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FX Update: JPY jumps on deflating energy prices, fresh retreat in yields.

Forex 4 minutes to read
John Hardy

Head of FX Strategy

Summary:  Weak data out of China overnight, together with a surprise rate cut from the PBOC and collapsing energy prices later on Monday saw the Japanese yen surging higher across the board. Indeed, the two key factors behind its descent to multi-decade lows earlier this year, rising yields and surging energy prices, have eased considerably since mid-June with only modest reaction from the yen thus far. Is that about to change?


FX Trading focus: JPY finding sudden support on new disinflation narrative

Weaker than expected Chinese data overnight brought a surprise rate cut from the Chinese central bank and seems to have sparked a broadening sell-off in commodities, which was boosted later by a crude oil drop of some five dollars per barrel on the news that Iran will decide by midnight tonight on whether to accept a new draft on the nuclear deal forward by the Euro zone. In response, the Chinese yuan has weakened toward the highs for the cycle in USDCNH, trading 6.78+ as of this writing and  (there was a spike high to 6.381 back in May but the exchange rate has been capped by 6.80 since then), but the Japanese yen is stealing the volatility and strength crown, surging sharply across the board and following up on the move lower inspired by the soft US CPI data point. US long yields easing considerably lower after an odd spike last Thursday are a further wind at the JPY’s back here. In the bigger picture, it has been rather remarkable that the firm retreat in global long-date yields since the mid-June peak and the oil price backing down a full 25% and more from the cycle highs didn’t do more to support the yen from the yield-spread angle (Bank of Japan’s YCC policy less toxic as yields fall) and from the current account angle for Japan. Interestingly, while the JPY has surged and taken USDJPY down several notches, the US dollar is rather firm elsewhere, with the focus more on selling pro-cyclical and commodity currencies on the possible implication that China may be content to export deflation by weakening its currency now that commodity prices have come down rather than on selling the US dollar due to any marking down of Fed expectations. Still, while the USD may remain a safe haven should JPY volatility be set to run amok across markets, the focus is far more on the latter as long as USDJPY is falling

Chart: EURJPY
As the JPY surges here, EURJPY is falling sharply again, largely tracking the trajectory of longer European sovereign yields, which never really rose much from their recent lows from a couple of weeks back, making it tough to understand the solid rally back above 138.00 of late. After peaking above 1.90% briefly in June, the German 10-year Bund, for example, is trading about 100 basis points lower and is not far from the cycle low daily close at 77 basis points. The EURJPY chart features a rather significant pivot area at 133.50, a prior major high back in late 2021 and the recent low and 200-day moving average back at the beginning of the month. After a brief JPY volatility scare in late July and into early August that faded, are we set for a second and bigger round here that takes USDJPY down through 130.00 and EURJPY likewise? A more significant rally in long US treasuries might be required to bring about a real JPY rampage.

Source: Saxo Group

The focus on weak Chinese data and key commodity prices like copper suddenly losing altitude after their recent rally has the Aussie shifting to the defensive just after it was showing strength late last week in sympathy with strong risk sentiment and those higher commodity prices. Is the AUDUSD break above 0.7000-25 set for a high octane reversal here? AUDJPY is worth a look as well after it managed to surge all the way back toward the top of the range before. The idea that a weak Chine might export deflation from here might be unsettling for Aussie bulls.

The US macro data focus for the week is on today’s NAHB homebuilder’s survey, which plunged to a low since 2015 in June (not including the chaotic early 2020 pandemic breakout months), the July Housing Starts and Building Permits and then the July Retail Sales and FOMC minutes on Wednesday. With a massive relief in gasoline prices from the July spike high, it will be interesting to see whether the August US data picks up again on the services side. The preliminary August University of Michigan sentiment survey release on Friday showed expectations rising sharply by over 7 points from the lowest since-1980 lows of June, while the Present Situation measure dropped a few points back toward the cycle (and record) lows from May.

Table: FX Board of G10 and CNH trend evolution and strength.
The JPY is the real story today, but as our trending measures employ some averaging/smoothing, the move will need to stick what it has achieved today to show more. Watch out for a big shift in the commodity currencies in coming days as well if today’s move is the start of something. Elsewhere, the JPY comeback is merely taking CHF from strength to strength, although even the might franc has dropped against the JPY today.

Source: Bloomberg and Saxo Group

Table: FX Board Trend Scoreboard for individual pairs.
Big momentum shift afoot today and watching whether this holds and the JPY pairs and pairs like AUDUSD and USDCAD to see if we are witnessing a major momentum shift in themes here. Also note NOK pairs like USDNOK and EURNOK here.

Source: Bloomberg and Saxo Group

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