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FX Update: Powell brings back the hike-until-it-breaks narrative.

Forex 5 minutes to read
John Hardy

Head of FX Strategy

Summary:  After the odd tapping on the brakes at the May 4 FOMC meeting, when the Fed wanted to take the idea of 75-basis point rates off the table, Fed Chair Powell reminded the market of its mission to ensure that it will not let up on policy tightening until it has achieved a sustained drop in inflation. Elsewhere, the sterling squeeze is fading fast and the status of key USD charts is pivotal.


FX Trading focus: Powell puts back on the hawkish hat, GBP squeeze fading fast, USDCAD spotlight

Fed Chair Powell reminds us of the Fed’s mission in saying that the Fed “won’t hesitate at all” to take the Fed Funds rate above neutral, and that “what we need to see is inflation coming down in a clear and convincing way, and we’re going to keep pushing until we see that.” Powell admitted that taking levels above neutral could bring some pain and a rise in the unemployment rate. End-2022 Fed expectations rose about 10 basis points yesterday and this morning were at 2.82%, just shy of the 2.88% cycle highs from before the May 4 FOMC meeting, at which Powell discouraged the idea of hiking more than 50 basis points at a time (why?). This only offered the USD a modicum of support overnight as risk sentiment absorbed the news without much fuss.

GBP shorts caught in quite the squeeze yesterday, likely aggravated badly by positioning, which is quite heavily bearish in the US futures market and in general. Yesterday I mentioned the very strong payrolls data as a driver, but there was also the news that the UK government may be considering tax cuts, including a lowering of the VAT, as well as cost-of-living support for the most vulnerable citizens. In the first instance, this could eventually help ease inflation levels and thus allow the Bank of England to hike more than previously expected, but the follow-on thinking is that it could also keep demand higher than it would be otherwise and continue to driver extreme external deficits for the UK, eroding the sovereign UK balance sheet and therefore possibly trust in sterling as well. Sterling has surrendered much of yesterday’s gains – watching for a capitulation again in GBPUSD, while the EURGBP has bounced back above the existential 0.8450 area that  was pivotal on the way up. A very choppy chart there.

USDCAD and US vs. Canada Housing spotlight
The CAD has received a double dose of support from the recent strong bounce in risk sentiment and crude oil prices pulling into the top of the range and beyond at times recently. But let’s look a bit further ahead at the inevitable gathering storm that is set to hit the housing market in coming months, after yields have lurched sharply higher. The headline is that if an ugly housing slowdown lies ahead, it will hit Canada’s economy with far more force than it will the US economy. Construction itself contributes about 75% more to GDP in Canada than the US (about 7.5% vs. 4.3%), and private balance sheets in Canada are far more levered, with notable local housing bubbles in Toronto and Vancouver making UBS world top ten list (at #2 and #6) of worst housing bubbles in 2021. The Greater Toronto area, by the way, represents over 17% of the Canadian population. I have better data on the US market and can see solidifying signs in leading indicators that the US housing market is set for a slowdown, including yesterday’s worst of the cycle drop in the NAHB for the May data point, which fell 8 points to 69 versus 75 expected and 77 in April. The latest Housing Starts and Building Permits data is up today (for April), although this lags the NAHB historically by about six months in directional terms. US Pending home sales have also rolled over as discussed in today’s Saxo Market Call podcast and are another leading indicator. So, while near term, an additional boost to sentiment and energy prices could see a break-down in USDCAD, the Canadian economy will face disproportionately large end-of-cycle pressures once the recession arrives, so clouds remain over the cycle outlook for the loonie. Chart thoughts below for USDCAD

Chart: USDCAD
The USDCAD chart has retreated to critical levels for bulls, as a significant punch below 1.2800 makes the chart look a lost cause for the bulls (arguably, the last, last gasp area is just ahead of 1.2700 at the prior pivot lows or even 1.2660 if using the 61.8% retracement and the 200-day moving average, although the reversal back down through 1.2900-50 has already been a disappointment after that level to the upside was broken. An impulsive recovery back above 1.3000 to put the momentum back on track higher.

Source: Saxo Group

Underwhelming wage price data for Q1 from Australia overnight, which rose a mere 0.7% QoQ and 2.4% YoY, both 0.1% below expectations. This is meant to be the key data that would drive the RBA to accelerate its tightening regime if it provided evidence of a wage price spiral. Alas, the AUD seems more focused on hopes for China lifting Covid restrictions and swings in risk sentiment. The 0.7000-0.7050 zone remains the tactical resistance focus, with bears possibly needing to retreat back to 0.7200-50 if it does not hold.

Table: FX Board of G10 and CNH trend evolution and strength.
The USD is losing steam in a trending sense, and would need a solid new impulsive move higher soon to avoid a further breakdown in key pairs, and versus the G10 currencies generally.

Source: Bloomberg and Saxo Group

Table: FX Board Trend Scoreboard for individual pairs.
USDCAD is on the verge of flipping into a positive territory on the trend readings if it can’t rally soon. Also note the EURGBP rally hanging on by a thread here.

Source: Bloomberg and Saxo Group

Upcoming Economic Calendar Highlights (all times GMT)

  • 1230 – US Apr. Housing Starts and Building Permits
  • 1230 – Canada Apr. CPI
  • 1230 – Canada Apr. Home Price Index
  • 2000 – US Fed’ Harker (Non-voter) to speak
  • 2350 – Japan Apr. Trade Balance
  • 0130 – Australia Apr. Employment Data
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