FX Update: Whiplash as EU energy crisis steals back the narrative.
Head of FX Strategy, Saxo Bank Group
Summary: The US dollar tried to weaken Friday as the August employment report proved benign for risk sentiment, with US treasury yields easing lower. But sentiment quickly headed south and the bid dollar came roaring back after Russia announced it would not restart flows of natural gas through a key pipeline into Germany. As long as the energy situation continues to hang over the EU, and especially the UK outlook, European FX will have a hard time finding a floor.
FX Trading focus: USD springs back on fresh EU energy woes
The US August employment report was a mixed bag, with payrolls slightly softer than expected if we include the -107k of net revisions of the prior two months of data, and the Average Hourly Earnings coming in softer despite a 0.1 drop in the Average Weekly Hours suggested no fresh inflationary pressure from wages. The official Unemployment Rate rising to 3.7% was misinterpreted, perhaps, as is often the case, with a strong Household survey actually showing that 442k more Americans were employed in the month, but the rate rose because of a 0.3% rise in the Participation Rate (suggesting more looking for work).
Alas, as US treasury yields eased lower in the wake of the US jobs report, risk sentiment was buoyant and the US dollar sold off rather sharply, until…Russia announced it had conveniently found a leak in the Nord Stream I pipeline that was purportedly down for a few days maintenance and saying that natural gas flows through that pipeline would not resume on Saturday as planned. Clearly this is the latest attempt to leverage gas deliveries as retaliation for EU countries’ support of Ukraine in its war against the Russian invasion. EURUSD and GBPUSD both traded to new lows this morning and may have a hard time finding a floor until either the Fed is back in easing mode or the energy situation clears in a sustainable fashion for Europe, neither of which looks likely in the near future.
Europe is scrambling to limit the damage from higher prices to sectors of the economy, but moves to cap prices will support demand more than would otherwise would be the case, and that will have to mean rationing of supply as long as the actual physical deliveries of gas/oil, etc. are limited. An EU summit in Brussels is set for Friday on energy policy. The UK situation is more dire still than that for mainland Europe because of its political isolation and its lack of a buffer after the country took the disastrous decision to close a key storage site called Rough in the North Sea in 2017. The UK is scrambling to reopen that site, but it will have to be filled with very expensive gas indeed, assuming any excess seaborne LNG can be locked down for delivery.
Today in the UK, the Conservative party has voted for Liz Truss as the new party leader, making her the UK’s next Prime Minister. Her promises range from quick action on energy security to alleviating the cost of living crisis for the hardest hit by price rises, all while cutting corporate and other taxes. It’s a recipe for ballooning fiscal deficits, an issue that is already an ingredient in sterling’s steep fall this year, so an even steeper recession is in the wings, either from a drop in real GDP due to soaring inflation aggravated by further sterling declines or as demand is crushed by a steep recession due to the need for the Bank of England to accelerate its pace of rate hikes or more likely a combination of the two. Longer term, investments in fracking shale gas and new North Sea exploration could pay dividends. Watching EURGBP closely in addition to the tumbling GBPUSD as the former has traded up into the top of the well established range since Brexit became formal in early 2021. Tactical relief rally possible.
EURUSD looked ready to test resistance after the US jobs report on Friday, but now finds itself having tested new lows for the cycle this morning, something it may continue to do as long as EU energy security woes continue to drive concerns for an ugly recession this winter amidst power/gas rationing. The EU summit this Friday is the key focus, far more than whether the ECB hikes 75 basis points as it nearly priced in now, with another 100+ basis points priced in before year end (implied rate for December meeting is 1.66%. Technically, the pair needs to set and hold these new lows near and below 0.9900 early this week, otherwise we risk backing up into the parity-plus range in the short term.
The RBA meets tonight and is expected to hike 50 basis points for the fourth consecutive time, with the market pricing a deceleration in rate hikes from here, but still looking for more rate hikes through year-end. A Melbourne Institute inflation figure out overnight showed inflation down -0.5% MoM and up +4.9% Year-on-year in August, driving some Aussie volatility overnight. The AUDNZD pair is an interesting one for relatively pricing of the currency. If the pair is set to carve out a new range since before 2013 due to current account considerations (soaring record surpluses in Australia as opposed to worst in decades deficits in New Zealand, it needs to get back on the rally track after tonight’s meeting.
Overnight, China cut the forex reserve ratio in a bid to support the yuan after it dropped to a new low versus the US dollar overnight. The move knocked USDCNH back from above 6.95 to near 6.93.
Table: FX Board of G10 and CNH trend evolution and strength.
USD strength remains the most prominent trend, while sterling weakness is the most prominent . Not very impressed with the JPY today, as USDJPY continues to trade well north of 140.00 even after US yields dropped Friday.
Table: FX Board Trend Scoreboard for individual pairs.
Note Liz Truss taking power as our trend measure for GBPCHF has been 60 consecutive days in the negative, the most persistent trend in FX. Let’s see if the EURCHF positive flip can hold for long: doubtful. CNHJPY, meanwhile, remains in a positive trend and the pair is well above 20.00 – lots of tension there.
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