USD provided a pivot and then some yesterday – now about seeing whether the action remains choppy a la USDJPY or reasonably smooth new USD trend can develop. Note USDNOK trading up against a big resistance line, NZDUSD toying with 0.6000 this morning and AUDUSD not far from the cycle lows, while USDCAD has poked near the cycle top. Also, very interesting signs of possible exhaustion of weak GBP sentiment as the currency is rolling higher against a growing cast of the smaller G10 currencies (GBPNOK, GBPNZD, GBPAUD on the cusp, etc.)

Source: Bloomberg and Saxo Group

Upcoming Economic Calendar Highlights

  • 1230 - US Aug. PPI 
  • 1230 - Canada Jul. Manufacturing Sales
  • 1430 - ECB's Villeroy to speak
  • 2245 - New Zealand Q2 GDP
  • 2350 - Japan Aug. Trade Balance
  • 0120 - China Rate Announcement
  • 0130 - Australia Aug. Employment Data

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