The currency market has not been the place to look for a reaction to the ebb and flow of US-China trade talk headlines. Yes, some EM currencies have finally suffered a more notable jolt to start the week and the commodity dollars are offered on weaker risk sentiment, but an overriding sense of complacency persists.
Much of the lack of volatility, we assume, is linked not to just general uncertainty, but the assumption that the Chinese commitment to renminbi policy – the assumed 7.00 cap on USDCNY – is unshakeable. With the latest leg of the price action showing the USDCNY rate climbing uncomfortably close to the 6.90 area (and USDCNH pushing higher still and actually touching 6.90 overnight), whether China’s response to the stand-off will include allowing the CNY to drift lower, especially as China lacks leverage to respond symmetrically on trade tariffs, given the imbalances in trade volumes between the two countries.
China’s three demands for further progression, as advanced by China’s top trade negotiator Liu He the trade negotiations look a difficult ask – especially the first one (US tariffs must be reversed) and it appears the stand-off is set to last for some time, perhaps at least until the Jun 28-29 G20 meeting in Osaka, Japan. In the meantime, traders should beware the risk of a dramatic rise in volatility in FX if China’s commitment to the 7.00 ceiling in USDCNY is abandoned. We can’t help but feel that the thousand-dollar advance in the Bitcoin price over the weekend may have something to do with speculating on that eventuality.
So both eyes on trade talks and CNY developments this week – all else pales in comparison.
Light positioning with some optionality in the event of a CNY weakening – USDCAD calls are far cheaper than AUDUSD puts in implied vol terms (barely over 5% for USDCAD 1-month), though this may be for good reason – a little exposure to both for the 1-month to 2-month horizon, the latter reaching beyond the late June G20 meeting in Osaka, where Trump and Xi may or may not meet.
The USDCNY rate getting uncomfortably close to the top of range if the operating assumption is that China won’t step away from its commitment to the CNY floor as long as trade talks with the US are ongoing. The price action in USDCNH, the offshore version of the USDCNY rate has stretched more than half a percent beyond the move in the CNY move, nearly matching the widest spread between the two rates over the last couple of years.