Forex Weekly Trading Forecast – 09.21.09

US Dollar Overdue for a Technical Bounce, But Fundamental Reversal…

Fundamental Outlook for US Dollar: Neutral

– Speculation for rate hikes deferred as fundamentals temper exuberant risk appetite
– The steady charge in risk appetite keeps the dollar on the short side of carry interests
– Sentiment can often run askew of fundamentals; but what do technicals say about the dollar?

The dollar was able to relieve the pressure of suffering its worst trend on recent record by clawing out the first bullish close in eleven consecutive trading days; but that does not mean the burdened currency is necessarily primed for a true reversal. While this currency is arguably oversold on a fundamental basis; the same drivers that ushered it to its yearly low last week are still in play. The pace of the economic recovery, growing financial concerns and a Fed struggling to keep pace are all prominent concerns when gauging the long-term health of the dollar; but all of that is overshadowed by the immediate and market-wide preoccupation of risk appetite.

Last week, a Bloomberg survey of investors found the market was the most bearish on the dollar in 18 months. Where does this speculative grade come from? The economy is still dealing with an economic recovery and government deficits are a genuine concern; but most of the world’s largest economies are suffering with the same dilemma. The real weight on the dollar is the steady revival of risk appetite over the past six months. Following the necessary period of consolidation after the worst of the financial crisis, capital started to slowly work its way back into the speculative arena. Initially, interest was from early adopters; but the draw of capital gains was strong enough to start the flow from deeper pools of wealth in “risk free” areas. Where do these funds go? It certainly finds its way to US equities and other relatively-risky assets; but when it comes to the yield bearing instruments, the American products can’t compete. The benchmark, 3-month Libor rate dropped to a new record low (0.28948 percent) this past week and subsequently was depreciated to a discount against its Japanese (0.34875 percent) and Swiss (0.29667 percent) counterparts. Does the dollar realistically make the ideal funding currency? No. The Fed will certainly turn to a hawkish policy stance well before the other two, it has the potential to take a more consistent hawkish path, deficits are a problem amongst all three and the foundation for a true recovery is most stable in the US. As soon as US rates recover, risk-seeking capital will once again flow into the world’s financial center.

In the meantime, we may see a shift in sentiment that could benefit the dollar’s safe haven status. The broader markets have rallied consistently for months – despite a fundamental picture that has changed pace little since the initial reversal. Naturally, a wave of profit taking is highly probable. And, considering the advance to this point has been heavily dependent on steady capital gains, a correction could be sharp and aggressive. There are many different potential catalysts for such a turn; but in the end, the shift in optimism will likely develop naturally. Nonetheless, we should keep an eye on a few specific developments. Reports suggest that lending to consumers has dropped at its fastest pace since the Great Depression; yet leverage has returned to levels last seen since before the 2007 meltdown. This is an imbalance that will lead to problems later down the line if not corrected. Also, the Federal Reserve and White House have both voiced concern over the commercial real estate debt market. The former is looking into major banks’ exposure to this asset class; but the term ‘stress test’ is not being used.

Though it is vital to keep abreast of the health of risk appetite; we shouldn’t ignore the influences of data and growth forecasts. The economic docket is light next week; but durable goods orders and housing data (existing sales, new home sales) can supply short-term volatility. It is the FOMC that tops the list – not with a possible change in the benchmark, but commentary that can move up the time table for a hike. Data aside, the US/China trade spat hints at a growing concern with protectionism which may come under scrutiny at the September 24/25 G20 Meeting. Exit strategies, financial regulation, banking compensation are all on the topic list; but not currencies.

Euro: Not as Strong as the EURUSD’s Trend Suggests

Fundamental Forecast for Euro: Neutral

– Investor confidence hits its highest level since April 2006 as growth, equities recover
– Slow global recovery translates into the biggest trade surplus for the Euro Zone in seven years
– Has a push above December’s highs cleared the way for a EURUSD extension rally?

Is the euro the fundamental powerhouse that the EURUSD would suggest or is the euro merely playing the compliment to the rest of the market. If we were to look at the world’s most liquid currency pair alone, we see a six month trend, recent rally and the highest overall level for the exchange rate in nearly a year. However, the easy read on the major is clouded when we look at the crosses. Against the pound, the euro was set in its biggest rally since March (a move that was mirrored in most of those pairs denominated in sterling). Elsewhere, EURJPY was stuck in a contracting range; EURCHF was virtually unchanged in its 100-point range; and the commodity group consolidated within bigger trends. It seems the case that the market is influencing the euro rather than the euro influencing the market. And, while there are fundamental concerns building beneath the surface, this relationship isn’t likely to change much in the coming week.

Few would argue that risk appetite (and its influence in currencies through carry interest) is a primary driver for the market at large; but what does that mean for the euro? To gauge any currency or asset’s response to sentiment, you need to determine where it stands in the scale of risk. High interest rates, strong growth prospects and progressive policy are a few factors that build a positive correlation to a rising demand for yield. Naturally, the opposite considerations count as traits for a safe haven or funding currency. On either side of this spectrum, we have an asset that is sensitive to the underlying fundamental currency. However, the euro fits comfortably in the middle of the range. The benchmark lending rate in the Euro Zone is relatively high; but the outlook for hawkish progress is reserved. Growth is colored not only by the positive turn from Germany and France; but there have also been downgrades for Italy and Spain. Overall, despite the confidence of politicians and some policy officials, the economy is on the same playing field as the US, Japan and many others. Until the ECB turns up the heat on the target rate or financial troubles (like the ability for some Eastern European economies to repay their debt), this will remain the case.

Outside the vagaries of sentiment, there are a few notable economic events on the docket to supply short-term volatility and perhaps a moderate shift on the bearing for growth forecasts. Top event risk is the series of service and manufacturing sector PMI data. While this series covers specifically the business sector of growth, it is inclusive and timely enough to act as a meaningful leader for growth speculation. Being the September round of data (the ‘Advanced’ or first measure), this will round out the forecast for third quarter activity. All of the regional, German and French numbers are expected to produce month-over-month improvement and most are seen offering ‘expansionary’ readings. This would support the central banks and government’s outlook for growth; but it still does not paint a clear picture for a return to a true expansionary trend.

Other indicators like the Euro Zone industrial new orders and German factory inflation gauge threaten little more than a meager shift; but the IFO business sentiment gauge could generate some fundamental interest. Sensitive to economic health, consumer spending, access to credit, export demand, optimism among German firms acts as its own unique report on the general health of the economy. The headline and expectations readings have been most prized recently; but a closer eye should be kept on the difference between expectations and current conditions. The outlook after a financial crisis and steep recession will certainly improve quickly; but actual health in the economy and markets will be more measured. One will have to give way to the other sooner or later.

Japanese Yen Forecast Bullish on Lack of Intervention Threat

Fundamental Forecast for Japanese Yen: Bullish

– What happens to the Japanese Yen when threat of intervention is removed?
– Yen tumbles as S&P 500 continues to set fresh highs
– ‘September effect’ not having much of an effect on Japanese Yen

The Japanese Yen finished the week lower against all but the British Pound and the US Dollar, as impressive rallies in the US S&P 500 and broader financial market risk sentiment pushed the safe-haven currency sharply lower against major counterparts. A mediocre week of economic data hardly helped matters, and hawkish rhetoric from the Ministry of Finance pushed the Yen even lower. Vice Finance Minister Yasutake Tango stated that the administration was watching currency moves closely—implying that forex market intervention was a distinct possibility. Indeed, the Japanese Ministry of Finance has historically been an active participant in the Japanese Yen exchange rate and has repeatedly intervened in instances of excessive Yen strength. The very fact that the US Dollar/Japanese Yen exchange rate reached the psychologically significant 90 mark was enough reason to fear MoF intervention, and Tango’s comments were enough to fuel a rapid USDJPY pullback. Later commentary from newly-appointed Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii quickly dispelled the short-term threat to JPY stability, but the damage had been done and the Japanese Yen remained on offer through the week’s close.

The legitimate threat of MoF FX intervention served as a clear warning to JPY bulls, but recent rhetoric suggests that there will be little in the way of further Yen strength. This leaves the currency to trade purely off of financial market risk sentiment. The fact that the S&P 500 recently registered fresh 2009 highs hardly bodes well for the risk-linked currency, but no market can rally indefinitely. Given the overwhelmingly bearish trend in the USDJPY (bullish trend for the JPY), it seems momentum is plainly in the Yen’s favor. Yet it remains critical to watch any and all moves in key financial market risk barometers.

We previously claimed that the “September Effect” could lead the S&P 500 lower and the Japanese Yen higher. Recent weeks have produced impressive equity market strength yet the JPY has remained relatively stable. We believe that the Yen stands to gain on any subsequent pullbacks in stocks, and recent experience shows that it can hold its own despite major S&P strength. Thus we would argue that risks remain fairly bullish for the Yen. If stocks continue their seemingly interminable rally, the JPY could pull back slightly. If stocks fall, the Yen will in all likelihood continue its previous ascent. Things are never quite this simple in currency markets, but we believe JPY risks favor near-term rallies.

The wild card will come on Wednesday’s Trade Balance report. The export-dependent Japanese economy has taken a massive hit on the sharp drop in foreign demand for its own production. Any signs of continued exporter duress will once again raise political pressure on the Ministry of Finance to counteract Japanese Yen strength. Though we clearly believe that risks of intervention are remote, a truly shocking trade balance result could rekindle market speculation on MoF intervention.

The coming week may prove significant in determining more medium-term direction in the Yen. If nothing else, markets will definitely watch for signs that the USDJPY may finally break below the psychologically significant 90 mark.

British Pound Decline May Be Indicative of Long-Term UK Macro Outlook

Fundamental Forecast for British Pound: Bearish

– UK RICS house prices rise for first time in 2 years
– The number of people looking for jobs in the UK rose the highest level since 1995
– FXCM SSI results suggest GBPUSD could be in for further declines

The British pound was easily the weakest of the majors last week as the currency fell more than 3 percent against the euro, Swiss franc, and Canadian dollar. Likewise, the British pound slumped 2.4 percent against the US dollar and 1.7 percent versus the Japanese yen. While some indicators from the nation have shown signs of improvement, such as the RICS house price index, fiscal data has done nothing but deteriorate, adding pressure on the British pound. In fact, public sector net borrowing in the UK jumped a whopping 16.1 billion pounds during August as income tax receipts fell 13 percent from a year ago. Even worse, the deficit reached 127 billion pounds in August from a year ago, and the steady rise suggests that the shortfall may breach Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling’s full-year forecasts for a deficit of 175 billion pounds.

According to the Financial Times, the corrosion of the UK’s fiscal state has “been a result more of a collapse in revenues – total tax receipts have fallen by 11.4 percent so far this financial year compared with a year earlier – than of a jump in spending” of just 5.3 percent this year. Going forward, the further the UK’s fiscal state deteriorates, the greater the risk will grow that ratings agencies will question if the nation deserves the golden AAA credit rating, especially after Standard & Poor’s downgraded the UK’s credit outlook to “negative” from “stable” because of their budget woes back in May. Nevertheless, Standard & Poor’s has also said that they would reserve any judgment on potential downgrades until the next general election, which may be held in May or early-June 2010. On the downside, this leaves a long period of time open for speculation on the prospects for the UK’s credit rating to reign supreme, which may make the already-volatile British pound even choppier.

In more immediate event risk, the minutes from the BOE’s September meeting will be released on Wednesday at 8:30 ET. However, they may not expose new information as the BOE’s Quarterly Inflation Report has already revealed dour outlooks by the Monetary Policy Committee. That said, following the latest UK CPI results, which were stronger than anticipated, Credit Suisse overnight index swaps have shifted to price in 78 basis points worth of hikes by the BOE over the next 12 months, up from 66.7 basis points on Tuesday. As a result, if the minutes highlight a clearly dovish bias by the BOE, the market’s focus may shift back toward the central bank’s liberal stance on quantitative easing, and the British pound could fall sharply.

Written by John Kicklighter, David Rodriguez, Terri Belkas, Ilya Spivak, John Rivera and David Song, Currency Analysts
Article Source – Forex Weekly Trading Forecast – 09.21.09