FX Update: Tension builds on BoJ policy stance ahead of meeting tonight.
Head of FX Strategy
Summary: The Japanese government is rolling out a large fiscal package to ease cost-of-living pressures at a time when inflation in Japan supposedly remains muted. This is entirely out of step with the Bank of Japan doubling down on its accommodative policy mix, which has driven the Japanese yen sharply weaker this year. Will the Bank of Japan be forced to capitulate tonight?
FX Trading focus: Bank of Japan meeting tonight as pressure on policy mix mounts, EUR and GBP in for fresh pressure on Russian NatGas threats, AUD and SEK ahead of Riksbank
The JPY has found a bit of support this week on the consolidation in global bond yields. Yesterday saw a strong US 2-year Treasury auction that helped take yields lower at the front end of the curve as well, with risk-off finally strong enough in the background to see US treasuries serving as a safe haven. The falling yields factor by itself brings the JPY some relief, as has the Chinese decision to allow a so-far modest revaluation of its currency lower that will bring more relative support to the JPY if that move is extended.
But to really reset the JPY level back higher after its runs to multi-decade lows in real-effective inflation-adjusted terms, we will need to see a policy change from the BoJ. The BoJ meets tonight, and while very few are expecting a shift, it wouldn’t take much of a hint to suggest the pressure on the BoJ via the weakening currency is becoming too strong to ignore. Even a hint that the Bank is mulling tightening without specifics could be enough to trigger a JPY rally, but spelling out that the bank is willing to tinker with its yield cap policy on 10-year JGB’s would likely spark an even sharper move.
Meanwhile, the political pressure has to be mounting sharply as well: consider that overnight the Japanese government has passed a near JPY 6.2 trillion (approx. $50 billion) stimulus package aimed at offsetting cost-of-living pressures that are sorely felt by the most vulnerable in Japan. This at a time when inflation supposedly remains unsatisfactorily low. For whom the inflation bell tolls is an critical question both in Japan and globally as we have to consider that these cost of living pressures that may only measure in the mid- to high single digits nationally could weigh 20% or more for the consumption basket at the lower end of the income spectrum, in terms of rent, heating, food, etc. It’s an explosive cocktail for politicians and Japan is set for important lower house elections in July. The BoJ may not move tonight, but it can’t remain an immovable object in a rapidly moving world forever. Keep in mind that Japan is on holiday Friday and out for much of next week, so this could aggravate the volatility if the BoJ does deliver any new guidance or policy twists.
Watching the USDJPY pair and JPY crosses closely tonight over the Bank of Japan meeting for the reasons outlined above. Technically, the pair seems to have shied away from a test of the 130.00 level, while on the downside, any BoJ policy surprise could deliver tremendous intraday volatility – easily 125.00 or lower, given that the recent break level to the upside was all the way down at 116.35. JPY traders should tread carefully, considering long volatility plays in the options market if wanting to express a short-term view. JPY cross action may prove higher beta than the reaction in USDJPY itself. As well, Japan will be out on holiday over next week during the May 4 FOMC meeting so liquidity may prove thinner than usual. If we see Kuroda-san doubling down on the existing policy and a fresh surge in global yields, the uptrend could be reinvigorated for a try toward 135.00. It’s a pivotal week for USDJPY either way, in all likelihood.
Fresh euro woes. The euro touched new five-year lows versus the US dollar today, in part on general risk off, but perhaps even more so after Russia used Poland and Bulgaria as guinea pigs in its threat to cut off supplies of natural gas for importers unwilling to pay for the gas in rubles. Poland saw the writing on the wall on Russian gas a long time ago and had moved to reduce its reliance before the war in Ukraine and has considerable coal-based power it can mobilize to cover some of the shortfall, so the impact on the zloty is considerable, but need not spin out of control. Alas, Germany is the chief focus as a full shutdown would crater German economic growth on the need to ration supplies. Meanwhile, ECB member Kazaks said yesterday he is in favour of a July ECB hike – looks like consensus is gelling on that timing for lift-off.
The UK does not import Russian gas, but is under as much pressure as any other European country on the impact of any Russian supply disruptions because it is connected to the continent’s gas network and suffers the price rises together with the continental countries. An excellent commentary from Bloomberg’s Marcus Ashworth lays out the pressures on the UK economy here as it faces a “trilemma of high inflation, slowing growth and rising taxes”, with a collapsing currency possibly forcing the Bank of England to hike rates more than it would otherwise do (watching EURGBP as much as GBPUSD for the relative pressure on the UK as I would have already expected sterling to underperform more there than it has). GBPUSD looks set for a test of 1.2000 and possibly more to the downside if we are set for a significant deleveraging event across risky assets here.
The Aussie tried to get a boost on news overnight that Chinese leader Xi Jinping called for an “all out” infrastructure building push to spark economic growth, but there are few details. As well, short Australian yields touched new cycle highs while yields elsewhere consolidated after the Q1 Australian CPI report came in far hotter than expected at 5.1% YoY vs. 4.6% expected and the core “trimmed mean” was out at 3.7% YoY vs. 3.4% expected. This has strongly raised the odds of a rate hike at the RBA meeting next Tuesday to above 70%. The solid drop in the trade-weighted AUD in recent days after it had spiked to near a 5-year high has likely helped the RBA to go ahead and just get started already.
The Riksbank is widely expected to deliver its first rate hike since moving away from NIRP last year, with a 25 basis point move. Watch the rate guidance after Governor Ingves recently failed to push back against the market pricing a greater than 2% policy rate by the beginning of 2024 – while the February Riksbank meeting still forecast lift-off not to arrive until 2024! I like fading EURSEK upside, but the risk deleveraging here makes this hazardous tactically.
Table: FX Board of G10 and CNH trend evolution and strength.
Note especially the enormous positive momentum shift in the JPY head of tonight’s BoJ meeting – will BoJ deliver something that spikes momentum further or back to the downtrend? The USD uptrend reading of 8 is getting into extreme territory, but won’t necessarily calm if risk deleveraging continues/accelerates.
Table: FX Board Trend Scoreboard for individual pairs.
The “hottest” market in a long while, as can be seen in all of the extreme ATR readings (the dark orange color indicates we are in the top decile of volatility in ATR over last 1000 trading days).
Upcoming Economic Calendar Highlights (all times GMT)
- 1230 – US Mar. Advance Goods Trade Balance
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